Bill O’Leary, wearing an old faded green buttoner for St. Patrick’s Day, leaned on the store’s counter watching my demonstration of the Color Changing Knives as if seeing the demo for the first time, which was not the case. “Wouldn’t it be grand if your color changing knives were green just for today,” he commented to no one in particular. Finally scanning the store’s magic inventory he voiced aloud with an added Irish brogue “Isn’t it nice to see your production feather bouquets and spring flowers all green today for St. Patrick.”
Having now thanked my customer for their purchase of the Color Changing Knives I turned and looked at this very bright eyed, yet somewhat disheveled magician now into his senior years. I knew practically nothing about Bill except that he had been hanging out in the magic store since it’s opening. Where as other of the store’s regular magicians ignored me (a kid behind the counter), Bill gave me regular attention and seemed to actually enjoy our exchanges. He seldom missed anything of what went on inside or immediately outside the store on the street. His knowledge of magic, especially manipulation, was on par with the best of them. While the other magicians who hung out in the store regularly encouraged his sharing of magic, he did so only when he felt like it and always on his own terms.
Looking outside at the street filled with soldiers, Bill said to me, “You know I used to entertain soldiers like those, officers too. You had to be on your toes to entertain them, what with wars on in both the Pacific and Europe, all the drinking you did, the all night crap games with all that cash and the girls it attracted. You had to be real careful with yourself. That’s where I perfected my best trick, my knife trick.”
Looking directly at me he said, with an uncharacteristic seriousness, “You know on account of St. Patrick I’m going to do you the biggest favor of your magic life. Not only am I going to perform my best knife trick for you, I’m also going to teach you how to do it.”
Stepping back from the counter he paused for merely a second when he began to move back forward like a ballet dancer imitating a butterfly. It was only then that I realized that a large shiny knife had now appeared in his right hand as if by real magic. In fact it was a folding Buck 110 lock back with its blade fully opened and its tip pointing menacingly at my chest!
Without hesitation Bill said aloud with a glint of St. Patrick in his eyes, “I see you like the effect. Want to learn it ?”
Being a normal 16 year old big city kid of my era and environment I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Bill then proceeded to take from his pocket a paper book of matches. He tore off its cover and retained it, re-pocketing the matches. Tapping the corner of the cover on the counter he split it like one does a playing card. He then wrapped the now split and thinned down match cover around the sharpened edge of the knife blade. He then proceeded to close the knife blade back into its hollow handle, (being sure the paper match book cover extended high above the now folded blade, thus now protruding out of the knife’s handle). Bill then placed the folded knife on the left side of his body between his pants and belt, the protruding match cover now facing forward.
Looking at Bill, I could not see the closed knife in its concealed position. Watching carefully, I saw how at a time of Bill’s choosing, using the thumb and forefinger of either hand, he would simply grasp both sides of the protruding exposed match book cover enveloping the blade and come forward with the knife thus held. Its blade opening was accomplished simply by the quick and sharp snapping of his wrist and hand downward. This resulted in the heavy handle of the knife opening up into its locked position leaving the knife blade extended pointing forward, still enveloped in its match cover. At this time Bill would simply tilt his hand backward allowing for the open bladed knife to fall into his palm’s grasp while allowing the paper match cover to fall to the floor.
“Great trick” I said enthusiastically.
Looking out the door once again, Bill said aloud (to no one in particular as he put the knife with its folded match cover back between his pants and belt), “You know, you just never know who you’re going to have to perform for!”
It was some 40 years later that I came across the displayed advertising program promoting the act of a very young and elegant “Bill O’Leary, The Irish Magician”. Those 40 years have only strengthened the truth of Bill’s words spoken aloud to no one in particular that St. Patrick’s day “You know, you just never know who you’re going to have to perform for.”