Daryl Is Dead

Daryl: The Magician's MagicianWhen 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[1] — 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.

Selling DVDs

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.

Missing Daryl

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:

[1] 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.

9 thoughts on “Daryl Is Dead

  1. This is massive projection, be warned.

    I do a volunteer gig at a local history museum during summers, on alternate Sundays. I had a bad hangover, and scrambled to get there on time yesterday. And even though it’s been nine months since I last did it, I found the jokes & patter with visitors came easy. I could do them on my sleep, which is this instance was almost the literal truth.

    Now I generally enjoy this, or I wouldn’t do it. And I’m a big supporter of this historical society and what they do. At the same time, though, it was depressing to realize how easy the patter was. I came up with those jokes over several years of interacting with visitors. Now they’re instinctive. Is that it? Is my creativity at that job tapped out? (And it didn’t help when my scheduled replacement didn’t show up — so I guess I’m the only moron who takes the position seriously.)

    In the video here, that tug of the rope while it’s slack is brilliant showmanship. It’s such a sly gag, it must be fun when only a few people in the audience laugh. But maybe even that appreciative laughter gets old after awhile.

    Poor guy. Hope his family and friends can get through this, and remember what a terrific performer (and by your account, nice guy, which is more important) he was.

    • I see what you mean. And this is a big problem with performers — you don’t know where the performance ends and they begin. Often (eg, Robin Williams), I don’t think they know. I would assume that those close to Daryl would have known that he was troubled and so weren’t as shocked by his suicide as I was. Not that that makes it easy.

      And yeah, he did seem to be a genuinely decent guy. There didn’t seem to be anything fake about his niceness. He was just kind of a typical nerd (in his case a magic nerd). “Tell me where is fancy bred: or in the heart or in the head?” Humans will remain a mystery. This is a sad loss.

  2. I never knew Daryl in his adult life. He was a friend of my older brother. We all attended elementary school together and the Martinez family was known for their talent. The first time I heard Edelweiss was Daryl’s sister Marianne singing it in the talent show. Daryl performed magic in his sequined jacket. He was adored by all. Years later I was attending a Shakespeare performance at Sand Harbor and their was a walk around magician. I mentioned Daryl’s name, being the only magician in my life I had ever known, and the “jester” said he knew Daryl and his lovely wife. He also said Daryl got kicked out of the casinos because of his sleight of hand. I had to laugh. Whether or not it’s true I really cannot say. Good-bye Daryl. I will always remember how wonderful you were in elementary school in San Jose. We all loved you.

    • Thanks for this. I didn’t know any of that, but I can well imagine him in a sequined jacket. There was part of him that loved that side of performing — although he always made out as though he was being ironic. It was charming.

  3. Mr. Moraes, like yourself, I had talked to Daryl many times over the years and had also booked him to teach a lecture in my hometown. If Daryl had any demons, it never showed during any of my many conversations with him, I did not personally know anyone in his inner circle well, but in general, many who knew him did not see his tragic ending coming. As you said, Daryl was as nice as he could be and gave the impression to all that he was indeed genuine.
    However, as the past has shown us, individuals can be very good at hiding depression, financial, personal, & relationship issues and much much more.
    I have also learned (and witnessed) over the years, that a small handful of magicians that I have encountered are ego maniacs whom are full of themselves beyond belief. Daryl was not one of them. You also mentioned the names of 3 magicians who “are not very nice” one of those being Michael Close. I also experienced a very negative encounter with Mr. Close at a magic convention in Indiana where he actually went off on an audience who had paid to attend one of his own lectures. I was stunned! Some who witnessed his outburst vowed to never buy any of his products nor attend another one of his lectures. I was one of those and have kept that vow for years. Finally, magicians and entertainers in general are a sorted bunch for sure. We may never fully understand what happened to a such a beloved magic star like Daryl but we can certainly see why some stars burn out.

    • I have one theory about Daryl. It isn’t personal. Even for top people, magic pays terribly. I did notice at the end that Daryl was actively working to increase revenue. It has to be really hard on a person to know that they are one of the greatest people in the field and yet are economically ignored. Obviously, I don’t know. But really: how could he have done any more? It’s sad regardless.

      Close seems to suffer from this. He feels like he isn’t compensated according to his accomplishments. And he’s right! I love his work and I bought his 5 books twice. But the enemy is the system — not the people who buy his books and pay for lectures!

      The difference between the two men is temperament. But as you note: being a genuinely nice person does not mean that you aren’t also deeply depressed. In fact, it might make it more likely.

  4. Wow. For fun I recently bought stripper decks and started diving through videos to learn tricks when I ran into Daryl’s videos last night. I am a live sound tech that tours through Vegas often for the last 20 years. I recognized his face and voice but didn’t know anything about him. His style was so smooth and stuck out as truly gifted among all the videos I was watching . Then I realized he must be a real pro. Literally said out loud “Who is this guy??!!!” He seemed really personable too. As I searched google for him this morning I find out this sad story. He was born one day before me. I am still crying. I don’t know why for sure. I wish it made more sense. He was fantastic and its crushing knowing he was in that much pain I guess, and also knowing your story as well about him. Thanks for posting this, especially since there is so little about him personally on the internet. I hope magician’s and magic fans keep his contributions alive.
    Vegas is hard city to be a headliner in if you are not considered a top tier performer. For magic it seems illusionists are more popular. Shin Lim being an exception. I am amazed all he does is mainly card tricks. I wonder what he learned from Daryl.
    Thank You.

    • I remember him talking about life doing trade shows and cocktail parties. I was very young so it sounded kinda cool. But in later years I thought it sounded horrible. But he won’t be forgotten! He was an innovator. He was also widely considered a nice guy in a professional that doesn’t have many of them. And his philosophy of magic was very compelling. I learned a lot from him. His death continues to be very sad.

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