Richard Ross – The Last Performance of the “Linking Rings That Should Ever Have been Performed
I am 52 years old and have been studying the art of magic for 46 years (the old joke being that I wasted the first six years of my life…), and in those 46 years I have developed a liking for some effects and a dislike for others. One of the tricks i dislike the most is what is known as the Linking Rings. Sometimes known as the “Chinese Linking Rings,” it is the effect where multiple solid metal rings magically link and unlink right before your eyes. There are no breaks in the rings, yet they seem to pass through each other like rings of smoke. If you have seen only ONE magician in your lifetime, I can practically guarantee that you have seen this trick. In skilled hands, this routine can look very magical. The trouble is it is very rarely in skilled hands.
Which is why I usually dislike the routine.
A lot of clattering of the rings and a repartee that is supposed to appear witty are usually the norm for this trick whenever it is presented. And, for the most part, that is all the audience is left with at the routine’s conclusion: unassured, noisy, clattering metal and less-than-funny patter. At best, if the magician presenting the routine is competent, the audience leaves the performance with a sense of befuddlement and whimsey.
That is, unless the performer was Richard Ross.
From Holland (but originally born in Poland), Richard’s artistry with the rings was unequaled. In his hands, the rings didn’t just pass through each other like rings of smoke, rather it seemed that Richard had discovered the chemical make-up pf the rings themselves, and, with his own brand of alchemy, altered that chemical make-up to do his bidding.
The rings were a thing of beauty in his hands making him, in my opinion, the ONLY person who should be performing the rings. Instead of befuddlement and whimsey, his audiences left with a sense of true, stupefying wonder. They had witnessed true magic. That was the only way to describe what they had seen. There was no trick to this, the solid rings simply passed through one another despite the laws of physics. And that was okay. it didn’t matter to the people watching that they were witnessing something that defied logic, science, and everything that they knew of the world to be true; and the fact that what they were seeing SHOULD disturb their ability for rational thought but didn’t and, instead, left them with the awe-inspiring, warm feeling of witnessing a rare piece of performance art, well…it just made Richard’s presentation all that much more special.
There are two things involving Richard’s performance of the rings that I remember vividly. The first being about 10 or 11 years old and watching his performance of the routine for the first time on syndicated television. I had been interested in magic for four or five years at that point, and I owned a small set of Linking Rings.
Watching Richard perform his ring routine made my 10-year-old jaw drop, and I clearly remember thinking, “Well, that’s not the same set of rings I have upstairs in the closet. He has something different”
No, he didn’t, and yes, it was.
His set was a bigger, more professional set, but they worked just the same. And THAT was one of my earliest lessons in presentation and professionalism.
The other memory that I have, and one that I will treasure always, was having the opportunity of seeing Richard, now in his 50s, perform the same exquisite ring routine at the Academy of Magical Arts Awards show in Hollywood in the year 2000 when he was awarded the Performing Fellowship award from the Academy. Before the long-desreved award was bestowed upon him, Richard performed the Rings. As a magician, I must say that it was a wonder to behold, and, I confess, I became a little choked-up watching him perform this routine – both of us 27 years older – with him just as impeccable as he had always been and me with my 27-year-OLDER jaw still just agape as it always had been.
Sadly, within 6 months or so, Richard was gone. Word came that he had passed away while in his garden at the age of 54. WAY too young for anybody, but especially for an artist of Richard’s stature. I’m not sure if Richard had the opportunity to perform the Rings again within those six months following the awards show.
So, it is quite possible that I witnessed the last performance of the “Linking Rings” that should ever have been performed.
Watch part of the same video of Richard that I saw at 10 years old: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=di4XxI3BzqQ