Snapshots of a Magical Life Here>>>
Our founder and my
dad Herb Morrissey after many struggles with many high points and a few very low
points, over a span of about 3 years or so. Herb had many serious health issues
but always held his head up and made the next hurdle. There were many hospital
stays over the last 3 years, twelve I believe. Nurses that cared for him number in
the hundreds and there where many doctors. Initially he had a heart attack
among other problems, and it was decided that he would need a heart transplant.
The transplant was a success and 2 months later he was out of the hospital and recuperating
at home. Shortly after he was back at the shop doing what he liked best,
demonstrating magic. He came to the shop 2 or 3 days a week for a few
months. Then another blow, cancer was found in one of his lungs and would have
to be removed. The operation went well and it was believed that all the cancer
was removed, again he headed home to rest and even made it back to the shop for
a visit. Herb's health started failing him again. He had not been
for quite some time and was almost always in constant pain. Ultimately Herb was diagnosed
with cancer throughout most of his body and had even started chemotherapy treatments.
I often thought how brave he was and wondered how he could face another
appointment or hospital stay. He put up one hell of a fight. On Wednesday
afternoon August 13, 2003 Herb passed away at the Toronto General Hospital
My dad got his
start in magic as a young boy when he was given a magic kit, his interest
quickly grew and was soon doing shows. At the age of ten he was chosen to be
part of an all kids variety show, which included a juggler, singer, ventriloquist
and Herb as the Magician. The group was so professional that they
where once flown into northern Quebec and Labrador to perform for the troops at
forces bases. Herb performed many shows all the way thru his teen years.
He met the love of
his life Shirley Anne Howes, my mom. They dated for a while and were married
shortly after. My mother has shared many memories of my dad with me that I
didn't know, some of which I can share with you. She recalled when they first
met, my father was playing a club and he invited my mom to come see his act.
When he walked out on stage my mother asked a friend, who is that man on stage,
the friend replied that's Herb. She couldn't believe this was the same guy. My
father off stage was quite shy and mother said he transformed into a totally
different person when he hit the stage. She also told me that my
sister Kim and I, where the most popular kids in the neighborhood, at our
birthday parties all the kids wanted to come to our birthdays, because there
would always be a magic show. Kim and I could have cared less. I don't
recall this but thought it was quite funny.
At the age of 23
Herb turned professional and quickly became one of the
busiest performers on the Montreal club scene and throughout the province of
Quebec. As a kid I was snuck into a club
or two to watch my father, and that's where my father was most comfortable, on
stage. He had style and grace on stage that I have seen only a handful of times.
He worked the clubs and
eventually started the first business Herb Morrissey Products in 1959 a very small business indeed. So
small in fact that he only had one product. Morrissey Cups, soon other products
were introduced Chop Cups, the dove pan line, zombie and lota bowl just to name
a few. Richard Olsen, Herb's partner for over 30 years, Richard started
coming to the shop when he was a kid and spent a lot of his free time learning
and looking after the shop when the boys would head to the bar for a beer.
Richard is a huge piece of this thing we call Morrissey's and is also a big part
of the company's success. Another Part of my fathers success comes down to a person that has probably never
been mentioned. Our original metal spinner Leo Lambert, he was not a magician
but had an understanding of magic that came thru in his work. Leo is now
deceased and deserves along over due thank you. Herb eventually got out of the
showbiz end of magic to focus all his attention on the business end of magic.
This story starts back for me about 38 years ago. The path
that I have been led down has been an interesting one. Because of my father I
met many of the greats in the magic world as I grew up, not knowing that my life
would some what follow the same path as my father. Magic has been a constant for
my whole life, when I was a kid I dabbled in magic but never quite caught the
magic bug until much later. I really had very little interest
in magic but I went to many magic conventions and saw pretty well everyone who
is anyone perform or lecturer. In the seventies in Montreal, Morrissey Magic had
many lecturers the likes of Vernon, Derek Dingle, Buckingham, Paul Harris,
Goshman just to name a few. I was not a magician but I always watched every
lecturer. One memory that keeps popping into my head is when Dia Vernon
Lectured, as Vernon Lectured his chauffeur was
going over the fine details of the faro shuffle with me at the back of the room,
I believe the chauffeurs name was Joe. I was maybe seven years old but I
practiced the faro and became quite good at it, but it wasn't until I was 18
that I would actually use the faro in a trick There was always a magician staying at our house as I grew up, it was definitely
interesting. Little did I know that I was in actual fact
learning many lessons on magic, the performance and my dad's favorite the
demonstrating and the selling. I had been signed up for magic 101, but never
A few years back
now my father was asked to perform for a large group with a special request,
this group was having a hard time finding a magician who could work silent. The
entire audience was hearing impaired. The act I say that night was incredible he
did his cigarette act, misers dream (ungimmicked), card manipulations, linking
rings and ended with The guillotine. He did about a 40 minute act and never
spoke a word, when he finished the audience rouse, no jumped to there feet in a spontaneous
standing ovation. I had seen my father work before but this was a special night.
