Photo: Theo Westenberger, Autry Museum
NEW YORK (AP) – Ricky Jay, a magician, historian of extravagant artists and actors who appeared in "Boogie Nights" and other films, died. He was 72 years old.
Jay died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles, according to his manager Winston Simone. Jay died on Saturday.
Jay appeared in several movies and television series, including as a cameraman in "Boogie Nights"; in "Magnolia" and "Tomorrow never dies"; and on "Deadwood" on HBO. He consulted about "Ocean's Thirteen" and "Forrest Gump" and compiled rare books about unusual artists and artists that go back hundreds of years.
His one-man shows were heard in crowded audiences, where his hand-playing art impressed even other magicians. In a famous trick, pierce a watermelon with a letter thrown in the air.
He also wrote several books about games, magic and magicians, including "Dice: Deception, Fate and Rotten Luck".
Jay liked the stories of strange characters, players and scammers in the story, and wrote a book that celebrated the art of Matthias Buchinger, an 18th-century German magician born without legs or hands.
The Buchinger artifacts compiled by Jay were presented at a 2015 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
"The breadth of his knowledge and appreciation for magic and the allied arts was truly remarkable," wrote fellow actor and magician Neal Patrick Harris. "Such sad news, such a profound loss".
Jay worked frequently with playwright David Mamet, who produced his one-man show "Ricky Jay and his 52 attendees." That sold out all his performances in New York City and won an Obie Award for theatrical productions off Broadway.
An off-Broadway show produced by Mamet, "Ricky Jay: On the Stem," played at the event centers for six months. The Associated Press called it "a whirlwind, maddening journey through the forgotten history of New York, with specific attention to the strange characters who thrived decades ago on Broadway."
Jay also appeared in Mamet's films as "House of Games", "State and Main" and "Heist".
Survivors include Jay's wife, Chrisann Verges.