The Story of Marvyn Roy – by Deana Murray
By Deana Murray
Three major things in Marvin Levy’s life converged… His love of magic which evolved and revolved around a few light bulbs. His love of the perfect woman, Carol… who finally said “yes” to his proposals of a ‘magical life’. And a booking for their act together. All of which lead to the kind of adventure that takes a lifetime to complete. With a mere $350 they took off… “TO SEE THE WORLD” – and see the world, they did. First stop: ‘City of lights!’ …Lido de Paris.
If the name Marvin Levy doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because his friend nicknamed him “Marvin Roy” when he was in the military. They were near Germany at a time it didn’t help to have a Jewish surname. It was after touring in Europe, on return to the U.S.A. as a “find” of entertainment plucked from France, that Marvin changed the “i” to “y” to appear somewhat more continental. Marvyn says, “There’s something about European POLISH that rubs off.” That spelling became part of his polish.
Marvyn’s ‘light show’ began with as few as 7 light bulbs produced on a string from his mouth. Over time, there were as many as 38 bulbs and the distance spanned as much as 35′ across the stage of Radio City Music Hall. The acts were timed from 8 up to 20 minute shows. Marvyn’s theme was solid, but it wasn’t without surprises. The threat of electrocution, for one. He was the man who could thwart and direct electricity at will. He became “MR. ELECTIC” to every kid near a TV set. Not only did Marvyn and Carol see the world, they performed everywhere they went.
He kept his ideas for upgrading the act in a little red notebook dividing his thoughts into two columns: Themes and Techniques. One highly successful idea that took years to work out was the “Lady in the Light Bulb”. Of course, it was Carol.
Carol Williams, when they first met, already had an act of her own. Originally from Caldwell, Kansas, she became known as the “Park Avenue Cowgirl” by throwing and twirling ropes while on ice skates. Marvyn and Carol actually performed together (before they were an act) in a Merriel Abbott Ice Review called “Spurs and Skates” at the fabulous Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago. One journalist wrote, “She swings a 70′ lariat as skillfully as Roy Rogers.”
When they did become an act together, they got married at “Brookledge,” the Larsen Family home. Carol added a certain touch of class and choreography to Marvyn’s otherwise stand-up routines. He says, “I never had to tell her where to stand or anything. She was always willing to listen to every new idea I had for the act and ready (with bags packed by the door) to travel to the next performance destination.” And she was able to manage the finances for their future retirement to what they dreamed would be “an island in the sun.”
They usually arrived a day before any performance to check out the venue. “There could be a fair amount of stage preparation which cannot be overcome unless you know what you’re dealt.” Marvyn always kept up with every stage show’s advertising, memorabilia, and, of course, the newspaper reviews. (13 volumes) So, when Mike Caveney told him, “If you don’t write your autobiography, someone else will.” Marvyn did just that. And Mike became his editor. The book is called “UNPLUGGED” and is a delight, in that it chronicles not only their journey, but the living history of magicians of our time. Marvyn still calls Mike “one of my boys”. And there are dozens more he’s influenced along the way, like Dale Hindman, who make the list. Dale is the grandson of Ray Muse, one of Marvyn’s mentors.
You may have heard of another book called “6 Degrees of Separation to Kevin Bacon”. In it, every actor is related to Kevin by no more than SIX other people to another actor or film. I dare say that “Mr. Electric” is not more than TWICE removed from any other magician or stage you can name.
For example, Marvyn performed for or with the following: Paul Daniels, both Johnny Carson’s and Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, Merv Griffin, Ed Sullivan’s All Stars and his cultural exchange trip to Moscow, Milt Larsen’s ‘IT’S MAGIC’ and of course, The Magic Castle. Marvyn’s act was the only one ever allowed to stand-in for Siegfried and Roy at the MGM Grand. They even toured with Liberace. They performed at magic conventions across America and Europe… some as “guests of honor” and as recipients of multiple Lifetime Achievement Awards like the ones presented at the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas and the “Murray” accolade bestowed in Blackpool, England. As young teenagers, Michael Caveney and Stan Allen couldn’t wait to hang out with him. Props from the Bulb Routines are “in the keeping” of a grateful David Copperfield, at his museum.
These days, Marvyn wants to give back what he took in a lifetime devoted to magic. He still hangs out with magicians of all ages. You have to be careful because “youngsters are easily impressed or discouraged, but their new ideas and thoughts are most interesting.” Marvyn shares his common sense advice: “Some booking agents don’t like magic. Decide where you will or want to perform your act? Build an act around that idea. Remember, the job doesn’t come to you. Look at the originality and longevity factors of your routines. Ask yourself, does it pay the bills?”
Marvyn’s most powerful message? “To really have a commercial product, a complete act, there are three essentials: (1) The package. Magic that’s coherent, unique, recognizable and memorable, (2) The miracles. The ‘what just happened!?’ effects, and (3) The binding. Titles or subtitles that interest people who have never seen your act.” For Marvyn it was “The man who lights a 1000 watt light bulb with his bare hands.” He eventually became the spokesperson for General Electric because of it. And 50 years is a lot of longevity for any act. Now, THAT’S a successful commercial product.
They found their “island in the sun” in La Quinta, California. He says, “It’s not Palm Springs, but you can have your choice of pools in the summertime.” He no longer performs with lights. And Carol is no longer with us, but they still have a conversation every Sunday. He prefers not to travel far from home. Satisfied to perform on occasion for his friends and the local patrons of Lyons Bar & Grille or at exclusive private events with what he calls “pocket tricks” He does try to attend a convention or two, and was last seen at Stan Allen’s “MAGIC LIVE.” It’s still ‘the magic of magic’ that holds his thoughts and talents. It keeps him forever ‘charged’ in a way that only magicians understand. He says, “The thing is, you never get magic out of your blood. It keeps me from growing old.” The truth is, Marvyn Roy still knows how to light up a room! Often, the “it” factor is hard to define, but perhaps, Carol said it best a long time ago. And it is quite likely the secret of their success together… “The difference between a really good magician and a memorable one is… CHARM.”
PHOTO PROVIDED BY: ANDREW WOLFSON/EDWIN LETCHER
Marvyn Roy in Action – Today!
PHOTO PROVIDED BY: ANDREW WOLF/EDWIN LETCHER
Shot at: Lyon’s Bar & Grille