David Avadon dies at 60; illusionist specialized in picking pockets
By By Valerie J. Nelson
Sep 04, 2009 | 12:00 AM
David Avadon, a professional illusionist who wrote a 2007 book on pickpocketing, which was his trademark theatrical act, has died. He was 60.
Avadon, who had a recent history of heart problems, suffered a heart attack and died Aug. 22 while working out at a fitness club in Santa Monica, said his brother, Joe Hutchins.
For more than 30 years, Avadon had regularly presented his pickpocket act at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. He also had entertained throughout the United States, in Japan, Canada and Great Britain and served as a technical consultant on TV and film productions.
FOR THE RECORD: David Avadon obituary: The obituary of professional illusionist David Avadon in Friday's Section A said he illustrated a Bible story on the "miracle" of oil for lamps by producing eight lighted candles from one. The story appears in the Talmud. —
His "performances included an equal balance of mystery and comedy," said Mark Nelson, chairman of the board of the Academy of Magical Arts, which occupies the Magic Castle, in a statement. "David always gave a polished, assured performance, drawing laughter and amazement."
He was born David Hutchins on Dec. 11, 1948, in Inglewood. His mother had been an acrobatic dancer in vaudeville and his father was an engineer.
Growing up in West Los Angeles, Avadon boasted in school that he could do magic. When a teacher called his bluff and booked him to perform the next week before the school, he holed up in the library, poring over magic books, said Sid Fleischman, a longtime friend and fellow magician.
After the 12-year-old debuted on stage, he was baffled by the applause of classmates and hooked on magic as a career, his friend said.
In his 20s, he adopted "Avadon" as his stage name and regularly collaborated with a rabbi during services at Temple Solael in Canoga Park. Avadon provided visual aids; to illustrate a Bible story on the "miracle" of oil for lamps, he produced eight lighted candles from one.
He also had discovered the allure of what he called "theatrical thievery" at a magic show in 1973 that featured Vic Perry, a British pickpocket.
"Spectators weren't entertained; they were riveted," Avadon wrote in his book, "Cutting Up Touches: A Brief History of Pockets and the People Who Pick Them."
The book, a study of the art of the pickpocket in history and entertainment, includes a profile of John Giovanni, a noted performance pickpocket. Avadon had tracked down Giovanni in Beverly Hills in the 1970s and persuaded him to be his mentor.
"That was my beginning," wrote Avadon, who studied theater at UCLA, "in this underground art."
Avadon "really was the king of the pickpockets," Fleischman said. "He was honest but very skilled. He could lift wallets from chiefs of police, which he had done in Los Angeles."
In addition to his brother, Avadon is survived by his wife, Miranda, whom he married in 2001.