Episode 124 – Richard Turner on Stage Presence, Wonder and Performance Art 1

Richard Edward Turner (born June 16, 1954)[1] is an American expert card mechanic who is known for his card trick performances. He has been honored with a Golden Lion Award in Magic, from Siegfried and Roy in 1982 and the Lynn Searles Award for Excellence in Card Manipulation. He is the 2014 and 2017 recipient of the Close-Up Magician of the Year award from The Academy of Magical Arts, and the subject of the documentary Dealt (2017).

Turner was born in San Diego in 1954, which he dubbed “the year of the full deck” (referring to a standard 52-card deck of playing cards, plus the two jokers). At the age of seven he became infatuated with the television show Maverick.[2][3]

His eyesight failed at the age of nine following his recovery from a bout with scarlet fever.[3] The macula (the center of the retina) of each of Turner’s eyes was completely destroyed, preventing forward vision, and the rest of his retinas suffered a condition he describes as a “shotgun pattern” resembling and functioning as if they had been blasted full of holes by a tiny shotgun filled with bird shot.[2] By the age of thirteen, his vision deteriorated to 20/400, twice as low as the level deemed legally blind in the State of California and, over the years, what little vision Turner possessed gradually deteriorated to the point where he presently sees little more than indiscernible shadows, and those only peripherally.[4]

Turner attended a special school for the visually impaired in Santee, California, where he refused to learn Braille (and never has). His younger brother, David, had been taking karate lessons for nine months, and invited Turner to accompany him. He began karate lessons in 1971 under the tutelage of Master John Murphy, the United States’ founder of Wado-Kai, a Japanese hard style karate and was good at it, and began training at Gene Fisher’s Gym eventually earning a fifth degree black belt in Wado-Kai karate[5]

In 1972 Turner auditioned for a small, non-profit San Diego Christian theater operated by television actor Steve Terrell, and performed for six years with the “Lamb’s Players”. Terrell taught Turner how to look people in the eye so that they would not know of his visual impairment.[2]

He was later introduced to Bobby Yerkes, the stunt coordinator for the Wonder Woman television series who also trained celebrities for the show Circus of the Stars. Yerkes taught him to swing on the trapeze, walk a tight rope, and take high falls. [4]

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