In memory of magician Neil Foster

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See NEIL FOSTER in action:

NEW! Neil Foster videos on YouTube!


Ovation for Neil Foster (1977)
Neil Foster recalls Queen Elizabeth (1977)
Jeanne Foster's obituary (1979)
Surgery restores Foster's ability (1979)
Background on Neil Foster (1981)
The Chavez course under Neil Foster (1981)
Neil Foster press release (1981)
Magic museum honors Foster (1987)
Neil Foster's obituary (1988)
Recollections of Neil Foster (1988)

* MORE PHOTOS of Neil Foster *

Excerpts from DOTA BROWN's 1988 tribute to Neil Foster, with photos. Click HERE

* Revised 28 Dec 2007 *

Search GOOGLE for links to NEIL FOSTER

Send an e-mail comment about this site.
(SCROLL DOWN for more images and to read 19 comments we've received.)

Anecdotes about Neil and Jeanne Foster in Dale Salwak's nonfiction book, FAITH IN THE FAMILY

In 1941, magicians BEN and MARIAN CHAVEZ launched the Chavez Studio of Magic in California. Among the many professionals who became graduates of the Pasadena-based school are Channing Pollock, Don Alan and Norm Nielsen. Marian Chavez continued to operate the school after her husband's death.

Marian Chavez bequeathed the school's ownership to Neil Foster, one of the school's most highly regarded students and instructors. During Foster's tenure, magicians from around the world traveled to Colon, Michigan, to learn the Chavez magical style.

On Foster's death, ownership of the school passed to Foster's students Dale Salwak and Chris Jakway. Private instruction and a home-study course continue to be available.

For information on personal instruction in the Western United States or the home-study course, contact:
Dale Salwak, Chavez Studio of Magic
P.O. Box 8054, La Verne, CA 91750
Call: (909) 593-5374
Fax: (909) 596-8596

If you live in the Eastern United States and wish instruction at the Neil Foster Memorial Studio in connection with Chris Jakway, contact:
Larry Wirtz, P.O. Box 837
Crown Point, IN 46308
Call: (219) 662-1530
Or contact Chris Jakway directly at or by calling (616) 965-0807

Learn about Zombie creator JOE KARSON


Survey the magical history of COLON, MICHIGAN

Shoot the breeze with PENN & TELLER

Tim Wright's
Zombie video
(left) and
Mike Rose's
book on
Joe Karson, creator
of Zombie (right)

If you have photo scans of Neil Foster
and would like to share them as part
of this tribute, let us know by e-mailing
us HERE. Thank you!

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** "What a surprise as I sit surfing magic on the Web. It's a bit isolated here on the beautiful island of Maui, Hawaii. I sit at my desk getting my daily magic fix and, lo and behold, I find this beautiful site on my old friend and teacher Neil Foster. He would be so surprised at the impact he had on magicians worldwide. You may not remember me, John, but in 1976 you did an article on me as a young boy. Little did I know all these years later that magic would be my one and only livelihood. Neil had such an influence on me, all these years later his sound advice still hold true. I am so grateful at the encouragement you shared with so many young magicians. Your article set the fire that has allowed my family and I to live the life some only dream of. Look at this Google search) to see�'Black Rock Illusions,' our old show; my girls are a little bigger but the hunger, drive and blind ambition that keeps us all 'turning the wheels' is still there." -- JODY BARAN (

** "Thanks for your hard work on this tribute to Neil. He was more than a mentor to me as well. So nice to see him remembered this way." -- FRED BECKER ( -- or visit

** "I just wanted to post a quick 'thank you' for the fine job you've done with your tribute to the great Neil Foster. Neil brought tears to my young eyes when I first saw his act. It was beautiful. One of my tasks is to edit 'Top Hat,' the quarterly magazine for junior magicians of the IBM. We recently ran an essay by Foster called "The Gesture" in which Foster explained his notion about creating the moment of magic by a word or movement. We referred the young magicians to your site to learn more about this great artist. Thank you for your efforts." -- STEVE BURTON ( Visit Magic Youth International's site at

