Today marks the 36th year since the world gifted us with the legendary Buck Twins, two outstanding twin brothers whose legacy would both form and change the world of playing card flourishes forever.
In 2003, I was a budding amateur magician when the dealer at my go-to magic shop in Singapore recommended Paul Wilson and Lee Asher’s road-trip DVD project, Hit the Road. It was truly an instance of serendipity, because through Dan and Dave’s segments in the DVD, I discovered a style of flourishing that I didn’t know that I was looking for. Watching packets flip and slide smoothly and effortlessly between their fingers conveyed a sense of grace and sprezzatura that was in such stark contrast to the prevailing approach at the time, the latter of which emphasized difficulty above all else. But it wasn’t that what they were doing lacked difficulty in their execution: they were just able to make it look so easy. And that casual approach became what I strived for in my own performances, laying the foundation for my own personal style in card flourishing.
This was before either The System and The Trilogy came out, so in my thirst for more all I had to go on at the time were little demo clips on their website of moves like 360 Spider, Kryptonite, and Mary Jane.
Then Spring Jam came out, and blew my mind.
I immediately forwarded it to Huron, who, in a testament to how far ahead of their time the Bucks were, genuinely believed that what he watching was entirely CGI until I convinced him that no, it was actually legit. We’d never seen anything like it before, and it ramped up our resolve to one day attain that level of expertise with a deck of cards.
In the ensuing year, I became acquainted with a friend of the Bucks, Aethan Friday, who graciously (albeit illegally) copied and shipped a VHS of their instructional videotape Pasteboard Animations to me in Singapore. He also put me in touch with the Bucks personally, and in time I was on the phone with the twins semi-regularly, asking them about upcoming projects, what their favorite movies were, what kind of music they listened to, and a ton of other annoying questions that only a gushing teen boy would spam his idols with.
That this would eventually lead to an actual friendship with the two is a testament to their kindness and patience.
In 2006, on a visit to the US scoping out potential colleges I wanted to apply to, I had a chance to meet Dan for a quick lunch in Santa Monica (Dave was sick at the time). In addition to being awe-struck at his skills in person (the equivalent of being at a live concert of your favorite band), I was also grateful of the fact that he was willing to share and teach so much unreleased card material. My Dad recorded some of our session together, and to this day I still believe that it’s my fault that footage of Pandora leaked early because of the ensuing video I compiled and sent to a few friends:
Thankfully, this oopsie on my part did nothing to sour our relationship, and later that year I drummed up the courage to ask if I could be featured in their DanandDave.com ‘Video of the Month’ series.
I poured my young heart and soul into that video, and asides from the fact that I just barely made the Jan 2007 deadline, I was proud to be an official featured artist on their website.
Plus, the fact that Void Deck served as Dimitri’s introduction to Cardistry is just so damn cool:
Once I started attending Chapman University in Orange, California, I finally got the chance to hang out with both of the twins for the first time. During that hangout, we recorded footage of ourselves flourishing at the Getty Museum, which Daren and I edited into the first Portable Playground:
Over the rest of my time in college, I made frequent trips up to Hollywood just to spend time with Dan and Dave. They let me crash on their couch, got me into the Magic Castle, and would frequently hand me decks like Absolut Vodkas, Wynns, and plenty of Smoke & Mirror editions so that I never lacked the tools through which I could express my art.
In 2008, I pitched a project compiling some effects and flourishes of mine into a booklet. Over a period of a few months, I collaborated closely with Dave on it, and he actually taught himself Adobe InDesign so that he could work on it. The resulting output was Smooth Operations, which made enough money for me to buy a new Canon HV30 camcorder, which was a big help during my time in film school.
More projects and collaborations would follow. In 2012 I had the honor of giving a talk about Cardistry at Magic-Con, and that same year we filmed and released the One-Card EP. The Virts and I were also approached later that year to film a video using the v6 Smoke & Mirrors for their upcoming box-set campaign, and the ensuing virality of that video incidentally served as a prominent announcement that after years of apparent dormancy, The Virts were back:
But the most significant and impactful collaboration between the Bucks and I would happen in 2015.
Saddened that I’d missed the mini Cardistry-Con at the tail end of Magic-Con 2014, I asked if I could help organize the 2015 one, and both the Bucks and The Virts gave me the okay. Cardistry-Con Brooklyn ended up becoming the very thing my teenage 2004 self had craved for so long: an international meeting of the best minds in Cardistry, all joining forces to push the art forward. And every following year that I was able to help organize the conference got better and better, especially since Dan and Dave were so open to my suggestions, such as the Cardistry-Con Championship and the Cardistry-Con Awards.
How often do you get to meet, let alone become good friends with your heroes? I can say with unequivocal fervor that Dan and Dave Buck changed my life, in addition to the lives of countless others.
There’s a reason why the influence of most of the other early pioneers in the field of Cardistry has faded away, while Dan and Dave continue to remain relevant to this day.
It all comes down to a singular, unwavering virtue of theirs:
In all the years that I’ve known them, the twins’ kindness and willingness to constantly give and share everything from moves, cards, books, opportunities, recommendations, credits, encouragement, lessons, experiences, meals, and even letting a broke college kid crash on their pullout couch with no expectations of anything in return, has inspired me to apply that same virtue in my own life. There’s such an abundance of gratitude that I owe them that I’ll never be able to pay back to in full, so instead I’ve decided that the least I can do is to pay it forward.
It’s one thing to be gifted, but it’s another thing entirely to give back. And that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from these wunderkinds.
Thank you for everything, guys. And here’s to many more Happy Birthdays.