Jay and Sandy Marshall

Jay and Sandy Marshall

After three and a half years, my book, “BEATING A DEAD HORSE: The Life and Times of Jay Marshall” is finished. This is the point where I can finally take a deep breath. It’s printed, shipped, and will “officially” go on sale January 7, 2010. The book is 540 pages, full color, has an index and sells for $69.95 plus $10.00 postage (in the U.S) if you want it shipped. There are 500 advance copies accessible to the magic community exclusively through Magic Inc. available (right now) in time for Christmas but they are going fast.  You can check availability at: www.magicinc.net. At the end of January (or beginning of February) two tiers of leather-bound collector’s Editions will become available (69 Platinum editions for  $1,000, and 69 Gold editions for $350) exclusively through Junto Publishing. I’ll tell you more about that in my January column.

It has been truly a labor of love, and putting this book together was alternately great fun, and excruciatingly painful. I’d spend one day laughing out loud remembering lots of funny incidents that took place. The next day I’d be in the fetal position, remembering things best left forgotten, but determined to honor my word to my dad to “tell the whole truth.” I had the help of many wonderful people as this project unfolded. If I named them all it would take up my next five columns, but a special nod has to go out to my fantastic wife, Susan, my son, Sandy Jr., and my good friends, John Fisher, Max Maven, John and Pam Thompson, Penn & Teller, Mac King, Terry Seabrooke, and the inimitable Aye Jaye.

Thus far the reviews have been spectacular. Dick Cavett said, “This is one of those rare thoroughly satisfying books…it is a must.”  Eric Mead raved about the book so enthusiastically (in the December issue of Genii) I told him that if I’d written the review myself, it probably wouldn’t be as good.  The only time in my life where I could honestly say that.)  Simon Lovell called it “The #%$&ing book of the century.” (Sigh!) Well, he’s always had a way with words.

When my dad died (on May 10, 2005) his book collection totaled over one million. The topics were diverse to say the least. He had books on Magic, Humor, Vaudeville, Bookbinding, Music, Sex, Puppets, Circus, Writing, War, Music Hall, Gambling, Math, Sports, Puzzles, Language, Theatre, Papermaking, and most any other subject you can think of.  A couple of the titles that still make me smile are “Never Trust a Man Who Doesn’t Drink” and “Lawyers and Other Reptiles.”

Henri Frederic Amiel said, “Doing easily what others find difficult is talent; doing what is impossible for talent is genius.”

Jay with Penn & Teller

Jay with Penn & Teller

My father was a genius. Jay didn’t just do magic. He was a printer, could repair clocks and watches, make dentures, and he even taught himself how to play the bagpipes in order to get a role in a Broadway show. To be sure, Jay Marshall was the complete entertainer, and his act was a study of seamless moves that would become precise to the point where people would comment that it was the perfect eight minutes. We watched in awe as his Linking Rings transmogrified into a blooming rose, and then a butterfly. We roared with laughter at the perfectly timed belch from Lefty, his glove puppet partner for sixty-one years. We couldn’t believe our eyes when he tied a knot in his silk handkerchief, and it miraculously untied itself.

Jay Marshall had thousands of friends but he didn’t suffer fools gladly, and wasn’t always easy to be around. His main problem was that he always told the absolute truth, at least the way he saw it. BRUTAL honesty is hard to take for some, and Jay offered his opinion with such absolute confidence people might have thought his words were being carved on stone. In many ways, I am my father’s son. My book is brutally honest. I know it’s the way my dad wanted it, because he told me so.  Jay just didn’t want to be around when it came out to face any of the music. He told me quite explicitly, “Write it when I croak.” I did, and I hope you will like the result.

Now that the book is out, there is clutter everywhere in its wake. The place I live is an absolute mess, i.e., organized chaos. No, that isn’t quite true. I fly back and forth from New York to Chicago virtually every week or two, so the sad truth is BOTH places I live are an absolute mess.  There are thousands of pictures, piles of ephemera, and tons of magazines and books everywhere you look.  One day, things may get back to normal…whatever normal is.  In the meantime…

Stick it to the man, sister.  RANT ON!