Monday, December 20, 2010

Ron Wilson: October 1, 1926 - December 17, 2010

Ron Wilson, one of the world's most delightful practitioners of magic, who practiced his artistry for the top cruise lines on ships sailing the seven seas, passed away on Friday, December 17, 2010 in Hollywood, California at the age of 84.

Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, on October 1, 1926, his interest in the prestidigitating arts was sparked at the age of seven, when he saw a performance by the Great Dante. Ron first performed professionally in a talent show at the Fawcett's Hotel in Portrush, Northern Ireland for a traveling holiday group. Throughout his teens, he performed kids' shows with props he manufactured by hand.

At the age of 17, during the height of WWII, Ron attempted to enlist in the Royal Air Force, but was rejected because he was color-blind. Attempts to join the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Navy ended with the same result. Finally, when he turned 18, Ron was conscripted into the British Army, where he served for the duration.In 1952, Ron emigrated to Windsor, Ontario, Canada, located across the river from Detroit, where he quickly became popular among his fellow magicians and the lay public as a top semi-professional entertainer on both sides of the border. He was an early pioneer of dove magic, and regularly appeared performing his stand-up act in dozens of night clubs and on local television. Ron was equally adept performing close-up, stand-up, talking or silent acts, and his skills to this day are highly respected among his peers,

Larry Jennings, a neighbor and protege of Ron's from the earliest days in Windsor (and who became a highly regarded close-up magician), urged Ron to move west to Los Angeles in 1966, where the Magic Castle had become the gathering place for the most creative forces in the art. Dai Vernon, Charlie Miller, Jay Ose, Kuda Bux, Bruce Cervon, and dozens more renowned magicians came to visit the famous old mansion in the Hollywood Hills and never went home. Ron was instantly branded a favorite performer by the members of the Academy, and received an award at the Academy of Magical Arts' initial Award Show in 1969 for his creation "The Highland Hop" as "Best Magic Trick." Ron was also the recipient of the Academy's "Close-Up Magician of the Year" and "Magician of the Year" awards in 1971 and the Lifetime Achievement Fellowship in 1992.

Ron began performing on cruise ships in 1971, and because he was based in Hollywood, he was often called on by producers in the television and motion picture industry as a magical consultant and technical advisor on scores of productions, frequently called upon to perform hand inserts and roles which required card dexterity or sleight-of-hand. When he retired as a performer in 1988, Ron was engaged by the Royal Viking Line to hire all of their magical talent. He continued to book magicians on cruise ships for all the major cruise lines for the balance of his lifetime.

Ron was asked to join the Board of Directors of the Academy of Magical Arts at the Magic Castle in 1969, and served on that board, as well as later on the Board of Trustees, for 41 consecutive years, most of that time as the Academy's Vice-President. Following the passing of Bill Larsen, Jr. in 1992, Ron served as the Academy's President for a two year term. In 1989, Ron was named Entertainment Director of the Magic Castle by the Board of Directors, a position he held for fourteen years.

His creativity and invention are on display in a book written and published by Richard Kaufman in 1987 entitled The Uncanny Scot, a sobriquet issued him by Magic Castle host Guy Thompson. Beloved by his fellow magicians and by the audiences he entertained, Ron recently collected his favorite stories about his friends at the Magic Castle in a book published by Steve Mitchell as Tales from the Uncanny Scot earlier this year. Given the number of friends and fans Ron had, it is one of magic's most incredible miracles that his tales fit into a single volume.

He is survived by his daughter Heather, her husband Joe Manzon, granddaughter Laura, and by thousands of friends and conjuring comrades at the Magic Castle and throughout the world.

Funeral services are private. Information on a Magic Castle memorial for Ron Wilson will be released as it becomes available.