When I was a kid, I was very interested in magic. In fact, it is that interest that I credit for getting me interested in reading. But I remember when I was 13 years old, I went to my first magicians convention and one of the stars of the event was Daryl Martinez — in his early 20s, he was a rising star in the field. I just found out that he killed himself on 24 February of this year — right before he was supposed to appear at the Magic Castle. He was just 61 years old.
(Before I go on, you should know that there has been some misreporting that his death was an accident. There was also a lot of reporting that he was only in his underwear — a assume implying that it was a matter of autoerotic asphyxiation. But no. He was fully clothed and intentionally killed himself by hanging.)
I saw Daryl a couple of more times. I attended a lecture he did for his first book Secrets of a Puerto Rican Gambler. I remember that he was signing the books “To a TNT man.” When I had him sign my book, he asked if I was a TNT man. I told him I didn’t know, so he wrote in mine, “To a future TNT man.”
Over the years, I corresponded a bit with him and his wife (who is a magician too). They were both very nice. And that’s saying something, because my experience in the world of magic is that most people are not very nice. See what I’ve written about Harry Lorayne and Ed Marlo as well as Michael Close.
Why Did Daryl Kill Himself?
So Daryl’s death means something to me. And from what I read, there was no indication of it. He had no health problems. He really was the happy guy that he played on stage. He hadn’t fallen into a depression. His suicide seems to have come out of nowhere.
Was Daryl Having Financial Problems?
I have a few thoughts regarding this. One is that Daryl might have been suffering from financial problems. People think of performers as rich. But that’s not true. Performance art has the same kind of income inequality that our society does. Robert Downey Jr might get paid $20 million for a film, but other actors who are in the film as much as he might make $100,000. An important character who isn’t on screen much might make as little as $3,000.
In magic, it’s the same — especially for a guy like Daryl. He didn’t perform a big show in Las Vegas. I believe most of his money came from the books he wrote and the videos he created. The lecture that I attended was $3.00 as I recall. There were maybe 15 people at the lecture and he sold 10 books at $8.00 each.
The last time I remember writing to him was about seeing volume 7 of his 8-volume DVD collect Daryl’s Encyclopedia of Card Sleights was on YouTube. I noted that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing because I was so impressed that I bought the whole collection. He said he had given up chasing after people doing that kind of thing. But in passing, he said he regretted that I hadn’t purchased it from him. (Any writer will tell you that they make a whole lot more selling their own books than they do from the royalties. I’m sure the same is true of the videos.)
I looked on his site, but the truth is that his website was badly organized and I didn’t find the whole thing as a set. I felt really bad about it, although that clearly wasn’t Daryl’s intent. But more than feeling bad that I had screwed him out of a hundred bucks, I felt bad that it was even an issue for him. Here was one of the top sleight of hand artists in the world and he was counting pennies.
I don’t think that Daryl was poor, but he a lot closer to it than rich. And that’s sad. I’d noticed over the last couple of years him being involved in some money making ventures. They weren’t sleazy. But they also weren’t what a man of his brilliance and experience should have been doing.
Getting What You Want
For some time, I was playing around with writing a book about people who more or less come out of the womb knowing what they want to do with their lives. I’ve always been fascinated by these people because I’m the opposite. I’m interested in everything and I haven’t changed despite many decades. But Daryl was one of the people I wanted to interview for the book, because magic had been his passion since he was 7 years old.
And now I wonder about that. Daryl was 61 years old. He’d certainly accomplished everything he ever could have wanted in a professional sense. What more was there for him to do? I wonder if having one great passion isn’t something of a curse. I’ve always envied people like Daryl. But maybe I had it all wrong.
Think about it. He didn’t kill himself at home. He killed himself right before a performance. He was dressed for the show. Could there be a clearer indication that his chosen profession was not fulfilling him?
Everyone’s Secret Pain
There is also the possibility that Daryl was depressed. No one knows the secret pain of others. I am the last person to blame him for taking his life because life is hard. And I don’t know what anyone is going through — other than myself. But I know that that is hard. There are days when I really don’t know why I go on. And maybe on that day, Daryl came to the conclusion that there really was no reason.
What meaning there is to life is how we make life better for others. That can take the form of helping people to die like Mother Teresa or teaching magic geeks how to do a cutting display in the middle of a triumph routine. It’s sad that Daryl is gone now, but his life was not in vain.
It is interesting that the last few months, I’ve been thinking of buying his Daryl’s Expert Rope Magic Made Easy DVD series. Although I do love card magic, my very small hands have always gotten in my way. And I’ve never really done much with rope, even though I’m very aware of how extensive and fascinating a field it is.
Here is Daryl doing one of his versions of a classic:
 Just as I was born Frank Morris and later found out that my real last name was Moraes, Daryl later learned that his real family name was Eastman. When I first contacted him as an adult, I referred to him as “Mr Martinez. He responded asking that I call him Daryl and certainly never to call him “mister.” Like I said, he was a nice guy.
As a performer, he went simply by “Daryl” — and often “Daryl: The Magician’s Magician.” That second moniker is not wrong. Daryl was loved by magicians because he was a great innovator — I think the greatest of his generation.