Ricky Jay (1948-2018)

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Never Cursed
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Ricky Jay (1948-2018)

#1 Post by Never Cursed » Sat Nov 24, 2018 9:52 pm

Verified people on Twitter are saying that Ricky Jay has passed, though I can't find any obits yet

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domino harvey
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Re: Passages

#2 Post by domino harvey » Sat Nov 24, 2018 10:12 pm

Damn, always entertaining and a vast fount of knowledge on all manner of antiquated and obscure minutae. I loved how he had a working expertise in both high and low forms of magic and trickery, the latter of which is featured quite nicely in this clip from his BBC special

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Re: Passages

#3 Post by mfunk9786 » Sat Nov 24, 2018 10:14 pm

I have a friend who is a high end bookseller who said that Jay was a delightful regular client and a very decent guy all-around. If something up his alley came in they'd always reach out to him first and always receive a polite response one way or the other. And just as a fan of course, I found him incredible. RIP.

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Re: Passages

#4 Post by DarkImbecile » Sat Nov 24, 2018 10:20 pm


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Re: Passages

#5 Post by Dead or Deader » Sun Nov 25, 2018 12:10 am

Ricky Jay narrated a series of Cisco ads that were directed by Errol Morris that are posted on Morris site.


A magnificent trickster who was a welcoming presence in many films.

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domino harvey
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Re: Ricky Jay (1948-2018)

#6 Post by domino harvey » Sun Nov 25, 2018 12:15 am

The only good Christmas gift I've ever found for my dad was Jay's curated collection of poker-related songs that came with an exclusive DVD of Jay performing tricks for some friends (I think I saw this up on YouTube when I was looking for the clip I posted). Of course, his great stage show Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants was filmed for HBO as an hour-long special by none other than David Mamet, and this too appears to be up on YouTube in bits and pieces

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Re: Ricky Jay (1948-2018)

#7 Post by bearcuborg » Sun Nov 25, 2018 12:55 am

Catching that HBO show on TV back in the day was impossible to turn off...here’s hoping that comes out again.

I caught him in Chicago about 10yrs ago doing his Rogue show at Royal George Theatre Center. The bulk of the performance had a large degree of randomness because the audience suggested the things he would do and discuss. I can’t think of any other magician who would do that kind of show.

Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women: Unique, Eccentric and Amazing Entertainers - is a fantastic read.

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Re: Ricky Jay (1948-2018)

#8 Post by denti alligator » Sun Nov 25, 2018 11:20 am

Saw him in NYC about 10 years ago. One of the great performers of all time. I cherish my inscribed copy of his Curiosities book. It's sad that the brilliant 52 Assistants show remains unavailable in high quality. Seemed to me to be a no-brainer as an extra for any of the Mamet CC releases, but no...

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Re: Ricky Jay (1948-2018)

#9 Post by BigMack3000 » Thu May 09, 2019 6:41 pm

I had no idea until the commercial I just saw, but his final role appears to be in the latest season of Sneaky Pete.

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Re: Ricky Jay (1948-2018)

#10 Post by Godot » Fri May 24, 2019 5:57 pm

I highly recommend Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay (2012). It popped up in my library (perhaps after news of his death?) and caught my eye on the shelf with its creepy cover; I think it is from the PBS American Masters entry of similar title. Here is Roger Ebert's appreciation. As my family wandered through the room, they would stop and watch and then make me skip back to see many of the tricks again. There were a couple he did (in one shot, live) that my wife kept saying, "What? How did he do that? Go back!" The bulk of the content is homage to his mentors and earlier craftsmen, which some internet reviewers complained about ... but it felt wholly appropriate, because Jay repeatedly noted that's how he learned best, by proximity to masters and pestering them until he gleaned clues and hints and the rare privileged instruction. It's sweet in places (his relationship with his grandfather and many of these mentors who filled that same paternal role), and a bit chilling in others, because magicians seem to operate on a parallel plane to our bland reality, one where they can bend the laws of physics, challenge our desire for order and predictability in the universe. The interviews with other magicians and Mamet are great, but I was most affected by the on-camera testimonials by "real" people (rubes like us) who were fooled by tricks Ricky pulled on them individually (his aikido instructor, the British reporter from the Guardian ... the latter in particular seems near to tears just remembering the implausibility of it).

I also love this New Yorker profile from 15 years ago, which has some wonderful anecdotes and quotes from Mamet.

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domino harvey
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Re: Ricky Jay (1948-2018)

#11 Post by domino harvey » Sun May 26, 2019 3:53 pm

I watched Deceptive Practice on your recommendation and enjoyed it, though by far the best moments were just the excerpts from his HBO special. It did occur to me while watching this that one of the biggest losses of Jay's passing was his depth of knowledge and passion of arcane magic lore and history, much of which may have died with him. Even though he was alive when this was made, one gets the sense of the last living link to a world that no longer holds the same position it once had. I was also quite taken by Jay's remarks that he knows nothing about the 20th century, his mind more occupied either centuries earlier or on time spent practicing his craft. There is something inspirational in someone devoting themselves to their passions with as few distractions as possible, though the film of course also tempers this by including a scene of Jay being unable to work his iPhone and needing the help of a younger colleague to make a call!

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Re: Ricky Jay (1948-2018)

#12 Post by denti alligator » Sun May 26, 2019 10:03 pm

By "HBO special," do you mean the 52 Assistants show? If so, is the quality better than what's currently on youtube? This film (directed by David Mamet, after all) needs to be rescued pronto.

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Re: Ricky Jay (1948-2018)

#13 Post by domino harvey » Sun May 26, 2019 10:53 pm

Yes. The quality of the 52 Assistants footage was fine, zoomed in to fit the widescreen format of the rest of the film. I think the HBO special would be an excellent inclusion on a Criterion edition of Heist, since both are Warner holdings directed by Mamet and starring Jay, hint hint to any Criterion employee who hasn't already blocked me

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