Who’s ready for some magic?
Ricky Jay (born Richard Jay Potash) is a sometimes-actor and always-magician, and perhaps one of the best sleight of hand magicians in the entire world. Though his quiet, monotone, and eloquent manner of speaking might make one think he’d be more suited to teach AP history than to do card tricks, it is his unassuming nature that makes him such a fascinating character study.
Jay has spoken very little about his early life. Though details on his family are almost impossibly scarce, he did share one anecdote about his father.
“He kept his toothpaste in the medicine cabinet and the Brylcreem in a closet about a foot away. Once, when I was ten, I switched the tubes. All you need to know about my father is that after he brushed his teeth with Brylcreem he put the toothpaste in his hair.”
In any case, Ricky Jay began performing magic early in his life. During the 60’s, he performed at Freeman and Brandt’s “Electric Circus” club, on a ticket between Ike and Tina Turner and Timothy Leary. [ed.’s note – if I had a time machine, the Electric Circus would be my second stop only behind ancient Rome.]
Ricky was swiftly recognized by his colleagues as a magician of enormous talent. His social circle included the writer and director David Mamet, who directed several of Jay’s one-man shows. Mamet cast Jay in a few of his films, which led to Jay’s secondary career as a “oh, that guy!” in many movies such as Boogie Nights and – my personal favorite – Mystery Men.
While Jay is undoubtedly one of the most talented magicians in the world, he is also an avid magic historian and scholar. He is a founding member of the “Deceptive Practices” consultation firm, which provides visual illusion consultation to movies, television shows, and plays. This firm designed the wheelchair which kept Gary Sinise’s legs hidden during the shooting of Forrest Gump, and has consulted on movies such as The Prestige, The Illusionist, and, uh…The Parent Trap.
But it’s one thing for me to yammer on about what a great magician Ricky Jay is. Let’s see some damn magic already!