“I have two books that you should read….” were the first words out of Jay's mouth, as he walked through the front door of Magic, Inc. There was no “Hello,” or “How are you?” just the above statement. He had just returned from F.I.S.M. carrying a suit bag, which he promptly opened. He placed two red hardbound books in front of me, and proceeded to go into the depths of the shop without further comment.
It's rare that Jay Marshall will recommend anything to me without my prior inquisition, so this immediately caught my attention….
The two books were: The Five Points in Magic, and The Magic Way—both by Juan Tamariz—some Spanish guy that I'd never heard of.
I lost the next several weeks of my life because of those books—or more precisely, because of the author. The words jumped off the pages, and the concepts infiltrated my thoughts. It was obvious that the author spoke from his heart—that he cared about magic—that he loved, breathed, and dreamt magic, and he did it with an unparalleled passion.
He succeeded in inspiring me with his passion.
There was an address listed in the back of both of the books, so I promptly acquired my own copies of both books (from Magia Potagia in Spain which was presided over by Juan's daughter, Ana Tamariz).
Several odd months later I found out that Juan was scheduled to perform and lecture at the next Fechter's Finger Flicking Frolics. I was ecstatic—I was already planning to attend, so this was the proverbial icing on the cake.
Before I knew it, the date of the convention arrived. I was upstairs at the Fork's Hotel. A small man, wearing a red sweater and a grey fedora approached me, and asked where I acquired the two books I had under my arm. I replied that I had received them from Magia Potagia in Spain. “Oh, ju got dem from Ana?” he asked. It wasn't until now that I realized who he was. His hair was shoulder length now (in the books, it was short), and he had caught me off-guard. Juan introduced himself, and asked if I enjoyed the books. I told him that I thought they were wonderful. He replied, “Ah, dis makes me bery, bery happy!” After a few minutes, it was time for him to perform.
And perform he did. It sent shivers down my spine—he made us laugh, he astounded us, and he etched a permanent place in the memories of everyone present. His energy was nothing short of manic. His humor was genuine and hearty. His presence was all-encompassing. And his magic, it was…well, it was magic. There was no explanation for the miracles that he presented. He received a standing ovation. We were drained from the experience. And then, he gave his lecture….
Later that weekend, I performed on one of the afternoon shows. After the show, Juan approached me, and said he enjoyed my performance—and that I had fooled him with one of the effects that I performed. I laughed, and said that he was very kind. He said it was true, and was sincere. Late that night, we did other tricks, and discussed magic until five or six in the morning.
I found out that Juan would be in the states for a while, so I arranged for him to lecture in Chicago. He eventually spent a week in Chicago, doing a lecture and a workshop. More standing ovations, wide eyes, and open mouths. This time, Carmen accompanied him. It was marvelous spending time with them. Juan was always creating little magical moments at the most unexpected times. For example, Carmen would notice that she was missing a spoon at a dinner table. Without pause, Juan would immediately produce a spoon, and give it to Carmen. This became a running gag: Carmen would misplace her lighter, look at Juan, who would then make it appear.
Anyway, the hilariously magical Mac King was performing at a local comedy club during that week, so we went out to see him. After Mac's show, we all went to dinner. Carmen only ordered a desert. During the meal, while waiting for the desert, she started to play with one of the helium-filled balloons that the restaurant had decorated the room with. The desert still didn't show. We checked with the waitress, and found out that she had forgotten to order the desert—she would order it right away. After a few minutes, she came back and informed Carmen that the particular desert that Carmen had ordered would not be available that night. So, a different desert was ordered. During this further delay, Juan tied the helium balloon around Carmen's wrist. This minor distraction took her mind off of the situation.
About ten more minutes passed. Finally, the desert arrived, and Carmen, feigning starvation, grabbed for her fork—which wasn't there…. Juan waved his hands, and—voila—there was the missing fork. She took the fork, and at the same time (by freak chance), the balloon that had been tied to her wrist came loose, and floated to the ceiling. Everyone looked up. Inspiration struck, and I immediately took the plate with the desert, and hid it out of sight on my side of the table. When Carmen looked back down, the look on her face was priceless! After a moment, she looked at Juan, suspecting that he had taken the desert. He held up empty hands, and shrugged his shoulders. Carmen, unsatisfied, looked in his lap, and then she turned to look at the floor behind Juan's chair. I saw my chance—I silently placed the plate back in front of her. Juan saw this out of the corner of his eye. Without missing a beat, he waved his hands, and said “Poof!” as Carmen turned back. She saw the desert, smiled, and looked at Juan. She gave Juan a quick kiss and proceeded to devour the magical desert. Juan looked at me, smiled, and winked his eye.
The above is exactly the type of magic that just seems to happen when you're around this mischievous, magical elf.
Later that night, I showed Juan a special Wild Card routine that I had created. Not many magicians have ever seen it. I've worked out about a dozen Wild Card routines, and this was one that I liked very much. Juan was very complementary, and showed me a impossible effect in return.
Well, the week was gone before we knew it, and I was driving Juan and Carmen to the airport. Juan mentioned that the Wild Card I'd shown had fooled him completely. I said I would be honored to explain it. But of course, we had no time. Juan suggested that I visit Spain, and then we'd have enough time. He then invited me to attend Las Journadas de El Escorial the following October. He explained that it was a convention of only thirty-ish attendees, who gathered once a year, to discuss a particular topic in magic. It took about fifty-two milliseconds for me to accept the invitation. This last October I participated for the fourth consecutive year.
I hope my ramblings have given you a little insight into the mysterious character known as Juan Tamariz. Ultimately, I think words are not enough. How do you describe a man who is so thorough in everything he does? Once, we were discussing rising cards, and he pulls a drawer out of his cabinet in his magic room. There were a ton of decks in the drawer. So he picks up a deck and shows me a clever method. Then he takes another, and does the same. And then again, and yet again.
Or, take his mnemonic deck. It is simply the most exquisite work ever done on the subject. The deck itself is well designed (with helpful features built in), with the working performer in mind (mainly because Juan works all of the time—if it wasn't usable, it wouldn't be in his repertoire). And Juan has created over one-hundred effects with it. All of them are direct and deceptive. True miracles. (Imagine being able to do memorized deck work with a legitimately shuffled pack!?! It's true….) Of course, when you realize that Juan has spent the last dozen years of his life creating and refining these routines, its a little bit easier to comprehend. Its still humbling….
And he never stops. One year he showed me a incredible four Ace assembly. It was perfect. The next year, he had greatly improved it. He had improved on what I'd thought was perfection. I probably won't be too surprised when, sometime in the future, it will be even better.
And as if this wasn't enough, he is a consummate entertainer. Whether he is thrilling an audience of over nine-hundred while doing stage work, shocking a dozen while doing close-up, or keeping millions laughing while on television, he always moves you with his ever present happiness.
And inspiring. Juan Tamariz is a muse. Every time that I meet with him—I end up with renewed energy, revitalized passion, dead-ends become open thoroughfares for ideas.
Such inspiration is rare. He is the rarest of the rare: a true friend.
And for that, he receives my endless thanks….