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Ricky Jay, acclaimed magician, actor, and illusion consultant, dies at 72

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Nov 25, 2018, 8:29 AM EST (Updated)

Ricky Jay, the beloved sleight-of-hand magician and veteran actor, has unfortunately passed away at the age of 72, Variety confirms. Jay died in Los Angeles of natural causes, according to his manager, Winston Simone.

“He was one of a kind. We will never see the likes of him again," remarked Simone.

Per Variety, Jay's co-founder of Deceptive Practices (a company that consults on magic-based movies and the like), Michael Weber, tweeted a goodbye to his business partner, writing:

“I am sorry to share that my remarkable friend, teacher, collaborator and co-conspirator is gone.”

SYFY WIRE was unable to locate the tweet, which may have been deleted.

Born Richard Jay Potash to a Jewish family in Brooklyn, Ricky Jay grew up in North Jersey. He was first introduced to the world of magic by his maternal grandfather, Max Katz, who made his living as a CPA. In the 1960s, his reputation as a skilled illusionist began to take shape as he performed at the notable Manhattan nightclub/disco known as The Electric Circus. Ricky Jay & His 52 Assistants (directed by David Mamet) became one of his most famous one-man shows. Mamet would go on to direct two more of his exhibitions, Ricky Jay: On the Stem and Ricky Jay: A Rogue's Gallery.

Years later, a 1993 New Yorker profile on Jay (written by Mark Singer) would describe him as "the most gifted sleight-of-hand artist alive." A documentary on Jay's career, Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay, was directed by Molly Bernstein and released in 2012.

Eventually, Jay was also to make a living as a film actor, appearing in such films as the Pierce Brosnan James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies and Christopher Nolan's The Prestige. His and Weber's Deceptive Practices (being well-versed in all methods of illusion, sleight of hand, and con jobs) has been involved with productions like Francis Ford Coppola's The Escape Artist, Mike Nichols' Wolf, Neil Burger's The Illusionist, Sean McGinly's The Great Buck Howard, and Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Thirteen. Among other famous movie and stage props, Jay and Weber helped build the wheelchair that obscured Gary Sinise's legs in Robert Zemeckis' Forrest Gump.