In 1976, when Perfect Magic was born, Montreal did not appear to be in need of another magic shop. There were at least four retail outlets in the city already catering to both amateur and professional magicians, including the internationally renowned Morrissey Magic Ltd. and Henry Gordon's Party Center. But Perfect Magic was only a mail-order company at the time, run by Phil and Evelyn Matlin out of their basement, and predicated almost exclusively on two original products—a packet trick called Spot Change Plus, and a pocket trick called Pocket Card Rise. They advertised and sold these through magic magazines, including Genii, M.U.M. and The Linking Ring, and, in an effort to increase their local profile, started a monthly event called Magic Night, wherein magicians would come to their basement to see a performer, while at the same time checking out their growing line of products.
Before long, Perfect Magic was forced to move to a commercial space, due in no small part to the fact that neighbours had begun to complain about the unusual number of people going in and out of their basement. 4781 Van Horne Avenue became their new address, in the same building where they reside today, and was the center from which they produced and sold more of their original products (Phil’s Bewildered, Michael Ammar’s Visually Yours, William Zavis’s Soft Center, and the list goes on). Every day was a new adventure, but some were more memorable than others, including the day Phil received an order by mail from a prison inmate for a series of books he carried called The Art of Escape. Even more surprisingly, the order was signed by the warden.
But like their first company logo, a tree with many tricks hanging from the branches, Perfect Magic quickly branched out. In 1979, along with C.W. Vermeys (a.k.a. Mephisto), they produced the inaugural Magie Montreal convention at the Québec Pavilion, a building on the site of Expo 67 that resembles a giant lego block. Unfortunately, it was the dead of winter, and the heating broke down, prompting Romaine (the opening-night emcee) to walk on stage and remark, "Welcome to the world’s largest refrigerator.” Happily, the convention was still well received and grew in the ensuing years, running annually until 1998 and featuring many of the industry’s finest performers (Frank Garcia, Derek Dingle, Fantasio, Jay Marshall, Albert Goshman, John Carney, and more).
Meanwhile, Magic Night went through some changes of its own. It was soon renamed Performer’s Platform and became a weekly event, taking place every Saturday afternoon at the new store. As a result, going to Perfect Magic became as much a social occasion as a shopping excursion, while at the same time giving anyone who was interested a chance to polish material in front of a discerning crowd. Veterans and newcomers alike took advantage of this, many of whom had or would go on to have prominent careers, including Mehdi, Jean Prendergast, Romaine, Richard Sanders, Rick Bronson, Mark Aronoff and others.
Sometime later, in 1996, Brian Matlin, the third of four children in the Matlin clan (Ronna, Michael and Julie round out the quartet) moved to Burnaby, B.C. and opened another Perfect Magic, serving the magicians of the Greater Vancouver area. Brian, like his siblings, had been conscripted to work at the Montreal shop many times during his formative years, which gave him an intimate understanding of both the craft and business. As such, the new “west coast” outlet was an instant success, and remained open until 2002, when Brian moved to Pennsylvania and married Denyce.
Today, Perfect Magic continues to be a highly respected manufacturer, distributor and retail outlet, supplying tricks and accessories to magicians around the world. In addition (more branches), given all the conventions they were attending, Evy wanted something to do on the road that she “didn’t have to pack,” so she studied and eventually developed an expertise in handwriting analysis and forensic document examination, serving many times as an expert witness in court. Meanwhile, over on another branch, Phil began indulging his interest in ragtime music, and has since released two CDs—Ragtime Magic and Ragtime Daze—both available through Perfect Magic. He also plays piano at ragtime festivals, senior residences, fundraisers and private parties, and he co-created a 90-minute vaudeville show with Romaine called Back in Time, in which he plays musical interludes and accompanies Romaine during his various acts.
In August 2010, Evelyn Matlin began a blog called Perfect Magic Then and Now, filled with stories from 35 years in the magic industry, including encounters and experiences with Dai Vernon, Fantasio, William Zavis, and many more.
Tricks and Books Produced by Perfect Magic (1976-Present)
- Ankner's Aces (Buddy Ankner)
- Bewildered (Phil Matlin)
- Clowning Around with Magic (Phil Matlin)
- Eat Your Card Out (David Acer and Rick Bronson)
- Endless Chain (Phil Matlin)
- Future Foretold (Phil Matlin)
- Improved Chinese Prediction (Phil Matlin)
- Pocket Card Rise (Phil Matlin)
- Quartermain (David Acer)
- Silver Sanctums (Phil Matlin) (reissued by the Camirand Academy of Magic)
- Soft Center (William Zavis)
- Spare Change (David Acer) (reissued by the Camirand Academy of Magic)
- Spot Change Plus (Phil Matlin)
- Visually Yours (Michael Ammar)
- With All My Heart (???)