On March 18, 2022 I lost a very good friend in Peter Galinskas. My friend passed away at the age of 66. Since his passing I’ve thought a lot about who Peter was, our friendship and how I want to remember him.
I will be the first to admit I don’t know everything about Peter. I doubt that anybody does. But I will share with you what I personally know about this man that I had come to consider a very good friend.
I met Peter on January 21, 2019 at Denny & Lee’s Magic Studio in Rosedale, Maryland. Unfortunately, the magic studio no longer exists. Denny passed away on January 23, 2019. I had heard that Denny was ill and I wanted to visit the shop one last time. At the shop I asked Jesse, who was working behind the counter, for help with a particular card sleight or move. Jesse led me to a side room and introduced me to a man who could easily have passed for the Harry Potter character Professor Dumbledore. That man was Peter Galinskas. Peter invited me to sit with him and that was the beginning of a friendship I will cherish the rest of my life.
In the Baltimore area Peter was considered as one of the best card mechanics. I don’t call him a magician and Peter was always very adamant that he wasn’t a magician. He was someone who had skills with a deck of cards that gamblers and magicians could only hope to attain.
After our first meeting at Denny’s, I didn’t think I would hear from Peter again. But a few weeks later, I received a phone call from him, asking if I would like to join a regular session with other magicians he knew. In the months to come, I came to know that there used to be regular sessions held at Denny’s and Peter wanted to start having them again. I felt very honored that he thought enough of me and my current skill level to invite me to hang out with the other magicians.
And that is something we did, off and on, until the time of his passing. We met at the Asian Bistro in Rosedale, very close to where the Denny & Lee Magic Studio was located. During these sessions, we talked about magic, demonstrated tricks or sleight-of-hand techniques we were practicing, or listened to Peter talk about the magicians he had met and the history of magic in Baltimore. He knew a lot and never left out details.
Peter was mentored by some of the great magicians in the area, most notably Frank Thompson who was well known for his card skills and even some gambling. During some of our many phone calls, Peter talked about his travels to and from the Chicago area to hang out for weeks with the master “Cardician” Ed Marlo. In the Baltimore area, Peter could be found talking with Howie Schwartzman, Cy Keller, Denny Haney, and many of the famous magicians who came into town and visited Denny’s shop.
A number of individuals have had the experience of having Peter as a teacher or as a mentor. Not only was he well versed in his knowledge of card mechanics, but from what I was told, he was an excellent teacher. I know he spent hours preparing the lessons for his students. He knew he had to be prepared since his students were paying good money for his instruction. And if you knew Peter then you knew that any session with him could run much longer than planned although he never charged more for that extra time and attention. He was very giving of his time and talent in that way.
During one of our sessions, without saying anything, he just started to show us various ways to do second deals, bottom deals, and even center deals (where cards are dealt from the center of the deck). It was amazing to watch and see things I had previously only read about. And I’m quite sure there were many things that Peter didn’t show us that day. I am grateful for what I did see. His skill was something to which I could aspire.
Peter was not a teacher of card mechanics for me, but he became a mentor for me when it came to the business side of being a magician. He drew upon his years as a salesman, always making sure I was making the best decisions. He did provide me with feedback if I showed him a new effect. He was very honest if the effect or secret move was good or not. His philosophy was, “a magician won’t get better if you just blow smoke up their a**”. I always welcomed his constructive criticisms because I knew it was said to make me a better magician.
Peter and I talked quite a bit on the phone. Our conversations usually started out talking about magic, but Peter had a way of always going down rabbit holes which were way off topic. I admit that when I was on the phone with him, I probably carried about 30% of the conversation. And the phone calls would usually last an hour or more. There were a number of times I had to cut him off so I could get going to do other things.
How I wish I could listen to those rabbit hole stories again.
Whether he knew it or not, Peter fanned a smoldering ember within me regarding learning and practicing magic. After meeting him and getting involved with his session groups, I began practicing my card work, and working on my standup shows. I had a lot of respect for him, so if I showed him something that he said was good, I felt a lot of satisfaction. The practice was worth it, and I was more confident to show the effect to laymen.
Peter introduced me to a number of other magicians in the Baltimore area, and I have become friends with them. Each of them has their own strengths and I always enjoyed seeing what they had been working on since the last session. I truly hope we can continue meeting like we did when Peter was here. I hope that our sessions in the future will carry on the legacy that Peter Galinskas initiated.
Losing Peter has left a huge whole in my life. In such a short time, I came to count on him for advice and would call him to talk about a show I had just finished as I drove home. Each called ended the same way, with each of us saying “Take care, my friend.”
Peter, take care my friend!