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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our tenth calendar year
    PCR #506  (Vol. 10, No. 49)  This edition is for the week of November 30--December 6, 2009.

"The Fantastic Mr. Fox"  by Mike Smith
Eulogy for A Wizard  by William Moriaty
Time Warp Toy Box ’09 – Part 1  by ED Tucker
A 10-Year Look Back at the Godzilla 2000 Premiere  by Jason Fetters
Sneaker Head Sunday @ Club Skye  by John Miller
Questions About The Ufl .... Bucs Coach Fires Another Coach .... Tiger Woods Shocker! .... .... Charlie Weis Fired! .... Bobby Bowden Forced Out .... Allen Iverson Signs With The 76ers .... Nolan And Ladders  by Chris Munger
Hypocrite .... Passing On .... .... .... .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2 by Mike Smith
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Eulogy for A Wizard

On Saturday November 28, 2009 I attended magician Harry Wise's funeral at Brisson Funeral Home in Sanford, Florida. This is the eulogy that I read at his service.

On the evening of April 30, 2005 I had the privilege to meet one of the most unique and remarkable individuals I would ever have the honor to meet. As a Florida Skunk Ape was being led by chains into the Blue Dahlia restaurant in Sanford, Florida that night, flanked by a Spookhunter in an orange jump suit and a medium adorned with hair of gold at Charlie Carlson's first book signing event (PCR #267), I beheld one of the most commanding and remarkable people I had ever seen.

Decked out in a black tuxedo and sporting shocking white long hair and a shocking white long beard was Harry W. Wise (PCR #270). I was drawn to this solitary yet powerful figure surveying a both filled with books bearing his photo on the cover bearing the title "The True Story of Magician Harry Wise - A Wizard's Tux and Tales" by Florida's Man in Black, Charlie Carlson.

Based upon this gentleman's age and presence, something was telling that he may well have been my most most significant "find" of the evening. My inner voice was right. In just a matter of months afterward, Harry Wise, a.k.a. "Florida's Mister Magic", "Dr. Jeykl", "Mr. Old Stag", "Ray Darkvale", "Hans Voglar the Mentalist" and any other stage name or persona that he was known as, came to be one of my closest and dearest friends.

Before I knew it we were sitting on the porch of his neighborhood friend the late Tom Begley, (PCR #275 and PCR #287) jackpotting for hours about Harry's incredible life as a ghost master, magician, ring master, and mind reader. I marveled at Harry's incredible command of memory. He could rattle off dates, locations, venues, and the names of theater managers, stage hands, fellow magicians, assistants, roadies, booking agents, sponsors, theater chains, and countless other memories of his professional life with almost chilling clarity and accuracy.

In October 2005 I honored Harry, along with two other notable Sanford gentlemen, Tom Begley and Charlie Carlson, by planting trees in their honor at George Touhy Park. The park was literally across the street from both Misters Begley and Wise. The park now contains one of the first Famous and Historic Tree Groves in the United States. Before that the park was a parcel of land shaded by oak trees where Harry Wise played baseball as a child in the 1940's. Across the street from this land is also where at age 18 Harry Wise landed his first paid gig as a magician on October 30, 1953 and the rest as they say, is history.

By 2006 (PCR #337) Harry and I had become as close as "brothers from different mothers" as he would exclaim. I made it a point to visit him at least once a month and explore the many wonderful nearby unicorn forests, streams, riverbanks, and other haunts of his youth and later adult life. We would visit what I called "Harry's Haunted Packing Plant" north of DeLand (PCR #352), a long-closed deserted citrus-packing operation featured in Charlie Carlson's book "Weird Florida". We'd visit Pierson, Florida with its fernries, ancient moss-draped Live Oaks and miniature fire hydrants and we tried to end each of my visits by watching the sun set over Lake Jesup.

Every trip, every hello, every good bye, every arrival and every sunset and everything in between was always truly magical. Together we held several "Sanford Summits" (PCR #277) with like-minded people - - we explored and marveled at Art Litka's Halloween Village (PCR #329), and ate until we practically popped at Stacy's Buffet in Orange City.

