Mike Rogers – The Cups

Columnist:
Mike Rogers
by Mike Rogers

Everyone who knew Dai Vernon could relate an anecdote. Here’s another.

When entering into a conversation about the Cups and Balls it is difficult not to include something about Dai Vernon. For some it’s even more difficult to have any magic conversation without including something about Cups and Balls. With the current interest in the effect some readers who might not have seen Vernon perform may enjoy seeing a picture of his famous engraved silver cups. Only two sets of these beautiful cups were made. There is a rumor that three sets were actually made, though I have no knowledge or documentation of this alleged third set. It’s hogwash and one of those stories that make the rounds.

Some may be curious as to why, or how, I would have such a picture on file. Vernon and I never hobnobbed together on a frequent basis though we were best of friends for close to thirty years. I would see him at conventions and quite often at the Magic Castle after he moved to Los Angeles. We enjoyed many meals together, several sessions, and even shared a room once. I studied his methods and his style, but I never personally studied under him as others have. Moreover, I never lived close to where he lived. So our meetings would not be considered as frequent. Whether frequent or not it was always great fun seeing him. He was the most charismatic person I’ve ever met and being in his presence was a pure delight. He was also a bit forgetful and careless with his magic props, and that’s how I happen to have this strange photograph.

Vernon and I shared a hotel room at the Florida State Magic Convention in Orlando back in 1974. The Professor would retire about 3:00 AM and rejoin the world around noon. I’ve always been one to rise and get out of the hotel room rather early. Hence, I would be out of the room long before the Professor was awake. Quite often I’d return to the room in the middle of the day, about the time he was getting up, and he would greet me with a rather funny phrase. He’d say, “Well…I saw your bed was vacant, I saw your bed was vacant.” (Say that phrase in Vernon’s twangy speech pattern and you’ll see why it sounded funny.) In my life I have never referred to an empty bed as being “vacant.”

…..I’m rambling, let’s get back to the picture of the silver cups. I’ve already mentioned that he was careless with his props. He never seemed to make an effort to protect them, or to even recall where he last left them. During the four day convention he left the cups openly about the room. Any spot where there seemed to be space was fine, normally on the foot of his bed. No effort was ever made to hide them or secure them in any manner. Dave Goodsell (MUM Editor) and I spent many hours together during the convention and we were both amazed at Vernon’s apparent lack of concern for protecting the cups. So we posed them on the bed and Dave took the photo. We did it just for the hell of it. Vernon never new about the photo. I never told him because I planned on using it down the line. I used to make him special birthday cards relating to his magic, such as a card depicting Tally-Ho back design, and so on. I always intended to make such a birthday card using this picture, but alas, never got around to doing it. Today, with computers, making such a greeting card is a snap. Back then I did it all on copy machines. The picture of the cups never came out well on the copy machines of the period.

To point up his heedless manner with the cups, a few years earlier he forgot them when leaving a TV studio in Atlanta. They remained unattended until the next day. At the request of Art Zorka both Vernon and I had made a joint appearance on the Open Up late night talk show on Ted Turner’s newly formed Cable TV Network. The Professor forgot the cups entirely. Fortunately they were safely returned to him the next morning.

I’m certain Bruce Cervon has more knowledge than anyone regarding the in-depth history of these cups and their current status. My point here has been to simply relate an amusing narrative about one of the icons of magic. I will mention that the cups shown in the Dai Vernon Book of Magic published by Harry Stanley are the same cups pictured here. However, the cups pictured on the dust jacket of the Vernon Chronicles series are not the cups used by the professor.