“I happen to think this century is one of the most fascinating in history.”
By Mario Inchausti
Randall James Hamilton Zwinge, as he was born on Aug. 7, 1928, is better known
is the Amazing Randi. Randi started out as a stage magician then evolved into a scientific skeptic. He debunked psychics, mystics and others involved in quackers of all sorts. He appeared numerous times on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and other television programs. Recently, he was the subject of a new documentary, “An Honest Liar.”
It came to pass that I was tasked to speak to the mighty wizard. The interview would take place at his dwelling,
which I imagined to be a dark keep, surrounded by a moat teeming with all sorts of man-devouring creatures, guarded by dragons.
As a born again agnostic and occult dilettante, I had heard his name uttered with no small reverence. He was the illusionist who shattered illusions — the merciless crusher of unsubstantiated dreams, the annihilator of hope.
I deny religion because I have never found convincing evidence for myself, however, I don’t deny peoples’ religious convictions, that is their prerogative.
The journey itself did not take us through a dark, primordial forest. Rather, a series of paved highways carried us to a quiet, sunny suburb about 45 minutes to west Fort Lauderdale. A giant hedge helped to hide, not at all a
dismal castle, but a happy looking house designed in a Key West/Plantation style. Our crew of seven exited our cars. Represented were: Damage studios, the Florida Reel Film Project and, of course, Blindfold magazine.
Instead of a troll or a winged monkey, we were courteously greeted by Deyvi, neatly dressed in a button down shirt and slacks and not at all armored. He was wearing glasses and carried no weapons. After introductions, he invited us into their home. His art is everywhere. It’s the first thing you notice. Describing a visual art collection using text is usually a terrible idea. Usually, it’s a waste of time. So, let me try.
There are bright, vibrant colors and a surprising amount of feathers. Even the most cursory glance conveys that each piece has been painstakingly crafted. He showed us some other pieces and explained that he had started experimenting with metal work. Every single composition elicited chorus of oohs and ahhs and a flurry of camera clicks. Deyvie’s initially shy smile broadened to a proud grin. He couldn’t help liking this artist we’d barely just met after being exposed to his joyful beauty.
And then… I did not notice him enter the room, so I choose to believe that he manifested out of thin air. He was shorter than Dumbledore, clad not in flowing robes and purple conical hat showing celestial bodies but in a pale blue shirt and white pants, both neatly pressed. However, he was satisfactorily whiskered. The cane he leaned on was quite properly capped with a tiny skull. The sparkle in his eye marked both the mischief and the intelligence of the man. We were introduced to the Amazing Randi.
Now we started to notice all the Randi paraphernalia that had been collected throughout the decades: posters and pictures, toys and gadgets, and books. We were herded upstairs to his library where the interview was to take place. There was a telescope and other scientific measuring devices, most of them quaint, archaic and fascinating. There were more books, texts of both science and esoterica. It was a wizard’s library.
We set ourselves up, gauged the light and compensated for the audio. When we conducted the interview. What emerges is not the nihilistic iconoclast that is so often portrayed by his detractors but a thoughtful clever man, comfortable within himself. He’s a person who’s not afraid of the inconceivable wondrous universe. He is fascinated by it. The allure of magic, not just stage magic, is clearly there, but he’s unwilling to take anyone’s metaphysical word for anything. He remains a seeker, while refusing to be a sucker.