Bob Rossi – A Case Study of a Collector
By Deanna Murray – Columnist
Sometimes the distance between the past and the present is not a straight line. Neither is the distance between any two points in the lifeline of a magician. Bob Rossi has found a way to connect the dots like no other I’ve met. But then, his is the life of a curator, historian and history maker!!! A lifetime of his kind of in depth research, collection and action has enriched our lives in wide concentric circles.
They say, “Never judge a book by its cover.” Well, inside Bob Rossi is a whole library!!! And though no one overtly remembers the librarian for acquiring it, they always remember their favorite book. The ‘Book of Rossi’ (and there are volumes) probably have original drawings signed to the author on the inside jackets. The dedications are honorariums scribed from humble beginnings to a treasure trove of friends he’s met along the way. Inside are the collections… stories and memorabilia, including theater posters of events not to be missed.
(The Great Dunninger reads the mind of Babe Ruth at the N.Y. Hippodrome.) And other pieces that literally missed the boat. (A brass clock left on the docks as the Titanic set sail; according to Billy McComb who found it and later sold it to Bob.)
A magician named Dario gave him two bits of pivotal advice: “GO see Al Flosso at Hornmann Magic and BUY a book by Anneman called ‘Practical Mental Effects’.” So Bob found his way to “a small building, up one flight of stairs, with more roaches than people living in New York City. Al Flosso was the most incredible guy in the world. He was an old ‘carnie’ and could tell how much money you had in your pocket just by looking at you. And prices were sometimes adjusted accordingly.” After buying a “cigarette cut” routine. Al asked, “What’s the matter kid, you can’t afford to cut a woman in half?”
As fate would have it, The Great Dunninger happened to be at Al’s store and he introduced the two. It was Joseph Dunninger who inspired Bob to become a collector. He told him, “Collecting is like a thirst.” Bob is now the foremost authority on his friend, Dunninger (1892-1975). “Halfway between a magician and a medium, Dunninger ripped the lid off the psychic racket.” His 1st show was in 1911, by 1912 the S.A.M. asked him to perform at their 2nd Annual Banquet. He was on Old Time Radio in 1929 and in 1944-45. Dunninger and Devlin created CONEY ISLAND !!!
Other volumes of Bob’s life relate to his work in sales and brokering deals. He spent 18 years in Hong Kong and worked for toy companies there. He’s rather famous for having ‘sourced’ the “Tickle Me Elmo” dolls to the United States. To get the inventory to America, Bob arranged for two 747 airliners. “It might not have been economically sound, but the marketing strategy and media attention made up for it.”
All this… has pointed Bob in the direction of and to be perfectly positioned for … becoming a director and producer of the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas – as It’s been his hometown for the past 10 years. Bob gongs in the new year, and heralds in the 33rd year of this convention with an incredible lineup of acts, lectures, and events you must see (Feb. 28 – Mar. 3, 2010) featuring: Jan Rouven, FISM Winners – Shawn Farquar and SOMA, Max Howard and more. Regretfully, Finn Jon has had to cancel, but sends his heart felt regards. It wasn’t difficult to be talked into, “I believe it was all decided over a bottle of wine… a very good bottle of wine!”
A collection is like knowledge or a talent or an excellent Chardonnay. It can be neatly tucked away for the benefit of one, perfectly preserved, but unopened. A Collector – a great one like Bob – shares his objects and stories and friendships to ultimately connect… talent to audience… student to world… smile to face !!!