September 18, 2023

How Dr. Averbook developed his passion for magic and collecting

Adele Friel Rhindress and Dr. Bruce Averbook. Adele was Harry Blackstone, Sr.'s "Elusive Moth" from 1947-1950 and visited the museum in May 2023.

Dr. Averbook has been performing magic for over 55 years. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, California which was a great place to gain exposure to magic and magicians. When he was 11 years old and while taking Tae Kwon Do lessons from Chuck Norris in his dojo in Redondo Beach, he was injured and was confined to bed rest for five weeks. His mother gave him “Scarne on Card Tricks” to help pass the time which he devoured and practiced all the tricks he read about. Later, he began reading the magic books at  the Inglewood public library beginning with “The Odds Against Me” autobiography by John Scarne. He was hooked and began to perform for friends and family. His grandfather recognized his passion and interest in magic and took the young man to see his friends at Bert Wheeler’s Hollywood Magic Shop and bought some props and more books. A magic act was constructed and with the assistance of his younger brother, began performing private shows in the Los Angeles area. It was a great show and the boys did very well financially.

His parents joined the Magic Castle/Academy of Magical Arts as Associate members & took Bruce to the Sunday Brunches where kids under 21 were allowed. Bruce says he was very lucky to see amazing magic and magicians including Dai Vernon, Larry Jennings, Charlie Miller, Bruce Cervon, Billy McComb, Peter Pit, Maurey Leaf and many more. Later, as a teenager, performed sometimes in the Close-Up Room and remembers that Dai Vernon and Maurey Leaf were in the audience at his very first show. 

He kept up his magic technique and interest but did not continue paid performances after high school. While in medical school at The George Washington University, he attended lectures at Al’s and Barry’s magic shops. In 1984, he returned to the LA area for his surgical residency and auditioned and became a Magic Castle magician member. Amongst his examiners were Bruce Cervon and Gerald Kosky. Al Raskind (The Great Alberto) was his sponsor, and a special audition was arranged for Dr. Averbook because he was covering the surgical side of the University of California, Irvine's emergency room 24 hours on and 24 hours off. The following year, he became a life member of the Magic Castle. 

In 1990, Dr. Averbook left California and headed back to the Washington, DC area again for his Surgical Oncology Fellowship at the National Cancer Institute with Dr. Steven A. Rosenberg. While there, he met George Woo, “The Psychic Detective.” He introduced him to Darwin Ortiz who took Dr. Averbook on as a student for two years. That was an amazing and important growth experience. He was also accepted into the Secret Scorpions Society consisting of a small group of elite magicians. The group got together once a month and tried to fool each other with two tricks. This was a great group of magicians. He met his close friend, Ken Trombly, who was also a Scorpion. Ken promoted Dr. Averbook’s  interest in magic history and collecting. Ken introduced Bruce to published collectors “for sale” lists from a variety of people including Mario Carrandi and Ron Allesi. Many of his props and books from childhood had become collectable too. Bruce states, “The collecting bug hit me and outside of family, surgical oncology, teaching, and my research this consumed my educational and acquisitional efforts.” 

After Dr. Averbook’s surgical oncology fellowship, the family moved to Cleveland where he took a position as a Professor of Surgery with Case Western Reserve University at MetroHealth Medical Center. In Cleveland he served as the Vice President of the local International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM) Ring #23/The Blackstone Ring also known as The Cleveland Magicians Club for two years and then became President and served for another 17 years. During that time, the club hosted the International Convention in 2004 and received a Ring Quality Award. He wrote a newsletter every month. He also joined the local Society of American Magicians Assembly (Assembly #10, The Karl Germain Assembly) and became a member of the Magic Circle in London after auditioning for Hank Moorehouse. He is now an Associate Member of the Inner Magic Circle. During 2020-2021, he retired from practice, built a new home and a private magic museum and library. 

Dr. Averbook has a strong collection of Houdini and Okito with many other magicians represented. He has been able to recover and bring back some Karl Germain material and magic apparatus to Cleveland which has important historical impact. Over the years, he has assisted in several book projects and loaned Houdini, Okito and other magic books, props, posters, and ephemera to several museums. He is currently working on several book publications that will be of interest to collectors and the magic community at large. “There is a lot of work to do in my “retirement.” My performing focus has been close-up and parlor for charity events. I still perform staples learned from Darwin Ortiz and my early books in magic.” Dr. Averbook sees The Averbook Magic Art Museum and Library as a vehicle to promote magic history and educate people on the importance and depth of magic as a performance art.