- February 22nd to add an additional comment from Matt DiSero.
- February 17th to include comments from Matt DiSero and Jeff Pinksy.
- February 15th: Correspondence from James Randi added to the comments.
- February 14th to include the second last paragraph and bullet list of related links.]
I had the pleasure of making Mr. Leonard's acquantaince through Toronto's Hat and Rabbit club. He was always a true gentleman, the likes of which are rare these days. As I sat through his Broken Wand ceremony, I was deeply moved by the impact he had on the lives around him. I attended an art showing of his, in his memory, and was awestruck by his talent and passion for painting.
The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as The Magic Demon.
REMEMBERING RON LEONARD (1923-1998)
by The Magic Demon
When I was a kid the first Canadian magician I ever saw on TV was probably the late Toronto-based Ron Leonard. Ron was tall, lanky, and silver or white haired with a friendly wide grin. He had an engaging style of presentation which was both kind of sophisticated and kind of goofy at the same time. I thought he was terrific. Although Ron performed magic on and off for most of his life he is probably best remembered for his numerous appearances during the 1960s and 1970s (and rerun for years thereafter) on the daily CFTO/CTV children's show "Uncle Bobby". The British-born host Bobby Ash always appeared during Ron's performances on the show, playing the part of his seemingly dimwitted stooge and creating a fun chemistry between them. Ron's weekly fast-paced appearances featured the classics of magic performed with energetic mock vaudeville-like gestures and intonations. Ron and Bobby really did seem to enjoy themselves which is why they were such great fun to watch working together.
Ask any grown up Canadian kid of a certain age today about the magician on Uncle Bobby's show. They will probably at least remember Ron's trademark explanation for all his minor miracles, "It's maaaaaaaaaagic!" Those words, repeatedly sung (merrily) during the course of a telecast by one or both of them (badly), would serve to comedically punctuate the climax of any particular routine or effect.
Ron was a former President and Life Member of Toronto's IBM Ring 17. His name appears as a young founding member on its original IBM Ring Charter issued in 1941. His brother, the late Canadian ventriloquist Cy Leonard, was also a regular weekly visitor to the Uncle Bobby Show over the years.
I remember writing a fan letter to Ron in care of the Uncle Bobby show and getting back an autographed 8x10 b&w photograph and a very kind handwritten reply encouraging me in the hobby of magic. In today's digital world full of instantaneous tweets and e-mails it's perhaps hard to imagine the sheer joy of receiving a snailmailed letter like that after anxiously waiting several weeks. Even after all these years I can still recall that he generously provided details about Ring 17 (which I was too young at the time to join) as well as what was then Toronto's only magic retail outlet, The Arcade Magic & Novelty Shop (now long vanished.)
If you do a search on line on Ron Leonard today you are more likely to find references to his much sought-after artwork than his magic. His magic seems to have been only a part-time profession for most of his life which he juggled alongside his other avocation (painting) and a full-time day job.
Among the few notable magic-related on line links about Ron that I've found to date:
- His listing at the Canadian Magicians' Archive;
- A fun colour screenshot of Ron and Uncle Bobby captured mid-performance (circa probably mid to late 1970s);
- Ron's writeup at Genii magazine's Magicpedia (which appears to have been inspired by this post);
- A b&w publicity photo of Ron with other performers on the Uncle Bobby show in their prime (circa probably mid to late 1970s);
- A reference from his friend James Randi about Ron's suggestion to modify Randi's $10,000 psychic challenge;
- And according to this site, Ron volunteered secrets learned from The Great Raymondo's protege to David Ben for the opening effect in Ben's stage show "The Conjuror".
Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Ron Leonard in person he seemed to be a genuinely nice man as well as being a talented and very entertaining magician.