MarcoM the Mountebank has left the building.
I first met Ralph Marcom at a Texas Association of Magicians convention in Abilene, Texas, in 1972. He was a rotund, albeit somewhat taciturn fellow with a Saturnine countenance whose gift for humor and wit and whose intelligence struck me as something quite beyond the pale.
I watched him perform in two different contest shows, one of which was quite serious, the other quite comical. He won the Comedy trophy that year. He was one of only a few performers who won three trophies at T.A.O.M. conventions. In 1971, he won the close-up trophy and in 1973, he repeated his win of the comedy trophy. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Ralph Anson Marcom was born in Levelland, Texas, a small town about 30 miles west of Lubbock. His father was an osteopath, but Ralph expressed no interest at all in going into the family business. Because of a peculiar eye ailment, his doctor prescribed that he spend as much time as possible in dark places, so he chose to do this in the local movie theater. As a result, he became a veritable goldmine of movie trivia. Woe to the would-be trivia expert who challenged Marcom in the field of the cinema!
His heritage was part English, part French and part Gypsy. He grew up next to an Italian family, and as a result spoke English, French, Italian and Rom with equal fluency. He also managed to pick up a bit of German, some Russian and some Arabic as well.
During the Korean War, he served in the Marines, as a drill instructor, and later, as a medic. After the war, he got a job as a radio announcer in El Paso, Texas. He kept this job for several years, and then decided to go into the family business. Soon Ralph Anson Marcom became Ralph A. Marcom, D.O. and he set up shop in Honey Grove, Texas.
Ralph had a penchant for the theater. In the early 1960s, he happened into Douglas Magicland, in Dallas, Texas where the lady behind the counter, Gloria Jacobsen Palmer, caught his eye. In 1968, they married, and he took her away from “all that.”
The Marcom manse in Honey Grove, Texas was legendary for its Addams family-like appearance. The basement contained a dungeon, complete with rack and iron maiden, and the decorations were, shall we say, just a bit out of the ordinary. If one climbed the stairs to the third floor, one would encounter a stuffed orangutan, dressed in morning coat and striped trousers, safely ensconced in a child’s casket.
Marcom authored a number of books, including:
The Magic of MarcoM
MarcoM Presents Magic
This Rough Magic (I & II)(Lectures)
MarcoM Magic: Tricks You Can Do
And The Winner Is…
Rimes Without Reason
A Slim Volume
“…from the table of my memory…”
Lord of Legerdemain
His column, “…from the table of my memory” ran for several years in the Linking Ring. His other awards include the close-up trophy at the Midwest Magic Jubilee, 1974, 1976 and 1977, and at the IBM convention in 1979. He was the SAM Limerick Laureate in 1978. His close associates included the late Frank Caple, the late Van Cleve, the late Logan Pritchett, the late Jay Palmer, Earle Christenberry, Jr. and his wife, Gladys, Bill and Irene Larsen, Joe and Martha Stevens, and a host of other truly memorable performers.
He came out to see me one year at the Texas Renaissance Festival, and immediately recognized this type of venue as one to which he was extremely well-suited. Within a year or so, he was a regular at Scarborough Faire in Waxahachie, Texas, and a performer at the Texas Renaissance Festival, as well.
Ralph was a member of The Society of American Magicians, The International Brotherhood of Magicians, The Texas Association of Magicians and the Magic Circle of London (Member of the Inner Magic Circle, with Gold Star). He was a charter member of the Tyler, Texas Magic Club.
There lay a heart of gold beneath that Saturnine countenance. Often, when performing at Scarborough Faire, he provided free medical attention to those performers and other participants who had no way of actually paying for it.
He did not tolerate fools gladly. One afternoon, the management of Scarborough Faire presented him with a letter from a disgruntled patron who apparently was a member of a group called “Texans Against Ritualistic Abuse.” The letter stated, “We wish to complain about your magician, the one who wears the pentagram — not that nice Merlin fellow, but the other one.”
Marcom was very angry about this; not because they didn’t like the pentagram, but because they couldn’t remember his name! He said, “I say the phrase ‘O Great MarcoM’ at least twenty times during that show! How could they miss that?”
In early 2003, Ralph suffered a massive stroke. Ron Boulden, former entertainment director of Scarborough Faire called me, and told me that Marcom was “out of it.” I called Ralph, and he was completely impossible to understand. I immediately called his daughter, Madelyne, who got Ralph to the hospital in nearby Paris, Texas. From there he was flown to Park Lane Hospital in Dallas, where he remained for almost a month. He gradually recovered.
Unfortunately, in early October, he suffered another stroke, but this time, nobody knew until it was too late. He was taken to the same hospital in Paris, Texas on October 9.
He passed away in the same ICU as his late wife Gloria, who died in 2002. He would have appreciated the fact that he died on October 13.
Ralph Marcom’s survivors include his daughters Madelyne Marcom and Nicolette Palmer, his son Thomas Palmer, Jr. and thousands of friends and fans world-wide.
There will be no funeral services, but a broken wand ceremony will be held some time in 2011.
Bill Palmer, M.I.M.C.