At left: Neil Foster's business card

** "I was friends with Percy Abbott, Recil, Bordner, Neil Foster, Karrell Fox, both Harry Blackstones, Sid Lorraine, George Johnstone and myriad others of their time, with Duke Stern being my best friend. Will never forget those glorious gentle Masters of Magic. Neil would meet me at the door and shake my hand with his warm smile: 'Hi, Ed, glad to see you back at the Get-Together this year.' A more personable, sincere gent you could never meet. I was there for Neil's 'standing ovations' performance. Brought tears to my eyes -- as I now have, reminiscing that prestigious event. When Neil took helm as The New Tops editor, I submitted a great (at least I thought so) article for publication. Neil wrote back that it was one of the finest he'd seen on the subject and was going to publish it in two months. As gremlins will play, the Blackstone (Sr.) special issue was moved up and bumped me for that month. When I spoke with Neil at the following Get-Together he said it somehow must have gotten lost, and he did intend to feature it. Time passed, and I committed myself to write to Neil for personal training with the Zombie. As they say in show biz (and life itself), *timing* is everything. I wrote the letter and was going to post it the following day. That afternoon, the TOPS arrived on the second of the month, as it always did. Wowzers! Neil is on the cover! 'A great deserving tribute to him,' was my feeling of warm emotion. The lump in my throat gulped, trying to beat the missing heartbeat, as I read inside -- *memorial* tribute! So close, but no cigar! The Grim Reaper beat me out of my longing, passionate dream. My friend was no more -- on *this* plane. I like to think Neil will be waiting to shake my hand at the entrance of the pearly gate, a draped silk over his other arm, holding a Silver Sphere in that hand, and saying, 'It's about time, Ed. Let's get started.'" -- ED CHERNEY (

** "The two card routines sprinkled in my club act (actually based on an Eddie Fechter lecture in 1974) have provided thousands of hours of belly laughs and good times. When I have the right situation and pull out my version of the Chavez card routine (I was in Neil Foster's last full class before he died), I feel a connection with a REAL "card man," if incredible skill and grace means anything, because Neil sure had it. ... God bless the card men, and women, and all the magicians who are in there trying to put a little magic back in a skeptical world." [Originally posted in Ring 2100; used here with permission.] -- BOB CROSKERY (

** "What a great job you have done with this page! Neil was certainly my inspiration growing up and he was the epitome of a professional. What a magician should be and strive to be -- that was Neil. I used to read your (John Sherwood's) articles in The New Tops, and during its last four years of publication I wrote a monthly column and felt so privileged to be among such good writers. I was magician of the month in May 1977. Last year was my first year performing at Abbott's. It was a special moment for me, performing on the same stage as many of the greats did." -- RICK FISHER (

At left: Wooden nickels from Tom Mullica's
TomFoolery "bash" honoring Neil Foster

** "I really enjoyed your site. I first saw him in my early teens at the Abbott's Get-together in the late 1960s. Later met him on a few occasions. As was everyone, I was amazed by this guy, not only his magical performance but his personality and warmth. You are doing a great service to magic by providing this site. I hope others find this tribute as we not forget those how have gone on before us. The group picture in Neil's backyard is beautiful." -- STEVE HART (

** "Thank you for a moving tribute to one of the most-imitated magicians ever. Although I have only seen Neil Foster's appearance on Don Alan's 'Magic Ranch,' I get a glimmer of what for you must have been a radiant presence. Well done." -- ERIC HENNING (

** "It is a great tribute to a great man that I am honored to have known, even a little bit." -- HERSCHAL HILL (

** "Thank you for the time and dedication it took to create such a page honoring Neil. I was fortunate to have studied under him in 1981 in Colon. The experience changed my life and gave me physical and spiritual skills that have helped me in every aspect of my life including my career in medicine. Neil was the greatest performer and human being I have ever met. What a joy it was to find your page and relive some memories. Nice job!" -- DANIEL HOEHNE (

** "Very nice tribute. Neil was quite a performer, and the only one that should ever be allowed to do the Zombie Ball. I remember the first time that I saw Neil do the Zombie at an Abbott's Get-Together. ... What an amazing time those years were. Never got tired of seeing Neil perform at the Get-Together." -- GARY HUNT (

** "I live in Minneapolis but had relatives in Aurora, Ill., where Julia Hood and her husband L.R. Hood had lived next door to Neil Foster. L.R. was dead by 1961 and Julia and I drove from Aurora to Colon for the 1961 Abbott Get-Together. She stayed with Neil and Jeanne; I stayed with a couple named the Kleinschmidts. When I was in Aurora the evening before we left for Colon, Julia showed me many hours of films L.R. had taken of Neil in their backyard. Neil was perhaps only a teen-ager but was still such an artist. He did color-changing plumes, his Zombie routine, billliard balls and much more. They were outstanding movies. Julia died many years ago but I hope the movies somehow got to Neil or someone at Abbott's. They would be tremendous to see once again." -- JOHN HALLBERG JONES (