The fall of 2007 for me bore two very unkind and life-altering bits of news. My house was in severe structural shape and needed to be virtually rebuilt, and Harry was diagnosed with prostate cancer and the prognosis did not look good.

Harry Wise, Sanford's show business legend is seen at his last public performance at the Taste of Thyme Cafe on Saturday July 25, 2009.
The monetary burden of rebuilding my house forced me to severely curtail my once monthly meetings with Harry at a very critical time in his life. I only saw him a handful of times in 2008 (PCR #464). An answer to my prayers to resolve this came in the form of my dear friends Brendan and Anna McWilliams who live in Orlando, much closer to Harry. They visited Harry in my stead and also became close friends with this colorful showbiz legend. Art Litka of Sanford and Dusty Smith of Daytona Beach also proved to be close friends to Harry in his last days. Not to be forgotten, of course, is Harry's life-long friend, Lynn Ashe.

I was blessed to be at the next-to-last magic show that Harry Wise would perform on Saturday July 25, 2009 at the 3 P.M. show at the Taste of Thyme Cafe in Sanford (PCR #493). He had a 7 P.M. feature to perform later that same day that would be the final public magic act of his life. I left for home after the 3 P.M. show so that I could travel back the next morning to spend the entire day with my beloved friend as I had once done more often over the past four years.

It was to be our last full day together although I got to see him briefly on Saturday, October 3, 2009.

I knew on that rain-filled Sunday on July 26, 2009, that Harry was in severe pain and probably didn't have long to live. Little did either of us know that one of his ribs had broken while he disassembled the final 7 P.M. show the night before - - a true showman to the very end.

As daylight was drawing to a close, Harry was fearful that due to the inclement weather we wouldn't be able to see one of those incredible sunsets over Lake Jesup, or the type that we beheld with Dusty Smith at the Mt. Arrarat Cemetery in November 2007. I promised Harry that we'd still see a beautiful sunset by day's end. I prayed silently and fervently for such an end to the day. Almost as soon as we arrived at Lake Jesup the clouds parted and we beheld a magnificent sunset - - in addition we were gifted with the added bonus of double rainbows spanning the eastern skies!

Saying good bye, or "so long for now" as Harry was known for saying, was probably our most difficult and had a feel of finality. Harry mused prophetically and with great profundity:

"I'm a dying old man in a dying old house."

Harry Wise entertained, inspired, awed, mystified and enthralled thousands, possibly millions in his 50-year professional span. He was the last ghost master in the United States and one of the last vaudevillians to roam the planet. He was complex, at times abrasive, always passionate, and always filled with life.

I love you Harry Wise and I'll always miss you. But I'll always treasure the gift of having known you and will feel your magic each time I see a sunset, a rainbow, hear the song of the cicadas or see the unicorns that others can't see.

In closing, let me share the essence of Harry Wise from Page 85 of Charlie Carlson's biography of Harry, "The True Story of Magician Harry Wise - A Wizard's Tux and Tales":

"Dreams are fantasies that anyone can turn into reality if they have the will to do it. I've been a house painter, Frankenstein, Mr. Old Stag complete with antlers, Mr. Magic on television, Darkvale, Hans Voglar the mentalist, and a circus ringmaster for three different circuses. I'm reminded of that movie "Flashdance", where the man says to the girl "When you lose your dreams you die." I saw that movie four times just to hear that line. I never lost my dream... I stayed with it. I had an eight phase career as a showman... and I'm thankful for that of course, many people helped me, my parents and my friends. There was no life like it... when you have twelve or fourteen hundred people around you in the center ring, laughing and applauding at what you're doing... there's just nothing like it in the world. Life is a stage upon which we all perform, and in the end, we can only hope that we have given our best performance."

Copies of the Harry's biography "The True Story of Magician Harry Wise - A Wizard's Tux and Tales" can be purchased for $10.00 each by linking to the Spookhunters Webstore.

"La Floridiana" is ©2009 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.