I’m a little concerned about Jerry Roy, because he’s in his seventies, and I haven’t seen him around for a while.
He’s a colorful little man with a whole lot of character, who does sleight-of-hand card tricks and ‘magic’ ring illusions at his portable magic stand in Fisherman’s Wharf. He always dresses in 1920’s clothing, from his jaunty ‘newsboy’ hat down to his knickers, which show off his always brown and white argyle socks.
That’s the retro uniform of Jerry The Magician, and apparently he’s been wearing that look for decades.
I’ve caught his performances a few times, and he’s pretty darned good. I used to walk by him a lot with guests in tow when our company offered walking tours of Fisherman’s Wharf, but that particular walking tour came to an end last year.
I’d often see Jerry on the bus because he’d take the same line home that I would, lugging his table and bag of tricks with him after calling it quits for the day. We’d have some interesting conversations about magic and everything else, never over fifteen minutes worth, because that’s how long it’d take the bus to get to his stop.
I like vintage YouTube videos of San Francisco, since I’m employed as a tour guide in this amazing city, and the other day I came across one from 1979.
As it usually goes, these movies are often someone’s home movies, transferred to video and uploaded to YouTube. I was interested in this particular video because I arrived here in 1979 and reported aboard the USS Fanning, which was docked over at Hunter’s Point, being one of the final US Navy ships to be serviced in the old shipyard.
I spent 8 months here in ’79, until the ship had finished undergoing a complete refit, and then we headed down to San Diego, where I spent the rest of my Navy hitch.
The video starts with the standard shots of San Francisco landmarks, such as The Golden Gate Bridge, downtown, and so on, but just after the 7:00 minute mark, it goes into footage of Fisherman’s Wharf, and at 7:57…
There’s Jerry Roy.
That’s a screencap from the video, and yeah, it’s a little grainy but it’s definitely him, with the same cap and knickers, doing his classic ring tricks. He looks to be about 27 years old.
His full name is Jerry Roy Salazar and he’s the “Magician Laureate” of San Francisco, according to his LinkedIn profile. I also found a nicely produced YouTube video biography on him that was posted a couple of years ago.
When I asked him last year how long he’d been performing at The Wharf, he gazed off into the distance and thoughtfully said, “Oh, a long time, a very long time…”
His answers tend to be somewhat vague on anything you ask him, but he certainly was right about being at it “a very long time.” In doing a little research I found that he’d been performing slight-of-hand and ring tricks since 1962.
That quick appearance in the 1979 video proves he’s been doing the same bit in the same location for at least 41 years, because not much has changed with him. The corner he’s standing on is the only thing different, because at some point he went around the block and he now performs closer to the waterfront in front of an IN AND OUT Burger joint, which definitely wasn’t there in ’79.
I’ve gone a bit of a stretch without seeing him lately – about two months – and it has me concerned because of his age and frailty, but I don’t know where he lives and I have no contact info on him. I certainly hope he’s okay, and back to dazzling tourists with that deck of cards and those crazy rings sooner than later.
This is the 1979 video, Jerry comes in at 7:57…
This is the biography on Jerry produced in 2017…
UPDATE: Good news! A tour guide friend of mine said he saw Jerry on a tram headed to Fisherman’s Wharf just this past Thursday, so apparently he’s okay. I’d also change up my route to and from work if I’d been at it 41 years or more.