|Blackstone History - Harry Blackstone, Jr.
"Harry Blackstone Jr., is regarded as one of the finest magicians in the country -- the leading exemplar of the formal tradition of grand illusion."
- Calvin Trillin in The New Yorker
Every time Harry Blackstone Jr. stepped on stage for a performance, he brought with him the legacy of an American theatrical tradition that dated back over a century. Harry Blackstone Jr. was an author, an actor, an inventor, a casino showroom headliner, a TV personality, a teacher, a father, and the creator and performer of the longest running magic and illusion show ever to play Broadway.
No magician in history was more honored by his peers than Harry Blackstone Jr. In March 1994, he was named a recipient of the prestigious Masters Fellowship, presented by the Academy of Magical Arts and Sciences. He was named "Magician of the Year" in 1979 and 1985 by the Academy of Magical Arts, and was the "International Ambassador of Magic" for both the Society of American Magicians and the International Brotherhood of Magic at the time of his death in 1997. He was an Honorary Life Member of the Academy of Magical Arts at the Hollywood Magic Castle, a distinction his wife, Gay still holds. Harry Jr. was also the recipient of the coveted "Star of Magic" an honor bestowed to only 11 other magicians in history, including his father. On June 11, 1994 Harry was made an honorary member of the International College of Surgeons. Since the College's founding in 1936, there have been only 14 other honorary members including only one other from the entertainment industry, Bob Hope.
Born in Colon, Michigan, "The Magic Capitol of the World," Harry's career in magic began at the age of six months, appearing and disappearing in his father's illusions. Under the master's watchful eye, young Harry grew up learning the elements of his exacting craft. He continued to perform such world-famous illusions as The Floating Light Bulb, The Vanishing Birdcage, The Dancing Handkerchief, and the frightening Buzzsaw, all of which he learned and perfected with his father's guidance and encouragement.
Far from satisfied with repeating the feats of his father, Harry developed the art of magic into something both uniquely and arrestingly modern, injecting not merely innovation, but transcending the stage barrier to touch his audiences with a presentation which was not only reverent of the past, but very much of the present, of the future and of his own creation. As he put it, "What I am undertaking is the challenging, but delightful task of bringing this magnificent art to even higher levels, building on what has gone before, injecting a modern, innovative presentation that is very much of the present, of the future and of my own creation."
Harry proved the popularity of this modern approach in 1980, when after touring the U.S. and setting box office records in 16 major cities, he arrived at the Majestic Theater on Broadway, where to unanimous rave reviews he presented the longest running magic and illusion show in the history of the New York theatre. His show continued to receive rave reviews and standing room only audiences in its worldwide tours, performing in Manila, Philippines during December, 1990; Lausanne, Switzerland in July, 1991; Madrid, Spain, in May, 1992 and Buenos Aires, Argentina, in June, 1992.
Harry then set his sights on television. He starred in three of his own magic specials (one for PBS and two for HBO). He also appeared as a guest on numerous other television shows such as "Donahue," "The Today Show," "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," "The Arsenio Hall Show," "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," the NBC pilot of "Mandrake, the Magician," "The New Mickey Mouse Club" and "Hart to Hart."
Harry also appeared on international television in the BBC's "The Children's Royal Variety Gala" from London; "The Blackstone Family TV Special" for NTV-Japan; "Sabado Noche" and "The Juan Tamariz Show" from Madrid, Spain, and Thames TV's "The Best of Magic." And in November 1991, he hosted the "International Magic Awards," a two-hour television special originating in five countries on three continents and seen by half a billion people worldwide. Harry also magically introduced all 50 contestants for the 1996 Miss America Pageant.
When asked which of his television performances were his favorite, he mentioned two: his role as "Dr. Mephisto" on the NBC-TV daytime drama "Santa Barbara," and his recurring segment "Backstage With Blackstone," where he taught conceptual mathematics through magic to viewers on the daily PBS series "Square One TV." This show was nominated for a 1991 Emmy.
When it came to performing live, Harry Blackstone's versatility and inventiveness allowed him to be equally comfortable in such diverse settings as China, appearing with the Shanghai Circus; and on stage at the Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City, where reviewers unanimously proclaimed his 90-minute magic review the "Show of the Year."
To unanimous critical acclaim, Blackstone Jr. presented his unique "Magic of Music and Music of Magic" in symphonic halls throughout the country. This performance was an examination of the four thousand-year history of mystery, with live illusions, full stage graphics and an entire symphony orchestra.
Away from the bright lights, Harry Jr. met with success in a broad spectrum of entertainment-related careers. In 1985 the International Platform Association honored him as "Speaker of the Year". He co-authored three books (The Blackstone Book of Magic and Illusion, There's One Born Every Minute and My Life As A Magician released in the summer of 1991) and re-edited his father's Blackstone's Secrets of Magic.
Blackstone Jr. also designed and inaugurated a line of four magic kits, "The Magic World of Blackstone" (manufactured by Pressman Toys), for beginners to advanced, which have become the largest-selling magic items in U.S. history. In 1990, an additional line of beginning, intermediate, and advanced magic items were released (by JAK-PAK INC.) both in the U. S. and overseas.
In 1990, Blackstone designed and produced magic illusions and special effects for the New Kids on the Block "Magic Summer Tour" and subsequent "No More Games Tour." Over three million new fans in 70 cities saw the magic of Blackstone for the first time.
Harry's return to Broadway was in conjunction with "The Boys Choir of Harlem and Friends on Broadway." "This was a unique opportunity in every sense," said Blackstone. Blackstone not only created illusions specific to the show but also was one of several guest performers, including Michael Bolton, Phylicia Rashad, Jazz great, Kenny Burrell and members of the Metropolitan Opera.
In 1985, on the anniversary of his father's birth, Harry donated the original floating light bulb, designed and built by Thomas Edison, and the original Casadega Cabinet, used in his father's "The Spirit Handkerchief" illusion to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. It was the first ever donation in the field of magic accepted by the Smithsonian.
Harry Jr. always had a love of education and knowledge. He attended Swarthmore University in Pennsylvania and after a three-year tour of duty with the U.S. Army in Korea, he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from University of Southern California. Harry later attended the University of Texas for graduate work in theatre and broadcasting. In May 1993, Harry dedicated the Blackstone Theatre Collection in honor of Harry B. Blackstone III at California State University, San Bernardino.
In May 1997 Harry Blackstone Jr. passed away but his legacy continues. Gay Blackstone, his wife of more than 20 years continues to control and direct the flourishing magical production company which was started by Harry in 1971.