Tony Slydini – The Magician’s Magician

Tony Slydini, simply known as Slydini, was a world-renowned close-up magician. His mastery, expertise, originality and innovative approach to magic earned him a legendary reputation in the magic world. 

He traveled the world performing for the public as well as performing and lecturing fellow magicians. As a result, he served as an inspiration to generations of well-known magicians, celebrities, and entertainers, including Doug Henning, Dick Cavett, Bill Bixby, Ricky Jay, David Copperfield and countless others. Although he was best known as a master of close-up artistry, he continually demonstrated an extraordinary performing ability and during his lifetime was responsible for a long series of books, films, and publications highlighting his mastery of the magical crafts. For his work, he received the highest honors that his profession could bestow, including both the coveted Masters Fellowship Award and Performing Fellowship Award from the Academy of Magical ArtsDuring his lifetime, Tony Slydini was inducted into the Society of American Magicians Hall of Fame as a Living Legend.

Early Life

Tony Slydini was born as Quintino Marucci in Foggia, Italy. His father was an amateur magician and encouraged Slydini to pursue sleight of hand at an early age. When he was still young, he lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina with his uncle. As he had no access to books on magic much less personal instruction or magical performing apparatus of any kind, and without any help or guidance, he focused on his craft and reinvented popular magic as it was known developing many new effects and illusions.

Slydini was mainly attracted to the psychological aspects of magic, which would continually show itself in his magic in the form of precise and expert use of timing and misdirection. He was inspired by the relationship between a magician and his audience, which fueled his desire to be a close-up artist who focused his performance on the spectators. He became so good at it that he continually fooled the magicians for whom he performed. So much so, that the famous dean of magicians, Dai Vernon, once remarked, “Slydini is the only magician who could ever fool me.”

In 1930, he moved to New York City, finding a job at Hubert’s Dime Museum. The Dime museum was designed as a center for entertainment for the working class and in New York City, where many immigrants settled, they were popular and inexpensive entertainment. Hubert’s provided him with a grand platform, where he could experiment and continue to enhance and develop his amazing skills. He found work in carnivals and sideshows throughout the country. He was entertaining everyday workers and their families, but gaining valuable experience, knowledge and psychological expertise while traveling and meeting people from coast to coast.

Slydini continued to gain popularity through his public performances including many private clubs and party dates and would travel the United States from New York to California, performing at random events in museums, carnivals, sideshows, etc., while remaining practically unknown to the world of magicians. 

Magician Herman Hanson, a close associate of Howard Thurston, finally presented Slydini to the local magic fans and eventually went on their public shows, etc., in New York, Boston and Hartford. Shortly after, he appeared on the well known Barbizon Plaza show in New York City where he made an instant hit with his different style of magic. His fame spread and soon other well-known magicians from around the world sought out his company and expertise including the legendary Cardini, Dai Vernon, Okito, The Great Virgil, Bert Allerton, Al Flosso and Jack Gwynne. Eventually, he appeared in Atlantic City before a national conclave of magicians and from there, his reputation as a “Magician’s Magician” was cemented.

Performance wise, Slydini never used magic words such as “abracadabra” or “hocus pocus”. His subtle magical gestures made it clear that he knew something not known, and probably unknowable, to his audience. Audiences saw an elfin quality in him that was unlikely to be duplicated. He created an ambiguous persona which allowed one to believe that maybe he was an elf and that maybe he really did have magical powers.

As a close-up performer, he was considered uncomparable by his peers. His casual manner of performing made the magical effects he offered even more amazing. His style of close-up was something that had never been seen before. He was one of the first to show close-up magic as an art in itself, rather than a step toward performing bigger and grander illusions. Slydini’s magic was impromptu and rather than follow a set sequence of tricks as most magicians did, he allowed his audience and the situation to dictate his show.

Tony Slydini died of heart failure on January 15, 1991, following a lengthy illness and several years of confinement in a New Jersey nursing home. Howard Bauman, the editor of the International Brotherhood of Magician’s publication, The Linking Ring, wrote, “A magical light went out on January 15, when Slydini died. For more than 40 years he had brightened the horizons of magic with his special kind of prestidigitation. Slydini was a dedicated student of magic and developed his own style of misdirection and timing that was certainly regarded as truly artistic. Tony Slydini will be missed especially by his legion of friends.”

Quintino Marucci, best known as Tony Slydini, was buried in Orange, New Jersey. New memorials, books, video and film presentations about the man who changed magic continue to be written and produced more than 25 years after his death.