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Vanishing Act
Revered Magic-shop Owner Al Cohen Says Goodbye

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Al Cohen

Al Cohen has been in the magic business for nearly 60 years.
Photo: Barry Gordemer, NPR

Dec. 21, 2001 -- Washington, D.C., is, of course, loaded with great historical landmarks: The Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument. And Al's Magic Shop.

Scoff away, but for magic insiders, Al's is as much a Washington institution as any of those. Such biggies as Harry Anderson, David Copperfield, and Doug Henning have acknowledged owner Al Cohen as the world's greatest demonstrator of magic tricks.

Now, Cohen, 75, is selling the shop and retiring to care for his sick wife after nearly 60 years in the magic business.

He's leaving with mixed feelings. "I still enjoy it," he says. "I'd love to be able to do it without all the headaches of running a business."

When he appears at magic conventions, Cohen is usually one of the top attractions. "Al could take virtually any trick and make it look good," says Max Maven, a magician, author, and magic historian.

Maven says that for the magic world, the loss will be profound. "I can't imagine you could find someone with a bad word to say about Al. That sounds too good to be true -- but maybe that's what defines him as being magical."