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This beautifully written New Yorker profile is what first got me hooked on Ricky Jay. It was clipped for me by a kind coworker at Harvard’s Cabot Science Library, who thought I’d like it. She was right. I bought and devoured Ricky’s book Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women, and later delighted in his brilliant show (recorded as an HBO special) Ricky Jay & His 52 Assistants.

A few years after the profile was published, I got curious about Ricky’s website, rickyjay.com. I discovered that not only was there nothing on the site, but the domain itself was unregistered. Concerned that some squatter might snap it up, I registered it myself.

Over the next few years, I made several attempts to track down Ricky so that I could give him the domain, to no avail. Then I had a stroke of luck: while attending a performance of Michael Moschen (whose remarkable “juggling” skills were featured in the movie Labyrinth) at UC Irvine, I happened to recognize Ricky standing in the lobby during intermission. I introduced myself and got the ball rolling on the domain transfer, which later resulted in the site you can still see today.

A few years later, Ricky himself was performing at UCI, and my father and I had the good fortune of joining him onstage for a demonstration of card control and three-card Monte. After the show, Ricky was kind enough to sign my copy of Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women, as well as give me the card he’d cut neatly in half with a pair of giant scissors.

A few years after that, I learned that a young woman I was acquainted with knew Ricky well. When I told her the story of rickyjay.com, she insisted on setting up a dinner with Ricky and his wife Chrisann. Ricky recognized me from the Michael Moschen performance, and we ended up having a lovely time talking about magic, history, and various other subjects.

The last time I saw Ricky, I distinctly recall thinking that he didn’t look particularly healthy, so when I saw his name trending on Twitter I feared the worst. Alas, it was the worst. And yet, what a joy Ricky Jay was to all who knew him and his work. RIP to one of the all-time greats.

What a great story - probably the only time I've heard of domain "squatting" (I hesitate to use that word since it has a negative connotation, but) used for good!

nyt.com counts, in my opinion. Here's an entertaining history: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/20/insider/putting-the-times...

Ricky Jay & His 52 Assistants is truly amazing.


Dang, I didn't know he passed. I've long been enthralled by him. I loved that New Yorker article. There are very few unique human beings, but I feel he was definitely one of the most unique. You shall be missed, Mr Jay.

Thanks for sharing this story. And for your rails tutorial book. Thats awesome that you gave him the domain name.

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