|Born||Aug. 7, 1928
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
In the late 1970s, James Randi was a frequent guest on television talk shows. Johnny Carson was a former magician and loved to have Randi on The Tonight Show. A much younger audience was introduced to James Randi when he appeared on the classic Milk Can Escape episode of Happy Days.
Randi was born Randall James Hamilton Zwinge on August 7, 1928, in Toronto, Canada. Upon seeing the legendary magician Harry Blackstone, a very young Randi gained a great interest in the art of magic. At an early age, he suffered a terrible accident and was confined to a body cast for some months. While in the cast, he read a great deal on the subject of magic.
In his teens, he began to practice magic tricks. He turned professional in his 20s and even posed as a psychic in the local Toronto area. His goal was to show people how deception could be done.
Randi’s Professional Career
Randi traveled the world as a magician. He was very popular in nightclubs all across the world and his reputation grew. He was always in demand. In 1954, he appeared on the Today Show and, in front of a national audience, was placed in a metal coffin and remained submerged for 104 minutes. In doing so, he broke Harry Houdini’s record and achieved a great deal of fame.
Soon after, he went on to host The Amazing Randi Show on the radio in New York in the late 1960s. This further boosted his fame as did regular appearances on the children’s television program Wonderama. All of this exposure only furthered his fame and led to more worldwide nightclub bookings.
Skepticism and Exposing Frauds
While touring the world, Randi began to notice how may charlatans would present themselves as having supernatural powers. A number of these people claimed to be faith healers or said they had divine power.
One person who caught both Randi’s eye and that of Johnny Carson was Uri Geller. Geller gained fame in the 1970s when there was a huge amount of interest in the unexplained. Geller claimed that he had the ability to bend spoons with his mind. Randi could duplicate the process performing a basic magic trick.
When Geller appeared on The Tonight Show, Carson was told by Randi how to deal with Geller and make it impossible to perform any mental stunts with garden variety trickery. Randi even wrote a book about Geller entitled The Truth about Uri Geller. This was one of ten books Randi wrote. Randi also helped The Tonight Show expose Peter Popoff, a man who claimed to have healing powers.
James Randi Today
James Randi is one of the most renowned magicians of the modern era. Not only was he one of the most famous and most popular magicians of his era, he gained a second career as a skeptic who would call out frauds who tried to pass basic magic tricks off as super ordinary powers. His James Randi Educational Foundation offers $1 million to anyone who can prove their powers are legitimate.
James Randi is currently retired and living in Florida, although he is still involved with exposing frauds. He is very active on the internet and is now part of the atheist movement.