On February 15, 2008 Owen Magic Supreme lost an inspiring, creative, loyal and loving Husband, Father, Grandfather, Great Grandfather, and a true friend to many.
My Grandfather Leslie C. Smith was a man of great intellect. He was a great inventor, performer, joker and of course a true craftsman. He was creative in many ways. His stories from the past were phenomenal even if you heard the story 10 or more times, he still had a way of telling it that held your interest every time. His creativity not only spread through his stories but also in his art of making the most beautiful and pristine magical props in the world. He had a language of his own, and to many customers that have come through Owen Magic Supreme through the years they would say, “What a weird character!” I won’t contest that he was weird; I think the most interesting people I have ever encountered in my life thus far are weird and that’s what makes them stand out in a crowd. His unique personality and opinionated views are what made him who he was. A man who was no follower, but a leader in the magic world. He will live on in all of our many memories. Thank you Grandpa for being a true inspiration to all of us.
Love always and forever,
Your Granddaughter Alexia Zagorsky
Apple, Apricot, Peach, Pumpkin, Rhubarb and Boysenberry Pie. This is what I think about when I think of my Grandpa Leslie. He absolutely LOVED pie. I’m not sure what kind of pie was his favorite but what I do know is that he was able to make it disappear faster than any magician!
Did you know my Grandpa had a beautiful garden? When he wasn’t creating magic at the shop -- he was at home growing magnificent fruits and vegetables in the garden. One of the things he always talked about was the “damn gophers” that ate all the vegetables!
My Grandpa was a passionate and dedicated soul. He spent hours and days making a little magic trick. It didn’t matter if it was nearly impossible to create. He would try many techniques and maneuvers before he was satisfied. When he finished the unique and special trick, he was so proud and couldn’t wait to show it to the customer who ordered it.
My Grandfather loved his “Tonka” or better known as Gertrude. She was his true love and favorite “box jumper.” He remembered her until his last curtain call.
Next time you’re eating a piece of pie. Please raise your fork to Leslie C. Smith. He would have loved to share a piece of pie, a cup of tea and a good conversation with you.
You be good Grandpa! Don’t cause too much trouble! Miss you lots.
Michelle Zagorsky, your grand daughter
I met Les Smith at the Alhambra shop in 1964, shortly after he had bought Owen Magic.
I had been an Owen customer since the last days on South San Pedro St.. I did not know what to expect from the new guy from Willimantic, Connecticut, but I needed a Fred Rickard pull. A shortish man in shirtsleeves with sawdust in his hair came into the showroom, shook my hand and said something like, “Yavaneh smoosh gamoosh.” I don’t remember my response, but it must have been semi-satisfactory because Les soon brought out the pattern box to show me a near-complete pull so that I could understand what it was and if it could do the job I had in mind.
“Are you handy?” he asked. “I don’t have any finished pulls, but if you think you can build a dozen for me, I’ll let you keep one.” Since I had almost no money at the time, this sounded like a pretty good deal, but the real attraction was the opportunity to see the Owen workshop from the inside. My day job did not start until 1 PM, so my mornings were free. Perfect!
While I was in the process of discovering that I was not nearly so handy as I thought, I had the opportunity to meet Gertrude, Carl Owen, Fred Rickard, Grace Schwartz and the rest of team as they worked to fill the nearly empty shelves Les had inherited when he took over the business. They needed all the help they could get! Les was incredibly patient with my first pathetic efforts to fabricate and solder the little brass pulley covers that were the heart of the pull. But he knew how to make anything from wood or metal, he knew how to teach and thanks to Les, eventually I was able to turn out (very slowly) a saleable product. I was incredibly proud when the Owen stamp went on something I had made.
Without knowing it, I had found a home. In the months that followed, Les gave me little jobs he knew I could do, or could learn to do, small metal gimmicks, fitting hinges to Cabalas, card boxes, die boxes, and so on. Thanks to Les, if I thought I knew how to do something better, he was willing to let me try it. On Saturdays I filled in behind the showroom counter. One day I was presented a tea mug with my name on it. I was part of the team.
Teatime was very important at Owen Magic. Everyone, even the hinge fitter, gathered around the big square tables at the back of the shop, talked about what was in work, and about past exploits. Carl Owen, a very modest, reticent man, became outgoing around the tea table, and talked about the legendary performers he had met and worked with.
The visiting performers whose props were in progress all joined us for tea.
Thanks to Les I met the leading lights of magic at the time: Marvyn Roy, Channing Pollock, Harry Blackstone Jr., Doug Henning, Frakson, Charlie Miller, Norm Neilsen, Siegfried and Roy, Andre Kole, Tihany; the list was endless. As time went on, thanks to Les I had the honor of seeing some of them perform routines I had created for Owen Magic. Les was generous with credit; he made sure his clients knew me and knew what my contributions were; there were no “back-room boys” at Owen Magic.
Les encouraged me to come up with new magic, or new wrinkles on old magic. His own creations were often incredibly bold, diriect, and gutsy; he knew the difference between what an audience saw and what they thought they had seen. His ideal was the Harry Blackstone Sr. illusion show, full of bold steals and stage-size misdirection (The Duck Inn is a perfect example). Some of Les’s illusions, like the “Doorway to Nod” are so bold I could not imagine how they could be deceptive. But a fooler it is, even on television! I can only aspire to that kind of insight, but Les’s influence restrains me when I am tempted by a complicated solution. Even when he hasn’t been around to ask, I try to remember to ask myself, “What would Les do?” The answer is, he would resort to sophisticated mechanics (and electronics; he was an electrical engineer after all) only if necessary and appropriate.
Les expanded my horizons as a performer. He encouraged me to do bigger magic, to stand on my hind feet and talk to the back row. Eventually, thanks to Les, I began to do a small but genuine illusion show. My first performance was as far away from the L.A. magic orbit as I could get, at the Forest Theater in Carmel, an outdoor amphitheater run by the local Arts Commission. Though it was a good day’s drive from L.A. there in the front row were Les and Gert, cheering us on.
So here’s Les in a sentence and a word, a teacher, a mentor, an innovator, a cheering section, occasionally cantankerous, sometimes painfully honest. Irreplaceable.
Thanks to Les. Thanks to Les.
Bill Taylor ASC