I have heard it said that knowing Jay Marshall is a life-changing experience. It certainly was for me as he was the first magician I ever saw. He was doing the linking rings on the Ed Sullivan Show and it became, and still is, my favorite trick.
When I moved to Chicago 35 years ago, I went to Magic, Inc. and met Jay for the first time. It was early afternoon and there was no one in the shop but Jay and me. I told him about how inspired I was by his performances and he reached under the counter of his display case and took out a set of rings and did the routine for me just like he was on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was a thrill I will never forget. Then I asked him if there was a chance I could meet Ed Marlo. He said "you are in luck; he is across the street at the Three Bears Restaurant. Does this mean you don't want to see the rest of my act?" At the time, I assumed he was joking, but looking back I am not so sure. So I started to leave and as I got to the door he said, "if you come back before 5 o'clock I'll do Lefty for you!"
Now I have returned from his funeral, where hundreds gathered to share memories and tell hilarious stories. It was like a magician's convention, complete with tricks, including one in which a tape recording of Jay's voice, explaining how to do a trick, was played with uproarious results. The coffin, covered with roses, had a sign on it that read: "This is not the first time I died." The speakers recounted how he played The Palace in New York, The Palladium in London, and made 14 appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show. The common thread running through the stories was the countless ways Jay changed people's lives. The list includes Penn and Teller, David Copperfield, Norm Nielsen, and Johnny Thompson.
The Dean of American Magicians has left us, but his offspring Lefty hasn't. He just moved away, and now resides at the Smithsonian Institute right next to Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog.