Because there really was a guy called Vick Lawston who advertised his magic catalogue in the back of comic books in the 1960’s, and, yes indeed, he had a crazy monkey mascot called Pumpernickel. The catalog was called “The House of A Thousand Mysteries” and it was the coolest book you could ever own. Even if you didn’t have enough money for the magic tricks or joke shop pranks, just the bitchen illustrations in the book were worth the price of the damn thing.
Vick Lawston’s magic shop operated out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and his catalog (50 cents – cheap) was jam packed full of tricks and pranks, at least ten per page, and this thing ran for close to 175 pages. While the cover of my catalog has a 1966 copyright date a lot of the photos of Vic and drawings in general look a lot closer to the Forties.
The catalog could be enjoyed as a stand-alone book with its depiction of rubbery men with faces like jackals either fighting baldness or obesity, while all the magicians depicted inside were unbelievably handsome, dashing and/or sensually exotic. All magician’s assistants were stunningly sexy goddesses of erotic pulchritude, but before Mom could accuse us of viewing smut, Lawston would toss in Pumpernickel to keep it all clean and boyish (hyuk!).
Many of the magic tricks sound like names of punk bands: Magic Producto Box, Ghost Card Trick, Enchanted Cards, St. Peter’s Lesson, The Obedient Silks, and Razor Blade Trick, to name a few. Sounds like the line-up at CBGB’s in 1976!
“House of 1000 Mysteries” was completely aimed at little boys, focusing on the two things they love the most: magic tricks and monkeys. The only thing I ended up ordering from the catalog was a book called “Houdini On Magic” by Walter B. Gibson. “Houdini On Magic” was a compilation of manuals written by the great magician on various tricks, escape routines, and his thoughts on the whole séance and spiritualism racket. If the name Walter B. Gibson sounds familiar, it’s because he was also known as Maxwell Grant, author of the legendary “Shadow” pulp series.
While I don’t purport to be an expert on magic and probably never wanted to be a serious magician I couldn’t forestall the seduction of mystery and saucy humor Vick Lawston presented to us feverish kids in the Sixties, and for that he’ll always be enamored as trash-culture titan extraordinaire, monkeys and magic and all.