I came across Ricky Jay for the first time in the pages of the New Yorker in 1993. My mom had a subscription and the magazine arrived every week for as long as I could remember. At the tender age of eleven, each issue was a swirling puzzle of complicated (byzantine, even) words in-between the only thing I could really grasp, the cat cartoons.
One day, I picked up an issue and in it, was an amazing profile written by Mark Singer entitled "Secrets of the Magus". Jay's intense, bearded stare beckoned me into the unknown - the magician working his magic through a simple black and white photograph. I may have understood about half of the words, but my aesthetic fascination with cards and gambling had begun. More importantly, it was my introduction to Jay, who is now one of my heroes.
As my pop culture landscape broadened, I began to appreciate and love movies like The Sting, Maverick, Rounders, and the X-Men character Gambit - pretty much anything that involved the culture of cons, cards, and gambling. In my widening horizon, I also noticed Jay, arriving out of no-where in a puff of smoke. An ongoing theme here at The Revue will be promoting his body of work so that more people can discover what a treasure he is.
David Mamet, one of Jay's good friends, put it best when he called him "one of the world's great people". Way to use that knife, Dave.