Ricky Jay

Actor / Magician
Date Of Birth:
26 June 1946
Date Of Death:
24 November 2018
Place Of Birth:
Best Known As:
The sleight-of-hand magician who appeared in David Mamet movies

Name at birth: Richard Jay Potash

Once called "perhaps the most gifted slight of hand artist alive" in The New Yorker, Ricky Jay turned his talent with cards into a long and successful career as a magician, actor, and historian of conjuring, con artistry and other curious topics. Ricky Jay was notoriously vague about his background, but he did admit he was born in Brooklyn and grew up in New Jersey. He learned about magic from his grandfather, Max Katz, and at age seven made his first public appearance on a local TV show. By his early 20s he was performing in nightclubs and gaining a following as a master card manipulator with an offbeat sense of humor. Long-haired, bearded and jovial, he did magic on the TV variety shows of Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin and others. Jay made the leap to greater popularity in 1985 when he appeared as a con man in David Mamet's film House of Games. Mamet cast Jay in other films (including Homicide, 1991 and The Spanish Prisoner, 1996) and directed Jay in the one-man show Ricky Jay and His 52 Friends, an off-Broadway hit in 1994. His act combined close-up magic, mind-reading, humor, and the art of throwing cards. He once was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for throwing a playing card 190 feet, and he published the tongue-in-cheek book Cards and Weapons in 1988. Large and imposing, with a hangdog face, Ricky Jay was a natural character actor. He had supporting roles in films like Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999), Heist (2001) and The Prestige (2006). He also played card sharp Eddie Sawyer in the first season of the TV series Deadwood. Jay published over a dozen books, including Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women (1988), The Magic Magic Book (1994) and Dice: Deception, Fate, and Rotten Luck (2002).
Extra Credit

Ricky Jay married Chrisann Verges, a film producer and location scout, in 2002, and they remained married until his death in 2018. They had no children… Many sources list 1946 as Ricky Jay’s year of birth, making him 72 at his death. However, The New York Times said in its obituary that Jay “was believed to be 70, although some sources said he was 72.”

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