This year I got two unusual holiday presents:
Tom Waits' homemade tomato sauce, and...
A couple years ago I researched and did an extensive article about the
Baking a Cake in a Hat trick as performed by Al Baker, the great
old-time magician. During his lifetime, he never really recorded the
details of the trick and I decided to dig out the facts and put them
down for all time. In the course of weeks of research and many
cross-country conversations, I spoke to Al's granddaughter, Kathie, now
a dairy farmer in upstate New York. She and her husband David hadn't
had a day off literally in years, but this year, they arranged to take
ten days off and come to Vegas. Out of gratitude for their generous
help with the article, and because I revere Kathie's grandfather, I did
a few things that helped them have a fine vacation. Kathie and David
were such charming, sincere, cartoon-loving people that we became good
About two weeks ago, Kathie sent me a package. She told me to rattle it
to make sure no glass had broken, and to open her present first on Xmas
morning. So I did.
It was Al's original Cake in Hat pan. It's apparently a household
aluminum 5" round cake pan (the glass-breakage was a ruse to keep me
from guessing it). It's hand crafted, very innocent-looking, and
inscribed in script on the bottom, "To Al Baker, king of cake-makers --
and magicians. Paul Fuchs." I sat smiling, breathing heavy, and
crying. Later I phoned to thank her and she told me she had sized up my
character and decided, though she'd never have sold her granddad's
signature prop for any amount of money (and she had had offers), that
the legendary prop belonged with me.
I have it here as I write. Screw diamonds. I have and can touch and
share with my friends David Abbott's own talking teakettle and Al
Baker's cake pan, both of which came to me through friendship. How
could a man be richer than that?