All the classic's of stage magic performed flawlessly and in total control of
the audience. Again I was young and did not realize at the time this was another
As the cards and emails came I thought that many of the
memories that people have of my father would be appropriate to share with you
all. The condolences, notes and people visiting the shop and talking about their
memories of dad have really helped the healing process for me.
Mike Olender long
time friend shared these thoughts.
My deepest condolences on your father's passing.
When I first met your dad in 1986 he took an interest in what I
purchased and gladly demonstrated any effects asked and gave me tips and
insights for various sleights.
And although he knew a huge number of magicians in his life, many of
them famous worldwide, he never forgot the everyday ordinary guys.
Whenever I came to the store or he came to our ring he always said "Hi
Mike", never forgot my
name or countless others names and that impressed me.
Your following along in his footsteps and he's up there with the rest of the magic fraternity smiling down.
Gone but definitely not forgotten.
is Kevin Rusli, you probably
don't know me but that's kind of the point of this email; to let you
know that Herb has touched and affected the lives of others like myself
who would have remained anonymous to you except by this email.
I 'm only 23 years old, and started magic around 10 - 12 years ago at
the shop. I even worked with you guys a long time ago for the annual
'take your kid to work day' which they do for schools. Herb had me in
the basement making one way decks! Being as nice as he was, he gave me a
free 'torch to rose' at the end of the day for my hard work!
also remember him making a comment to me at the age of 15 or 16, when
I was old enough to leave home and start show business! I never knew if
he was joking, but thinking about it brings a smile to my
I saw him demonstrate
many tricks; some of my favorites that he did and I ended up buying were immaculate connection, beggar coins, and
Tenyo's Eclipse. I just wanted you to know, that although I've not remained as close to Herb as
I was as his customer, I would continue to consider him one of my early mentors and friends.
I'll miss him dearly,
The highlighted section
above is classic Herb. As I read Kevin's email it immediately brought a
smile to my face also, when I really needed it.
Our sincerest regrets go to you and your family for the recent loss of
your father. Herb was a great man, and he will be missed by all.
Your father was a magic Icon, and was definitely an influence on my
magic and the continued success of my career. I still remember the very
first time I ever walked into the shop and met him, he showed me the
Chinese sticks, that was 20 years ago.
He was also a great salesman, I know because my shelves are chalk full of magical gadgets, that I will probably never use.
I know that there isn't much I can say except that I am truly
sympathetic, and at least one good thing has come,...you and I have
become friends. A
friendship I hope we can continue for years to come. Although Lyndsy had
never met your Dad, she has heard all about him since we first met, and
she too sends her warmest thoughts and prayers to all of you.
With our thoughts and prayers....
Peter & Lyndsy
Peter Loughran-Master of Illusions
Peter's email made
me realize all the friendships I have made because of my father and this is a
David Peck has been
a friend of my dad for many years and a friend of mine for almost as many. They
spent many hours at the shop together and David has a incite that not many have
of Herb, including me. Below is the obituary David wrote for Linking Ring Magazine
and The Canadian Association of Magicians Magazine CAMaraderie. I have included
it here in its entirety. As I read it, it made me laugh and it brought a tear to my
eye at the same time.
Thank you David.
there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.”
Morrissey was a magician with a keen sense for all things magical. And
it was this sensibility that allowed him to create and develop Morrissey
Magic Ltd - a forty
four year old company that I was to grow deeply fond of. It would be
here that Herb and I would become good friends. It would be here where I
would be privy to Herb’s skills as performer, salesman and
entrepreneur. It would be here where I would here tales of performing
for the mafia, Expo 67 and the subtleties of a nightclub act. It would
be here that I would meet and develop relationships with some of my
Herb was the quintessential salesman. Some might say on a good day that
he could sell anything. He had a gift. A wonderful tacit skill that
could take something simple and turn it into a wonderful piece of magic.
No used cars for sale here, only distinctive and sometimes expensive
magical miracles. Yes, Herb could sell a beachfront property to a poor,
thirsty man, crawling naked through the Sahara desert. It was fun to
watch. An education in small business and in the techniques of
persuasion. Herb’s love for performing as a magician was a delightful
compliment to his ability to develop such a successful and unique
business in Toronto and Montreal. It was an ability that allowed him to
expand Morrissey Magic into an international name.
