Levy Merle Grabeel was born in Portland, Oregon in 1919 . His parents were transplants from Missouri and his father drove a trolley for the city. He was a wan boy with glasses and a speech impediment and had what is now known as "hyperactivity." The first inclination he wanted to be a magician was at age five when he ran up to his mother and cried, "Give me something to do with my hands!" The pots and pans she shoved his way did not quell his agitation but Professor Turtle did. He was a magician who performed at this school. During the show, young Lee Grabel was one of those obnoxious boys in the front row calling out, "It's in his hand!", "It's up his sleeve!" Then the magician did an amazing feat. He turned a newspaper into confetti and the confetti into a white dove. Lee was so impressed he vowed to find out how he did it and went to the library to read magic books. He started learning tricks up in his attic bedroom he shared with his younger brother. When he was eight years old he did his first show for his boy scout troupe. His father could not understand his son's interest in magic and would grab the tricks from his hands and say, "When you going to give up those toys?!" By the time he was in the sixth grade he was booking himself at local schools performing for kids older than himself. He started to memorize the train schedules out of town.

Young Lee Grabel
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At the age of sixteen he moved to San Francisco and worked night clubs and social clubs.His sleight of hand won him an award at the West Coast Associations of Magicians in Seattle when he was seventeen.He played the World's Fair at Treasure Island when he was twenty. In these years he developed his skills, style and showmanship which were to last a life time. He wanted to be like the leading magician of his day, Howard Thurston, who played the finest theaters in the county.In World War II, he joined the military and was stationed in Palm Springs where he met Helen Foster from Okarche, Oklahoma. She had moved there with her family to be near two brothers stationed at the base. When he told her he was a magician she misheard him and asked, "Oh, what instruments do you play?" They courted and married and Lee was soon shipped overseas. He worked in special services and traveled to bases to help organize talent shows for the soldiers.

Young HelenLee and Helen
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When the war ended he was eager to resume his career and quickly booked a tour with Helen. They performed a small show they carried in a trailer and spent the summers at Helen's parents' house in Oklahoma where he began building illusions in her parent's garage. He had not forgotten his dream to front his own big illusion show. By 1950 the broadway Magical Mystery Extravaganza hit road. The show's signature illusion was a floating piano. It was a real white spinet that turned in a circle with a person playing it. usually a local pianist from the town they played. He also shot Helen from a cannon (Not really, it was only the illusion of flight) and he billed her as the Human Cannon Ball. With a big truck to haul the show and a seven-person crew, they played one-nighters throughout middle America nine months a year. In 1954 they had their first daughter, Cindy, who traveled with them starting at six months.

Besides being an illusionist, Lee was known for his pipe routine which included the masterful production of a two feet long calabash pipe. This move always impressed his brethren and aroused considerable speculation as to where he lifted it. He was a suave card and coin manipulator, a showman, who prided himself wit his original touches to the standard illusions of magic.

Lee Grabel Posterfloating pianoHuman Cannon BallCindyOn the RoadLee GrabelHelene
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Inevitably, the magic show could not fight the vast changes sweeping the country in the 1950s. As more households purchased televisions, their crowds started to dwindle. Many such well-known road magicians as Willard the Wizard and Harry Blackstone Sr had to pack up their big shows. The Broadway Magical Mystery Extravaganza lasted until 1958. They tried to get a spot on television but to no avail. At age 42, Lee needed to find a new career. He opened up a real estate office in Alamo, California. A new daughter, Katy, was born in 1962. With his road days apparently behind him, Lee focused on his new career.

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In 1977, magic was hot entertainment and Lee and Helen decided to hit the road again with his be magic show. They played a tour of one-nighters in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho with the floating piano and also a new illusion, the Disappearing Horse. After that he and Helen played the college circuit with a lecture and a magic show called, "Do Not Trust All You See." In 1986, he was featured in the self-published book, "The Magic and Illusions of Lee Grabel." In the book, he also announced he was chosen by the world-renown magician, Dante, in 1954 to be his successor in a Royal Dynasty of Magic. He started performing his card and coin manipulation routines at such magic conventions as the society of American Magicians and International Brotherhood of Magicians. He called his act, "A Nostalgic Return to the Golden Age of Magic." He named Vegas headliner, Lance Burton as his successor in the Royal Dynasty of Magic in 1994. He was awarded the Academy of Magical Arts Master's Fellowship in 1995. He was a good friend and compeer to many magicians, always willing to offer his help and expertise. If a young magician asked for advice he always told them, "it's not what you do, it's how you do it." He believed that audience rapport and showmanship was more important than what a magician did on stage.

He loved people and laughter and making magic on stage and off. His last magic show was at the age of 87 at the "It's Magic" show at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. He died peacefully and painlessly in his home in 2015 at the age of 96. He was married to Helen for 71 years and always said, "I never could have done it without you."

Helene and LeeHelene and Lee
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