Del Ray America’s Foremost


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I had the great good fortune of meeting Del Ray on several occasions. The most notable was a corporate event that featured the magic team of Bill Herz, David Williamson, Bill Malone, Bob Sheets, Eric Mead and myself. To our delight, Del had been hired separately so his presence was a surprise to all of us. After working like a machine for several hours, Del was packing up to leave but when we stopped by to bid our adieus, he was genuinely disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to perform for US.

“Sit down boys, I wanna show you something.” He proceeded to baffle us for an hour and a half. Several times throughout the show, the above, well posted group of us looked at each other and with shrugged shoulders openly admitted that we had no clue as to what he was doing.

I hadn’t been that fooled in years.

When this book came out I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. The first edition flew off the shelves and I had to wait for the second printing, which is what this is.

My advice to you is snag this while you can before *this* edition goes out of print.

Del Ray was considered the most innovative magician of the 20th century. Secretly intermingling technologies with traditional trickery, he performed miracles of magic that were unlike those of any other magician. Throughout his life, he passionately guarded the secrets of both his professional and personal affairs. Because Del Ray remained steadfast in his refusals to ever discuss or share his magic, his magician friends and fans feared that a book on his life would never see print.

Now, seven years after Del Ray’s death in 2003, through the gracious efforts of the publishing partnership of Bob Escher (who was bequeathed the Del Ray collection), David Baldwin, and Bill Spooner, the book has become a reality and a welcome addition to magic history’s literature. Having complete access to the Del Ray archive, which included his personal scrapbooks and memorabilia as well the ingenious magic that Del Ray created over the years, author John Moehring has crafted a volume that is both insightful and revelatory.

Part One traces Del Ray’s career in magic beginning with his adolescent years in an orphanage where he performed his first paid show for $3, to his meteoric rise to fame in the 1950s as America’s most successful nightclub magician ever, to Del Ray’s development of a stunningly modern approach to close-up magic that enabled him to demand fees as high as $10,000 a week. This remarkable story is illustrated with 116 vintage photographs. Told with exacting detail and a reverence for the master’s secrets, the biography section of Del Ray: America’s Foremost is a celebration of the personality, the achievements, and the genius that made the magical world of Del Ray unique.

Part Two focuses on a selection of eight of Del Ray’s favorite close-up routines. Gary Plants has written detailed descriptions for seven of these effects: Half-dollar Through Ring, The Bet, Blackjack Deal, the Computer Deck, Gymnastic Aces Without Aces, Final Aces, and Del Ray’s Card Stab. Eighty original photos of Gary’s hands executing the sleight-of-hand maneuvers accompany his explanations. The Royal Assembly, a Del Ray effect originally written up by Ed Marlo in 1954, is illustrated by Jay Marshall. This section also includes the eight-page audiovisual script for the Companion Video that accompanies the book, two pages of acknowledgements, and a comprehensive Index.

The Companion Video is a 92-minute DVD located in a flap pocket on the inside back cover of each copy of Del Ray: America’s Foremost. Contents include Del Ray’s stage act at the 1983 Tannen’s Magic Jubilee; close-up performances of the Rabbit & Frog, the Singing Bird, Half-Dollar Through Ring, Blackjack Deal, Computer Deck, Dice Stacking, Final Aces, Million Dollar Card Trick, Coin Through Card Box, Gymnastic Aces Without Aces, Card Stab, Flipper, Little Willie, and The Bet.

Pages: 448 – Hardback with dust jacket
Over 200 photographs and illustrations
92 minute Companion DVD included


“…this is clearly a labour of love. For those of us who revere Del Ray, it is truly a gift. ”
Matthew Field, The Magic Circular Magazine 4/1/2011


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