The Great Cardini
August 3, 2009
You just never know. You think you know a person but you really don’t. I’d known Carole for decades and have always liked her. Granted, I haven’t seen every auction market clerk in the country but I have seen my share and in my opinion Carole is the best in the business. I can’t imagine anyone being any better. Now you might say, “Big deal, an auction clerk, how hard can that be? All they do is write down the price.” But then you would be showing your lack of understanding of just how an auction works. In my book the clerk is the most important person at any auction. My auctioneer friends are not going to like me saying that, but deep down in their hearts many will agree with me. No one gets paid or invoiced correctly unless the clerk does her job.
The auction clerk has to be concentrating 100% of the time for hours on end, writing down the price and buyer for every lot. Many times she must also count the number of cattle in the ring, yard them back and catch a stray bid or two. She (they’re usually always women) must do all this without interrupting the sale. If they’re good you hardly notice them. They are almost invisible.
That’s Carole. For decades she’s worked as many as four auctions a week and in all that time I’ve NEVER seen her stop the auctioneer and ask him to repeat a price or a buyer’s name or number. She can count bunched up cattle in and out of a ring faster than any man (not an easy task), and can put together a bull sale catalog or a market report. I always just assumed Carole had grown up in the business and had auctions in her blood.
Then one day I was talking with her and mentioned that I liked to do card tricks and that was when she told me her secret: Carole is Carole Cardini, daughter of the greatest magician who ever lived. Some may argue Houdini was better but he was primarily an escape artist. Ask any pro and they’ll tell you that The Great Cardini was the best pure magician. He practically invented the art of manipulating things with his hands; cards, cigarettes, doves, parakeets or billiard balls and he could do things that to this day have not been repeated. And he was Carole’s father!
I asked Carole how she went from being brought up in a sophisticated show business household in New York to being an auction market clerk in Bakersfield, California, and her eyes lit up and she said, “I fell in love with a cowboy!”
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After learning Carole’s secret I hounded her about how it felt to be so close to greatness. Over the year’s she’s given me one of the great magician’s neckties, a picture and one of the most cherished books I own: a coffee table book called, Cardini: the Suave Deceiver. Carole provided a lot of the information in the book and there are many photos of her as a child with her father and mother, a beautiful lady named Swan who was Cardini’s partner in the act. But I still can’t picture Carole in a world without cows. And I’m not the only one. Every chance I get I tell people about Carole’s secret and only one person has believed me right away. A canny old cow buyer.
“Yes, I can see a resemblance,” he said as I showed him my photo of Cardini.
“What are you talking about?” I exclaimed. “The Great Cardini wore white gloves, an opera cloak, tails, top hat, cane and a monocle. He was the definition of sartorial elegance. Carole is wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. Cardini performed before Kings, Queens, and Presidents. He shared the stage with the Marx brothers, Burns and Allen, Jack Benny and Will Rogers and performed at the London Palladium, Radio City Music Hall and the great theaters of the world. Carole does her job at livestock markets in front of a bunch of crusty cow buyers like you. How can you see a resemblance?”
The cow buyer looked at me with a gleam in his eye and said, “Every week The Other Great Cardini makes problems disappear with the greatest of ease and somehow manages to make auctioneers look good. Now that, my friend, is some amazing magic!”