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Chicago Fun Times: magic for a Sunday afternoon

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"It's fun to be fooled," Jay Marshall asserts. Marshall has been a performing magician, ventriloquist, and puppeteer for more than 50 years. (One of his ventriloquist's props--a glove called Lefty--is in the Smithsonian.) He also owns and runs with his wife, Frances, Magic, Inc., the famous north-side store and mail-order business that sells everything from magic wands ($2) to sculptured ventriloquial figures ($500--and for that price, it would be declasse to call them dummies). He insists that time has not dulled the pleasure he experiences when the proverbial whatnot is pulled over his eyes.

Marshall's friend, Tommy Edwards, concurs. It's not only fun to be fooled, it's also fun to do the fooling. Although Edwards earns a living investing in real estate these days, he's been doing magic since he was six or seven, including three years as a full-time professional. "Magic got me through everything pretty well," Edwards says. "It got you a lot of privileges--in high school, in the service. It helped put me through college. It's great. I'm a face that's lost in the crowd, but you do a trick, they remember you. It's an ego thing, I guess. Someone applauding you, that's tremendous."

I admit, a little embarrassed, that I find being fooled irritating. And it turns out, at least according to Jay Marshall, that this is true of many people of my sexual persuasion, which happens to be female.

"Yes," he says, "you do a trick for a woman, she'll change the subject. You do a trick for a man, he'll sit there and puzzle it out."

I am less than thrilled with this characterization, and vow to learn magic immediately. And, in fact, I leave the store a while later knowing how to wiggle a common, ordinary, yellow number-two pencil so that it appears to be made of rubber. I know just what it is one does when one makes a coin seem to be in one hand when it is actually in the other--although I lack the skill to actually pull it off. Perhaps I'll go back for a ball and vase ($2.50)--recommended by Tommy Edwards as the best trick for the beginner, and, indeed, the very one he started with as a lad.

But I could also win one of the 24 magic sets (75 effects! props! instructions!) that will be given away to lucky ticket holders at the magic show organized by Magic, Inc., and scheduled for 1:30 Sunday at the Chase Park field house, 4701 N. Ashland. And if you too hate to be fooled, take heart. Jay Marshall's act will feature the blade box, a routine in which an assistant who is enclosed in a box and skewered with razor-sharp swords lives to tell the tale: for an extra buck, you can see how it's done. The professional talent will also include ventriloquist John Arvites, juggler Michael Anthony, John Shirley and his marionettes, and magicians Bob Brown, Tommy Edwards, and Holstein & Company. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children 14 and under, with proceeds benefiting All Saints' Episcopal Church. Tickets will be available at the door starting at 12:30, or they can be bought in advance through Friday at Magic, Inc., 5082 N. Lincoln; information at 334-2855.

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