Magic lovers everywhere mourn the death of Ricky Jay, the master magician and historian of magic who appeared in such iconic films as "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia", and who, as a Hollywood consultant, He helped make the "impossible seem real" on screen.
Jay died at his home in Los Angeles on Saturday. He was 72 years old. His longtime manager, Winston Simone, told Variety that Jay died of natural causes.
"It was unique," Simone said. "We will never see people like him again."
Described in a 1993 profile of The New Yorker as the "most talented hand-playing artist," Jay, who was born Richard Jay Potash in Brooklyn, was known for his extraordinary ability to manipulate a deck of cards. In 2002, he broke the Guinness world record for the furthest launch of a single game card; He threw one more than 216 feet.
The New Yorker described another of Jay's hallucinatory feats. At a dinner party, he asked a guest named Mort to name a card. Mort chose "the three hearts", and then this magic happened:
After shuffling, Jay grabbed the cover of the palm of his right hand and threw it, cascading the fifty-two letters so that they traveled along the table and threw an open bottle of wine.
"O.K., Mort, what was your card again?"
"The three of hearts".
"Look inside the bottle."
Mort discovered, huddled inside his neck, the three of hearts. The party dissolved immediately.
Jay was a revered figure in Hollywood. The movies and television shows on which he appeared include "Tomorrow Never Dies," "Mystery Men," the HBO series "Deadwood," "House of Games" and "The Spanish Prisoner," the latter two written and directed by his friend and collaborator. David Mamet Jay also consulted in many productions, helping the illusions come to life on the screen and on stage.
He worked on Francis Ford Coppola's "The Escape Artist" and Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige." He also helped design the wheelchair used by Gary Sinise in "Forrest Gump" that gave the illusion that Sinise's character, Lieutenant Dan Taylor, was a double amputee
Variety described Jay as "a student of all facets of magic, conjuring and deception." He had a large collection of magical artifacts and historical works, and wrote and talked extensively about the history of magic and the lives and abilities of dark magicians.
The death of Jay was widely lamented in social networks, with actors, authors, producers and fanatics of magic that expressed their affection and admiration for him.
"The world has really lost a bit of its magic today," wrote actor Joe Mantegna on Twitter.
The Penn Jillette magician of "Penn & Teller" fame described Jay as "one of the best he has ever lived".
"We'll all miss you, Ricky, oh man," Jillette wrote.