Legendary Magician and Actor Ricky Jay Dies at 72

Ricky Jay, a prolific actor and magician, has passed away at the age of 72.

Born Richard Jay Potash, Jay is believed to be the youngest magician to perform a full magic act on television, appearing on the 1950s program Time for Pets at the age of seven. Jay developed a passionate following of magic fans, performing sleight-of-hand tricks that even his contemporaries couldn't figure out.

Jay also is known for his unique acting career, which included roles as Kurt Longjohn in Boogie Nights, Milton in The Prestige, Burt Ramsey/Narrator in Magnolia, and appearances in several David Mamet films. He also served as a magical consultant on a slew of films, and co-created a firm called "Deceptive Practices" which helped develop practical illusions for films like Forest Gump and Congo.

He dipped his toes into the genre world quite a bit, appearing in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, as "The Amazing Maleeni" in the 2000 The X-Files episode of the same name, and as himself in a 2011 episode of The Simpsons. He also served as a writer and recurring actor on the first season of Deadwood. One of Jay's most recent credits was the Teen Titans Go! episode "Double Trouble", where he played a narrator.

Jay - and the popularity of his magic shows - was also the inspiration for a storyline in Peter Kuper's Wild Life, called "Waiting for Ricky Jay".

"The magical aspect of Ricky is very strong," Persi Diaconis, a professor of mathematics at Harvard, said in a 1993 New Yorker profile of Jay. "It's one thing to see someone who is very skillful with cards and quite another to witness an effect and have just no idea what happens. With Ricky, it's very hard to isolate technique from performance. I can sense when a sleight has happened and how it happened, but I still don't see it. I just feel it intellectually. When Ricky is doing one of his poetical pieces, he's working in his own unique venue. He's mixing disparate things—quirky scholarship, iconoclasm, technique, a good story—into some soup that works. Because he picks good, strong tricks and makes them come to life, in the end there's this basic simplicity about what he does. Before Ricky came along, there had been comedy magicians, but never ones who really fooled people. And you can see the consequence—there are a dozen people now working in night clubs doing Ricky Jay acts. But none of them are Ricky Jay."

According to Variety, Jay died of natural causes on Saturday in Los Angeles.

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"He was one of a kind." Jay's manager, Winston Simone, said. "We will never see the likes of him again."