Great magic is daring — a surreptitious bit of sleight-of-hand executed right under a spectator’s nose, and no magician had more chutzpah then Max Malini. Malini performed his original close-up magic for Presidents McKinley, Harding, Collidge and Roosevelt, The King of Siam, several English Kings as well as the Rockefellers, Morgans and Vanderbilts. He was a star amongst the well connected and the well to do.
He lived for a number of years at the Congress Hotel and often hung out at The Edgewater Beach Hotel rubbing elbows with Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Charlie Chaplin, Nat King Cole, and many baseball players, including Babe Ruth, who appreciated the proximity to Wrigley. The bands played under the sun and moon for dancers on open air marble dance floor.
Malini imigrated from Poland as a small kid and learned magic from “Professor Seiden” a magician/saloon keeper in the Bowery. “He loved to be the center of attraction. He was
Anything but suave, but he was likable.”
At the Edgewater Beach Hotel bar Malini drank with friends and performed his astounding sleight-of-hand magic such as biting the button of a gentleman’s coat and restoring it, stabbing eight previously selected cards from a deck spread upon the table while blindfolded, and, his finale, lifting his hat off the table to reveal an enormous block of ice.
David Bamberg who had met all of the great magicians from the beginning for the 20th century, asserted that: “Unquestionably, Malini was the king. Beside him Houdini was a shrinking violet. I have never seen a man in show business with such colossal crust.”
Malini died in 1942 in Honolulu where he was performing for the troops. He’s buried in an unmarked grave at the Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park.
Bamberg, David. Illusion show: a life in magic. D. Meyer, Magic Books, 1991.
Vernon, Dai, et al. Malini and his magic. L & L Pub., 1999.
Kaplan, George G. “WE KNEW MAX MALINI.” Hugard's Magic Monthly, vol. 9, June 1951, pp. 800.