Leslie Nielsen, Remembered – by Steve Dacri
Leslie Nielsen was a very funny man. Today would have been his 90th birthday.
Our friend, Steve Dacri, was a great magician. In fact, he was the greatest living sleight-of-hand magician in the world.
He lived and worked in Las Vegas, but he got around, serving up platters of fantasmagorical magic to fans all over the USA.
Both of these wonderful performers are gone now.
Before he passed in 2011, Steve regaled Mark and me with some interesting stories from a lifetime performing magic; he has experienced everything from appearing on the Johnny Carson Show to seeing Milton Berle in his birthday suit, in the dressing room. Here he shares his remembrances of the late, great comedian par excellence, Leslie Nielsen.
I was a huge fan of his work, and especially after “Airplane!”, he was flying high in a second career as a comedy heavyweight. I had just signed with a new agent in Hollywood, and as it turns out, this agent was also the agent for Nielsen. One of my first meetings at the agency, there he was, big and shining and full of mischief, and we met in the agent’s office, where I showed him some magic and found that he was a huge magic fan. We hit it off right from the start, and he invited me to join him for lunch at his then favorite joint, called Mirabelle’s on the Sunset Strip. Over lunch, we talked about magic, and then he showed me his prized possession, an electronic remote-controlled fart machine which he would hide in various spots and trigger whenever the time seemed appropriate. He had the thing hidden under his coat that first time we met, and when we got into the elevator, he waited until the doors closed and all of a sudden he let it rip…a huge loud obnoxious fart filled the silence of the elevator, and he just smiled and looked up at the ceiling, I was doing my best to hold it in. (the laughter, not the fart).
He asked me to show him ways of hiding the thing, so whenever we would meet at the restaurant, we’d be sitting at the bar, he’d hand me a deck of cards and ask to see a trick, then after my performance, he would whisper something to me and secretly hand me the box.
He usually had a lunch meeting, and he would pre-select the table and have me find a way to hide the box where it would be heard but not seen. Then, when his lunch guests would arrive, he could seat them at the pre-arranged table and be ready to let go with a steady stream of farts whenever he felt like it. It was hilarious. I even rigged a small briefcase with it for a special meeting he had with a network executive and his staff, so he could simply put the briefcase on the table and sit far away from it, yet when necessary, he’d hit the switch and disrupt the meeting with a whole lot of laughs.
He once visited the Magic Castle to see me work, and true to form, in the middle of my act, during a silent moment, all of a sudden the sound of a huge fart filled the air, and the laughter was infectious. I laughed harder than anyone, and when I finally acknowledged his presence in the audience at the end of my show, he stood up and waved, and as he sat down, the fart went off again, and he just smiled. A hilarious and unforgettable moment.
RIP Leslie Nielsen and Steve Dacri – You are gone but not forgotten.