Tuesday, January 17, 2017

On Ricky Jay, Matthew Buchinger and the APHA

On this date in 1740, Matthew Buchinger, the extraordinary performer known as “The Greatest German Living” and "The Little Man from Nuremberg" passed away at age 65.  Though only 29 inches tall, and born without hands or feet, Buchinger had a remarkable career as a magician, artist, performer and calligrapher. He is seen here in a self-portrait.
No one has done more to showcase Buchinger's astonishing career than Ricky Jay, who released this souvenir playing card during the run of his one-man show On the Stem.    

Jay (b. 1948) is a modern renaissance man -- master magician, historian, film, stage and television actor, writer, collector and, most importantly for these purposes, one of the great modern exponents of the art of card throwing.   His remarkable demonstrations of card throwing include a highly-public display on one of the early Doug Henning television specials, when Jay amazed home viewers with flying pasteboards and a giant pair of scissors.   

Card throwing was prominently featured in two of his wildly popular stage productions -- Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants and On the Stem -- in which he propelled cards in many impressive ways including, most memorably, into a watermelon.   Indeed, Jay is the unquestioned champion of the art -- in 1976, Jay propelled a playing card 195 feet at 90 mph, gaining him entry into the Guinness Book of World Records.  In 1977, Jay applied his singular wit and ample knowledge to produce Cards as Weapons, an amusing and irreverent look at the history and techniques of card throwing.  Cards as Weapons not only discusses techniques and equipment, but also contains reproductions of some fine vintage throwing cards.  Extremely difficult to find, the book itself has become a collectible.  (I recently saw cards from a promotional deck released with the book -- I will endeavor to obtain an image of one for the site).  

His erudite use of the term "propelled" during his performances is one of the inspirations for the name of this blog, Propelled Pasteboards.   

And the discussion of Ricky Jay brings me to another resource that I discovered while researching a recent post -- The American Printing History Association website.  Their fascinating site includes discussions of many subjects of potential interest -- Chinese playing cards, ancient decks discovered in the bindings of old books, Ouija boards and so forth.  Most relevant, though, as seen in this photo, Mr. Jay was their keynote speaker in 2016, and there's a post devoted to his presentation.   He's seen here demonstrating a "blow book."   The APHA was also kind enough to feature Propelled Pasteboards on its site.

Finally, a video clip from Mythbusters featuring Ricky Jay throwing cards:

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