Herb was a practical joker. He really enjoyed putting people into a
vulnerable, comedic spot. No one was safe from Morrissey’s antics. It
took me several years to joke proof myself. I have been sprayed with ink
and electrocuted with specially charged pens. I have had things explode
in and around me. I have been the brunt of many an inside joke. And so
have many others, including the closest members of his family.
The Blue Bagoona is perhaps one of the most ghastly magical props I have
ever seen. An Ickle Pickle product I believe. For those in the know, it
is a dysfunctional square circle on wheels. Designed in the shape of an
oh so dramatic and ill conceived bright blue garbage truck. I believe
in the mid eighties it sold for the absurd and outrageous price of about
sixty five dollars. I openly ridiculed this product to any one who
would listen. Herb and I often joked about what type of act might
actually employ such a garage sale item. The prop stood on the shelves
for many years. It was covered in layers of embarrassing dust. It’s a
wonder to me now that we never incorporated it into some sort of magical
ceremony. Perhaps it could have been A Hideous Prop Burning or
something like that. A magical rite of passage. We would have worn capes
and funny looking hats and chanted strange melodic mantras. It could
have become a yearly revenue producing ritual. My birthday was around
the corner and a friend who had access to the store presented me with a
rather large and poorly wrapped birthday gift. I reached my hand inside
and felt the wretched and familiar wooden wheels. It was the
Bagoona. Who knew? I believed in that moment that my friend had been
truly had. This was a sophisticated practical joke. I mean Herb wouldn’t
have, would he? Here was my friend trying to impress me with this
magical purchase and I had to react in an appropriate way. I mean how
could one possibly ever be grateful for a gift like this? The Bagoona
didn’t deserve appreciation of any kind. This was no gift of grace. It
was for all practical purposes a piece of magical junk. And yet I
reacted as kindly and graciously as might be expected. It was an
uncomfortable moment. It wasn’t until a day or two later that I was
brought up to speed on the nature of the situation. It was I who had
been had. Herb was able to notch another slot into his practical joke
Herb was the kind of guy who didn’t hold back. He was extreme in every
way. On one end of his emotional spectrum was his quiet and introverted
nature that he so often displayed. He was no grandstander and yet to see
him perform within the confines of his shop was to witness the
simplicity and the pure pleasure of a magician working the room for
applause. I’ve seen him explode in anger at unsuspecting and ungracious
customers and I’ve seen him take the youngest performer under his wing
and work them gently through the necessary steps towards magical
knowledge. I was one of those youngsters.
The first time I saw Herb perform anything magical was inside his store.
I had traveled a long distance to see what this Morrissey Magic was all
about. A one mile walk and several buses later I had arrived. This was a
place I would visit often. And it would be here that I would spend
hours in conversation with many of the magical greats in the city of
Toronto. But the moments I really looked forward to were those when I
would find myself alone with Herb in the store. I would run out of the
shop with a crumpled twenty dollar bill gripped tightly in my fist, that
Herb had handed to me, and would quickly order a couple of subs and
cokes to go. And would then proceed back to the shop to eat together,
listen and learn. Those were good times. Formative years as many might
say definitive memories. Fond recollections are never simply pictures
that are worth a thousand words. It is the memory itself, imbued with
all its emotional investment that is worth a thousand words and so much
On August 13th at 3:00 pm Herb Morrissey passed away from complications
involving a cancer related disease that was in turn associated with a
three year new heart transplant. He was
65 years old. Herb was lucid and chatty up until his gradual decline.
And for that the family is thankful.
Herb Morrissey was a dear friend of mine. So it was with great respect
and admiration I accepted the request to write some thoughts regarding
Herb and my recent friendly loss. This will be a personal account and my
words will be few as I believe Herb would have wanted it this way.
