Mike Rogers – Edi Bull

Mike Rogers

EDI BULL by Mike Rogers

Here’s a trick. I can call Magic, Inc. from any location in the country and I’ve never known their phone number. Curious? Read on …….

My last offering in this series of columns for GMN discussed a cell telephone effect called High Tech Wizard. The idea came to me while working in Australia where it seems everyone, carries a small cell phone. I have to admit, I too am taken by the cell phone craze as you will seldom find me not having one clipped to my belt. Moreover, it’s difficult to pick up any daily newspaper without finding a multitude of full page ads offering free cell phones just for subscribing to the service.

In recent years it seems to me the frontiers of what might be called “Consumer High Tech” could be the Hi Fi/Stereo craze, the Home Video Craze, the Home Computer Craze, and the Cellular Phone Craze, though I think the latter has yet to peak.

Now I’m going to tell you of still another trick using the telephone. This is not a magic trick, and it is well known to many of my generation. Yet, I think it will be new to some readers. The trick is simply this: I can call Magic, Inc. in Chicago from any where in the world using any phone, yet I have never known their phone number. Also, I think I have actually made such calls from various parts of the world at one time or another. No, I don’t have an information operator place the call for me. So what’s the deal? Simply this: EDI BULL.

Let’s go back several years to the early 60’s when the Ireland Magic Company moved from the Chicago Loop to their present location at 5082 North Lincoln Ave. and reorganized with the new name Magic, Incorporated. At the time Frances Marshall was a prolific writer with her offerings being found in several magazines, booklets, notes, newsletters, and their house organ called Trick Talk. She informed all readers that the new phone number at Magic, Inc. spelled the strange name EDI BULL on a dial phone. (Touch tone phones were yet to be invented.) EDI BULL is a strange name you only have to read once and you’ll remember it forever. To this day several of my friends, like me, have never known the actual number, yet they all remember EDI BULL. Had the name related to magic we might have all forgotten it the next day, but for some reason that absurd name sticks with you always.

With that knowledge here’s a true anecdote. Back in the early 60’s I was a guest at Magic, Inc. for one of Frances Marshall’s anniversary parties which were held once every five years for an extended period. Frances and Jay kindly provided me lodging on a folding cot in the canyons of Jay’s extensive library. Ali Bongo shared the venue a few aisles away in another canyon of books. My cot was directly beneath one of those large industrial heater/fan type contraptions seen in older industrial buildings of the period. Keep in mind the Magic, Inc. complex is much more than just a corner magic shop. It is an entire industrial type complex having different floors, several rooms, a little theatre, a library, a manufacturing area, a shipping area, a home, and all sorts of hallways. So the giant heater contraption I’ve mentioned is not the type thing you’d find in your home. This was a major gadget made for heating an industrial type building. It also turned itself on with a major LOUD blast announcing it’s presence. I had just returned from one of the troubled hot spots of the world and was attuned to instant loud noises. Quite frankly, loud unexpected noises SCARED THE HELL OUT OF ME! The large heater periodically coming on brought me straight out of bed several times during the course of my stay. Jay Marshall still enjoys reminding me of this story.

I’m rambling. The above has nothing to do with telephones or EDI BULL, but it sets the scene. Late one evening during the function Dave Bendix, Earle Christenberry, Ed Marlo, Eddie Fields and I all joined forces in Dave and Earle’s motel room for a late card session. The evening went on and on well into the next morning. The motel was about four blocks from Magic, Inc. and my instructions were to call Jay just as I left the motel and he’d open the door to let me in. Sounded like a good idea; however, back in those days many motels and hotels didn’t have dial phones in the rooms. All calls had to be placed from an office switch board. Also, back then many smaller motels closed their offices for the night around 10 p.m. Hence there was no way to call Jay from the room. It was probably three in the morning, I had four blocks to walk and no way to let Jay know I was home once I got there. The area is what might be called “Nice but Noisy” having lots of small store front businesses such as tailor shops, small appliance repair shops, a few bars, and corner food markets. Not the type of area where you really want to be walking alone at three in the morning, but still not one to cause much worry. There were also a few pay phones along the way, so my problem was easily solved, or was it? I figured I’d just pop into the first phone booth, dial EDI BULL, and quickly turn in for the night under the monster heater that would jar my socks off once or twice before the real morning came.

No such luck. The phone booth had no light and I couldn’t figure which numbers amounted to EDI BULL on the dial phone. Now I’m starting to worry. It was cold, late at night, and I’m a stranger in town wandering about in an area not really known to me. I imagined myself trying to explain to some cop that I couldn’t go home because I didn’t know how to find EDI BULL in a phone booth!

There were a few other wandering souls on the street. Not many, but as I looked around there were a few here and there. I approached one and was able to borrow a book of matches which afforded me enough light to make the phone call. Today I can’t imagine even being out at 3a.m. let alone borrowing a book of matches from a stranger also out at that hour. Times have changed!

A groggy Jay Marshall met me at the door and for no real reason, before almost falling asleep again, he asked me if I enjoyed my session with Ed Marlo. I replied that indeed I did enjoy it. I didn’t have the guts to tell him that trying to get home was actually more interesting. EDI BULL has meaning beyond what he could ever imagine.