The National Post has done a very nice profile on Ricky Jay (via Rare Book News), one of my favourite magicians/character actors/bon vivants and an all around fascinating figure. The NP profile is about Mr. Jay as a book collector, which only further endears him to me.
“…all those years that I spent on the road opening for rock and roll bands and Cheech and Chong and various people, and living in a small place or on people’s couches. When I would come back to the city the first thing I would do would be to go to a bookstore. I just felt comfortable in print shops and bookstores.”
Ricky Jay is already known to most book dealers and collectors for the wonderfully odd book he wrote Cards as Weapons, which has become a hot commodity among the cognoscenti. Mr. Jay can apparently stick a card in a watermelon at 10 paces.
A regular among David Mamet’s players, the last thing I saw Mr. Jay in was the late lamented Deadwood. He played a card sharp with a shady past—not exactly a stretch I admit:
“I’ve always been comfortable with the netherworld and lowlives in general. I’m incredibly interested in swindlers and pickpockets and deceivers on every level.”
That “roguish” and slightly disreputable air is unmistakable, but there is also something inherently loveable about Ricky Jay. He’s the con man you want to be taken by. He’s the shady uncle you want to show up to thanksgiving because he’s charming yet unpredictable. He might offend as many at the table as he entertains. There’s something potentially a little dangerous about him despite his mostly innocuous appearance. But, you know that deep down, he wants to entertain everyone above all else, in his own words:
“I’m honest on stage.”