About three months ago I paid a surprise visit to Herb at his home in
Toronto. Shirley his wife greeted me at the door and led me downstairs
where Herb was sitting in the usual place with coins, harnesses, cards,
books and handkerchiefs scattered around the room. After chatting
briefly for a minute or two I had to ask what the magical display was
all about. Herb stood up and showed me a manipulative card move he had
been working on and claimed that he was considering getting his act back
together. Here was my recovering and still quite sickly friend working
on new magical routines. He still had the desire to perform. I felt a
tingle up my spine as I considered the possibility of seeing him on
stage again sometime soon. I was excited for him at his new found
interest. I must tell you however, with much regret, that Herb
eventually put away the props as his illness began to bear down on him
again soon after this surprise visit. I was thrilled and then deeply
I already miss Herb. I know that many will. He was loved by some,
respected by many and played a significant role in the lives of those he
came in contact with. His wry and often odd sense of humor perplexed
some and provoked others. And yet he had the ability to make most people
smile. Herb was a character that demanded further enquiry and it was
this, and the comfort of our twenty five year relationship, that
prompted me to recently ask if he would be willing to develop notes and
audio tapes regarding the writing of a personal biography. It was a
biography that I would love to have written. I would ask the questions,
and Herb would provide the stories. It would be an experience and
privilege that I did not want to take too lightly. The potential for
friendly connection and comedy was great. Herb and I chatted about this
new project, and the thought of us working together and filing through
the stories, the people and the places had a fascinating appeal for both
of us. We laughed at all that would have to remain untold - the inner
secrets forever sealed. We were moving ahead with our goal in mind and
yet the project never formally started. Disappointing for anyone who
knew Herb, for they would understand the intriguing nature of some of
the more colorful aspects of his life. He was a great storyteller and a
spinner of a sophisticated yarn as some might say. Like most of us he
was a walking story. No cliché bits of business here. Herb had a
difficult, colorful and unique past. His was a biography that had the
ability to teach much. Oscar Wilde said that, “Experience is the name
that men give to their mistakes. It seems to me that Herb would concur.
Herb was full of stories. He was an historical cup half full. Never half
empty. These were magical tales that often grew with each new telling.
Wonderful little oral ditties about this and that with respect to his
experience in the world of magic. The people he met, the places he
worked and some of the crazier aspects of a life lived as a post
vaudevillian performer on the New York and Montreal club circuit. Having
been a performer, manufacturer, creator and lecturer on magic for most
of his life, he was a multi-layered library of information - a textured
Morrissey Magic was started many years ago in a small basement in a
village just outside of Montreal. Herb was a magician that appealed to
other magicians, but also to the lay public that entered his Toronto and
Montreal stores. It is amusing to think of the number of people, both
children and adults, that have had the privilege of purchasing a book, a
video or a simple prop that was in some was related to Herb and his
magic. For a moment consider the number of children entertained, the
number of adults who smiled at their ability to make a handkerchief
vanish, and the collective amount of applause generated as a direct or
indirect result of Morrissey Magic. The implicit and explicit relational
effects are exponential. Herb had a profound influence on many people,
young and old.
Herb enjoyed working and he was usually wrapped up in a project related
to the store and his magic. He always needed to be doing something. So
it is no surprise that his illness and his inability to do as much as he
had in the past was a continual source of frustration for him. And yet
he found an active way of keeping his thoughtful and mindful mechanism
well oiled. Up until a few weeks ago Herb was creating. Even with the
physiological effects from his illness surrounding him, Herb still
managed to find a way to work. I remember during the last phone call I
had with him he spoke of, how easy it was to create new effects. I think
I created six new tricks today, he said in a casual and proud manner.
The creative juices were flowing. He had been working diligently on new
card routines that I’m afraid that only he is now privy to. As sad as
this may seem on one level I find it encouraging to know that even
through the illness, the medications and the disease Herb found the
strength within himself, and acknowledged that he still had the ability
to draw pleasure from that which he so dearly loved sleight of hand
When a death occurs I cannot help but be angry, disappointed and
frustrated with that which seems so cosmologically unfair. However, I
must also take time to revel in the courage and the joy that was the
person. As Paul the Apostle, a New Testament writer has so poignantly
asked, O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? These
are questions that can’t be ignored. And they are questions that we must
somehow be at ease with. We need to find a way to rest in that which we
cannot truly know. What we can be certain about however is that a life
lived has ended. And yet this same life was wholly lived - a man that
loved his family, that loved his craft and who was loved by those around
him. Coming to terms with this type of loss can never be easy. I for
one will always claim that there was never quite enough time. One thing
that I am certain of is that with a friend like Herb one can safely say
that when it arrives, death never comes too late the knock at the door
comes early. And again I am reminded of how much I will miss him.
Herb was a fighter as those who knew him would be willing to tell. His
heart transplant by all medical accounts was a success. And he did fight
until his eyes peacefully closed. Death is a final step. Or at least it
would so appear. And yet there is life to be found in his work, his
magic and in his family. May they find the strength to support and
encourage one another in the difficult days ahead. And may they be
reminded often of the sweeter moments with Herb.
As a friend of mine I trust that I will meet with him again someday. And
if not, for the time being, I am able to remember him fondly,
respectfully and with much joy.
Herb - Thank you for the stories, for your friendship and for everything else.
August 18, 2003
I have a lot to be
thankful for and much of it is because of my father. There is no other person
that has affected me and made me the person that I am today than my dad. Now
that Herb has passed I have come to realize how many peoples lives have also been
affected by crossing my fathers path. Dad thank you and I love you. There is a
place where we will all meet again, where we never have to say good bye.
Thank you to you
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