By Dick Oakes
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Early in my life, I was exposed to the legerdemain of my uncle Le Roy "The King," Master Magician, who taught me several card tricks, coin tricks, and other slight-of-hand maneuvers and puzzles. His real name was Le Roy Loewner and he had a hunting lodge near Rawley Springs, Virginia, and a three-hundred-sixty-acre turkey, poultry, and cattle ranch in the famous Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
Unfortunately, I did not follow in his footsteps as he might have liked because my immediate family moved to Colorado and then to Washington. I did venture back on my own at the age of eleven to Virginia and Le Roy put me in one of his shows. His stage was set up over the pitcher's mound at a local baseball park. He performed the usual kinds of tricks with me as the "assistant," such as stabbing my elbow with an ice pick, then cranking my arm so that water flowed out of my arm into a funnel (that turned out to be empty when he inverted it). In another trick, uncle Le Roy placed a box over my head and thrust knives through it at various angles, then opened the front of the box to show that I was unharmed. But the illusion that really amazed me as the assistant was when he sawed me in half -- not inside a box -- but laying on a board that had been streched over four sawhorses.
Le Roy had me lie down on my back, placed a two-piece split frame over my belly after pulling my shirt up a bit and my trousers down on my hips a bit, and proceeded to push wooden pegs and cigarettes into holes drilled through the frame itself. He then invited two male volunteers to come from the audience and instructed them to pick up one of those long, two-handled lumberjack saws and place it in the top of the frame, one volunteer manning a handle on each side of me. He then told them to start sawing! Lying down as I was, I couldn't see the saw after a few moments, but as I thought it should be going though my body, I let my arm fall from my side off of the board. A huge gasp went up from the audience from this unplanned bit of hamming-it-up on my part, and my uncle later said it really added to the illusion!
Years later, when Le Roy died, he willed his entire bag of tricks and large illusions to a young magician in Hapeville, Georgia, named Richard Miller III. An article titled "The Amazing Master Miller" was published in Life Magazine, March 8, 1954.
I still liked to do "magic tricks" from time to time, and was inadvertently instrumental in one of my friend Morry Gelman's children, David Gelman, becoming a buskar, doing his own brand of magic for appreciative onlookers at fairs and other street doings.