** "I took a look at your Web site about Neil Foster. I thought it was wonderful. I have several items that I have received from Neil through the years -- photos, videos, props and one piece of art in the form of an oil painting Neil painted early in his life. He was a great friend, teacher and magician. He is missed by many. Thanks for the great site!" -- RODGER LOVINS (

At left: Ribbon from the American Museum of Magic's
"salute" honoring Neil Foster

** "Having just spent the last year completing a biography of Joe Karson (for more, see ), I was pleasantly surprised to find out about this Neil Foster web site. Although Karson was no slouch when it came to performing his Zombie, Neil Foster turned it into a work of art. While doing research at The American Museum of Magic, one of the highlights of my visit was getting a chance to see Foster's Zombie, Foulard, and Fan on display. Thanks, John, for gathering this material and making it available to us." -- MICHAEL E. ROSE (

** "I love the work you are doing for Neil's memory on the Web." -- DALE SALWAK (

** "Glad to have found your site on Neil Foster. I was in one of his early Chavez classes and remember him warmly. I own the dragon foulard that he used in his last Concert of Magic. I traded a new one to him for it. (Click HERE to see a picture of my latest magic bunny, Harry Jr., in my top hat, in front of the dragon foulard..) The foulard is the highlight of my magic collection.) Funny, I was just thinking about him when I ran across your page. I remember our class promising to drop a lit Kool on his grave and pouring some gin on it. I wonder if anyone has done this?" -- GREG SCHULTZ (

** "It's nice to see so many people take interest in Neil Foster. Every time I see Lance Burton do the Zombie or the Center Tear, I think of Neil. I was one of his students at Chavez. Neil gave me an autographed copy of 'The Marian Chavez Encyclopedia of Dove Magic' after I'd figured out a trick that he'd aquired from Okito's show. The words he scribbled have less meaning than the feeling and care in which he wrote them. Neil Foster had style. P.S. Neil's first choice for a magic name was 'Retsof.'" -- CRAIG WINKELMANN

** "I just learned about your memorial page today and wanted to introduce myself as well as to compliment you on the hard work you have done maintaining the memory of Neil Foster. I thought you would be interested to know that the Battle Creek studio Neil worked so hard at is still going, stronger than ever. After Marian [Chavez]'s death, the school was left to Neil and Dale [Salwak] at that time. Dale was to take care of the western part of the country and Neil was left with the rest of the world. Neil moved the studio to Battle Creek in his later years. Upon Neil's death, his interest was left to Chris to carry on. The studio continues to work with students from around the globe. I instruct at the 'main campus' with Chris. It is a beautiful, wonderful place to work and develop your act. If anyone is interest in attending the Neil Foster Memorial Studio to learn manipulation in the time-honored fashion of Ben Chavez and Neil Foster, they are to contact me at: Larry Wirtz, P.O. Box 837, Crown Point, IN 46308 or call (219) 662-1530." -- LARRY WIRTZ (

** "I saw Neil Foster perform in my first live professional show that I saw. He did his "full evening act" for the first half and Milbourne Christopher did his "full show" which he had on Broadway and toured internationally. I recall three things about Foster: dropping his gloves into a top hat, covering it with a silk and whipping it away to show a goldfish bowl (Abbott's item); of course, the Zombie; and then the famous Abbott's finish [Spectacular Finale] which Ricky Jay used in his latest show ["On the Stem"]. Funny thing about the Zombie - at the time, I wasn't impressed as it seemed to me (as a 12-year-old) like balancing a ball on a scarf. I guess I didn't have the floating idea in my head. Then, before I entered college, my family and I took a cross-country road trip and on the way back they dropped me at Colon for my first and only Abbott's Get-Together. Saw Foster again, and this time I fully appreciated The Zombie which floated as no other (although what Tommy Wonder has done with it is perhaps now the best). Duke Stern was a highlight for me both in MC'ing, working with Karrell Fox and just plain demo'ing products. My parents gave me money to eat with. Guess what? I didn't eat for three days (lost 20 pounds) as I wanted to spend all my money on magic" -- ALLEN ZINGG (

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