As of March 20th, 2012 this site is four years old. I started this tribute in 2008 not knowing if it would continue, expand or even be read by anyone except me. But it was something I had to do to honour Johnny's memory. I am humbled and delighted that it is still here - bigger and better than ever. Many thanks are due to our contributors for making this site worthy of Johnny's name. Additional thanks to those who have helped promote us. You know who you are - your names already appear on this site. Special thanks to Joseph Giordmaine for his ongoing input and encouragement. I'd also like to send an appreciative "shout out" to all our unknown readers. Since our relaunch in August 2011 we have had over 3000 visits to date. This number does not include the uncounted thousands who had already visited at our previous address on line. I think it is a testimony to Johnny's legacy that so many of you have seen fit to come by to remember or to discover for the first time what an influential, class act Johnny was - on stage and in real life.
That wonderful colour photo on page one captures so well the joyous fun that Johnny created in performance. It had to be the first photo on this site. I can well remember receiving it as if it were only yesterday. I had asked Johnny for a number of his promotional items. You've seen many of them on this site. But that colour photo was something extra special. It was not just one of his standard giveaways. He gave it to me with the explanation, "John, you're a very smart boy. I think one day you will be a professional writer and you might want to write about my magic. Here is a colour photograph to illustrate your article". To be complimented so highly at such a young age by someone I admired so much was incredibly encouraging. I kept that photo and all his promotional items securely filed away all those years until I began this site. That he could have envisioned I would want to write about him one day seems almost prophetic in retrospect although he could never have known it would be published using such an amazing medium as the internet. However I have no doubt he would enjoy the net. It is still magical for those of us old enough to remember a perfectly complete world without it.
Welcome to readers of "The Magic Cafe"
Kudos to Johnny Ould for posting a very kind message recently on The Magic Cafe about this site. We have received several hundred new readers as a result. According to Johnny Ould, he was required by MC rules to add his post to a pre-existing thread. The most recent thread about Johnny bore the amusing subject line: "Johnny Giordmaine - The Gay Magician" begun by another fan of Johnny's - "Darryl the Wizard". (A belated h/t to Darryl for starting the thread with his own warm memories.)
You've already seen the wonderful old b&w poster of Johnny using that title on this site.
Of course Johnny was of such an age that the word "gay" still had its original meaning, namely - happy, joyful, carefree, exuberant. If you ever saw Johnny perform it was a perfectly apt description. It had nothing to do with sexual orientation. (Note to readers under 25: I am aware that there is in current use a third meaning, namely - lame, useless, or pointless - as in, "that's soooo gay" - also used without reference to personal orientation. For younger magicians there are thus two newer layers of meaning to put aside until you get to its original as used by Johnny.)
Joseph Giordmaine recently commented: "Dad used "gay" in the 30's, 40's and 50's - as long as I can remember. It always seemed so right. He stopped using it sometime after I left home to live in NYC in 1955. At that time it had never occurred to me there was an issue. Sometime [later]. . . he mentioned to me that he had had to drop it..."
(LEFT) Here's one of Johnny's business cards using "The Gay Magician" sometime before 1958 (based on phone exchange name.) Johnny Ould has written that it was he who pointed out the word's newer connotations - causing a no doubt bewildered Johnny to change it to Ould's suggestion "The Merry Magician."
(RIGHT) Johnny's butteryfly giveaway (also seen elsewhere) still using "The Gay Magician" sometime after 1958 (based on phone exchange name). I recently asked Johnny Ould to help us pinpoint when Johnny would have switched to "The Merry Magician". His early work alongside his dad as printer of some of Johnny's publicity items uniquely qualifies him to reply...
Johnny Ould writes about "The Gay Magician"
Hi John... I found letters showing July 1967 as our last printing order. The envelope, letterhead and rubber stamped extra pages all show he was still using "The Gay Magician", but I suspect that printing order had been changed to "The Merry Magician".
In a Dec. 1967 and an April 29, 1968 letter he used a gold address label with "The Merry Magician" on it, but the envelope was still one of the old ones. The enclosed new folder showing him on TV on Capt Kangaroo shows no mention of Merry or Gay or other contact info.
Obviously, he was in stages of transition with his printed supplies. Forward ahead to January 1970 and his rubber return address stamp was cut to remove 'The Gay', leaving just the word Magician.
On an April 1970 letter, his return address label included "The Merry Magician", as did his enclosed letterhead and business card.
So, John, based on this printed history of correspondence examples, I believe my observations were suggested to Johnny before I moved down here [to Windsor, Ontario from Toronto] and it took awhile for the transition to occur, 1966 through 1970. It is possible that he had stock to use up, and I would not have known that, as I did not take care of those printing orders. As we can see he did minor changes along the way, until 1970 when most all was with the new tag "The Merry Magician".
Cheers Johnny Ould for ransacking your memories and files!
In summary... it would seem that Johnny used the title "The Gay Magician" from at least the 1930s until he was informed about its newer meaning sometime in the middle 1960s. (The popular children's cartoon TV series of that era "The Flintstones" sang over its closing credits about having "a gay old time" demonstrating that its original meaning was still in general public use during that transitional period in cultural history). By then the transformation into "The Merry Magician" began in earnest so that towards the end of the 1960s "The Gay Magician" was an indistinct memory no longer seen on any of Johnny's promotional materials. By the time I met him in the very early 1970s I never knew him as anything other than "The Merry Magician"...
Coming up next... a flashback once again to that wonderful SCM tribute to Johnny in September 1973... and don't forget to write! Your memories are what help make this website what it is... My e mail address is on page eleven. jp
(ABOVE) Correspondent Johnny Ould in a 1959 photo by Tom Ransom at the old Arcade Magic shop demo'ing his own Hindu Rope trick.