I have fond memories of Sunday mornings as a boy, searching the Arts page of the NY Times for the “Nina’s” hidden in Al Hirschfeld’s illustrations. It was a clever game of hide-and-go-seek, since Hirschfeld hid his daughter’s name so well, and in such whimsically obscure spots – in the folds of a coat sleeve, a feather’s bristles, somebody’s sideburns, or the ashes at the end of a lit cigar.
“Can you find all the Nina’s?“
I remember my first Al Hirschfeld drawing. It was his illustration of magician Harry Blackstone, Jr. A budding magician myself, my parents drove us to West Point Military Academy in 1981 to see his full-evening show on the stage of the Eisenhower Hall theater. As memorable as the show was (a lightbulb floated out, illuminated, over the heads of the audience!), equally memorable was the playbill.
There on its cover was Blackstone, captured by Hirschfeld’s pen, five Nina’s hidden away in a pigeon’s tailfeathers. There were just enough pen strokes in the drawing to capture the essence of the subject, no more and no less. As I write this, it reminds me of my high school English teacher who said that the Red Badge of Courage contained precisely the number of words necessary to deem it a great American novel, no more and no less. Hirschfeld’s illustration of Blackstone did the same sort of thing, but with lines.
I became fascinated by Hirschfeld’s work, and over the years have been collecting both originals, lithographs, and gicleé prints by Hirschfeld. The crowning glory was when, in 2000, Hirschfeld did an illustration of me.
Ace of Hearts, signed for me by Al Hirschfeld in his studio, August 27, 2000
What an honor – I’ll explain the whole experience in another blog post, including the unveiling at Margo Feiden’s gallery on Madison Avenue (she’s since moved to a townhouse downtown).
What I’d like to do here is record every magician that Hirschfeld drew, to my knowledge. Some are professional magicians, some are amateurs. Some I have scans of, and others I don’t.
UPDATED ON MAY 29, 2019 WITH AN ADDITIONAL IMAGE I’VE LOCATED,
THANKS TO READERS OF THIS BLOG.
Magicians captured by Al Hirschfeld’s pen:
David didn’t like the original Hirschfeld illustration for his Broadway show “Dreams and Nightmares” (pictured above) so he commissioned Hirschfeld to create another one:
Penn & Teller
Harry Blackstone, Jr.
Doug Henning, in the Broadway musical Merlin
Doug Henning, in The Magic Show
Ricky Jay (w/ David Mamet)
Danny Kaye (also an amateur magician)
Cary Grant (on board of directors of the Magic Castle, Hollywood, CA)
Johnny Carson (known as the Great Carsoni, early in his career)
Harry Anderson, with cast of Night Court
Alan “Ace” Greenberg (of Bear Stearns)
Tony Curtis, with Janet Leigh, Houdini movie
Ray Bolger, as a bumbling magician
Avner the Eccentric
Jason Alexander, with cast of Seinfeld
Jackie Gleason, with Art Carney
Dick Van Dyke
If you know of others, please contact me. My goal is to list every known magic-related Hirschfeld illustration.