Blog with Paul Gertner

A Father’s Day Gift

I want to talk about an amazing gift I got from my dad since this past Sunday was Father’s Day, and I’m not talking about the plantwear jewelry he gave me, this is a gift he never knew he gave me.

My dad was a steelworker from Pittsburgh, he worked in those hot smoky steel mills you see pictures of with lots of smoke and molten steel in large buckets.  It was a hard, dirty job, but it paid the bills.  And with seven kids I think it’s safe to assume there were lots of bills to be paid. I’m pretty sure working in a steel mill was not my dad’s first choice of a job, but when you were a kid from a blue collar family in Pittsburgh, going to work “in the mill” was what you did.  You found a job, you paid the bills and you put any crazy dreams about a different type of life aside.  I remember family members and even my high school guidance counselor suggesting a similar path for my life… but thanks to my father’s gift… my eyes were opened to other ideas.

I always knew there was another more artistic and creative side to Dad’s loud talking, beer drinking, steel worker persona. He loved to play chess.  He loved music.  He built his own furniture. He loved Allen Funt’s Candid Camera TV show. For some reason he loved to have a 60 Gallon air compressor in his car all the time, he wouldn’t leave without it. And he loved entertainment and stars like Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Jackie Gleason, and Bing Crosby.  He never missed The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson and sometimes he would let me stay up just to watch the opening monologue… or later if a magician was appearing on the show.  Mom also used to talk about dad’s obsession with movies and the fact that as a kid he watched a LOT of them.  But it was only recently that I found out the depth his passion for entertainment and what mom meant when she said: “A LOT of them!”

While I was packing to move from Pittsburgh to Boston—about a year and a half ago—I found an old leather List of 1940 movies rated by Paul Gertner's father.bound journal that my dad had kept from age 15-19. In this journal he logged every movie he saw as a teenager during the years 1937-1941… 579 films in all!  He carefully logged the date, the name of the theater and even a rating for each film from A = Very Good to E=PU.  He also made a note of the live performers who appeared on the stage including Blackstone, Duke Ellington and Guy Lombardo among others.   It’s interesting to note that in 1940—the year he turned 18—he now had access to a car, which expanded his horizons to theaters in Ohio, and West Virginia.  In 1940 he watched a total of 230 films that year alone.

View a few sample pages from Dad’s Movie Logs

As we were growing up, dad started to make movies of his own on his 8mm camera with us kids as the actors.  We did lots of films on holidays and for birthdays… but what he loved most were his films that he called Crazy Shots.  Crazy Shots were his homemade movies that had a magical or comedic aspect to them.  Using clever editing, dad would have something in the movie appear… disappear…or have one kid magically change into another.  And as a kid watching these magical homemade movies, I wanted to figure out the secret to what I was seeing on the screen. I did not understand what editing was, and to me, dad’s movies were magic… and that grabbed my attention.  His magical movies would lead me to the library where I would discover books about Houdini by magicians like Walter Gibson and Bruce Elliott and a whole new world filled my young imagination.  On one of the Crazy Shot movies, there are a few seconds of me practicing magic… probably one of the few times he ever saw me perform.

You see my dad passed away at the age of 47.  I was 16 years old and I was just beginning to explore my passion for magic and illusion.  Dad never had a chance to see that I would actually follow that dream instead of going to work in the mill.  He would have gotten such a kick out of seeing me perform magic on the Johnny Carson Show that we used to watch together.  On some level, I think I’ve lived the life he could only dream of.

So even though my dad never knew it, it was his passion and his magical movies, which left me with the best gift that he never even realized he gave me.  The gift of a magical life.   Happy Father’s Day Dad. I also suggest those who want to give his dad a big surprise to check this page where they will find the latest technology on cars which is a great Father’s day gift.

Paul Gertner is nationally recognized speaker and corporate magician, whose honors include multiple Tonight Show appearances, performing at a presidential inauguration, and winning three international competitions. He can be hired as a trade show magician or keynote presenter. For more information, visit


Posted in Magical Thinking on June 21, 2017 by Paul Gertner.

7 Responses to A Father’s Day Gift

  1. Roy Eidem: June 21, 2017 at 9:41 am

    “God gave us memories that we may have roses in December.” What a beautiful story. You have been blessed & we are made better in your sharing. Thank you, Roy

  2. Paul Gertner: June 21, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    Glad that you enjoyed the story Roy. The old homemade movies are great memories.

  3. Pete Biro: June 21, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Wonderful story, Paul and beautifully written

  4. Paul Gertner: June 21, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    Thanks Pete… I appreciate that. So nice to hear from you. It’s fun to keep in touch with the magic community on Facebook. Take care.

  5. John Hillman: June 21, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    My muse for magic was a dear uncle who passed recently. He had been a POW during WWII. He learned magic to pass the time and amuse his fellow POWs. I did research to find out that I was related, however distantly, to P.T. Selbit. I eventually became a member of the Magic Castle where I was privileged to learn from Martin Nash, Mervyn Roy and Carol, Martin Lewis, Michael Ammar and a myriad of others.

  6. Jamy Ian Swiss: June 24, 2017 at 11:08 am

    Marvelous writing, Paul. And those movie journal pages, my goodness! Your dad had great taste. (And a young son who could do a pretty decent Chink-a-Chink.)

    I am sure he would be very proud of that son, and the man he became. Thank you for sharing this.

  7. Paul Gertner: August 1, 2017 at 1:57 am

    Jamy, Thanks glad you enjoyed that. The comment about the writing means a lot coming from you. Having been married to a writing teacher for 40+ years I may have picked up some of Kathy’s skills through osmosis… she claims my writing has improved and I really do enjoy the process. Yes the Journal of Movies are pretty amazing… and in his 15 year old handwriting. I can see where I got my love of details. I like to think dad would have gotten a real kick that his clips from his own movies were seen on national TV (Penn & Teller) … not something he could ever have imagined when he was splicing 8mm film in the basement back in 1955.

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