Harry Collins – The Frito-Lay Magician
The Cave Hill Cemetery & Arboretum
While driving with my mother through Louisville, Kentucky, we drove past the entrance to the Cave Hill Cemetery & Arboretum. I pulled right over and my mother knew by this point that I was about to turn around to go check it out.
The entrance to the cemetery was very grand in comparison to what you might usually see and was what caught my eye in the first place. Let it be known that I am a huge fan of stonework and masonry and might explain why I really enjoy driving around cemeteries. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am personally not a fan of taking pictures of gravesites, but feel certain ones are worth documenting.
I wish I had known about this location before I visited. Looking back now, I realize that there are a lot of interesting spots at this cemetery. However, I will have to revisit and document those at a later time. The drive we took through here was a quick one and we only stopped at one spot in particular because of the interesting headstone we saw seemingly reaching out a hand to it’s visitors…
Harry Leon Collins (April 27, 1920 – May 3, 1985)
I had absolutely no recollection of who Harry Collins was or that he was a magician, but looking at this headstone, one could easily tell he was in show business. The information below is what I have been able to find about the “Frito-Lay Magician”.
Harry Collins became interested in magic early on and was most know as the official corporate magician for the Frito-Lay company from 1970 until his passing.
Collins also served as a Marine during World War II. He was assigned to special services after being wounded and added to his income by performing hand magic and other services. While recuperating in Hawaii, he auditioned for Bob Crosby.
The story is that Collins’ performed in his audition using a stolen cabbage from a nearby field. He hollowed it out, then set it in his helmet to create a makeshift “rabbit in a hat” trick, thus attracting the attention of Bob Crosby. For the rest of his time serving, Collins performed his magic act as part of Bob Crosby’s USO show called “This Is The Army Show.”
“Mr. Magic” aka “The Frito-Lay Magician”
After Collins’ finished his service, he moved to Louisville, Kentucky, in 1952. He was hired by the Frito-Lay Corporation and eventually advanced to sales manager. This is what led him to be known as the “Frito-Lay Man” by day and “Mr. Magic” by night.
Mr. Magic was recognized as one of Louisville’s most popular entertainers and in 1970, he was given the full-time job as Frito-Lay’s corporate magician, switching from the “Frito-Lay Man” to the “Frito-Lay Magician”. Supposedly, for one of his tricks, he would say “Frito-Lay!” in place of a “Ta-Da!”
Collins was a member of the Louisville Magic Club and became mentor to Lance Burton. He went on to marry Maxine Warner Lewis in 1980 and enjoyed many travel adventures on the road as magician and magician’s assistant.
After his sudden death on May 3, 1985, his wife commissioned Barney Bright to create a life-size bronze statue that was placed at his grave in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky. His arm forever outstretched, welcoming visitors to watch his next trick.
He comes to you with top hat donned.
White gloves flash with a slight of hand that stretches reality beyond.
The twinkle in his eyes hide the secret he will never share.
With awe, you feel your hearts’ great thrill like none you can compare.
What lies in the heart of this man? Drawn to him are the children of the land.
They know that love flows in abundance, for his heart and soul are reflected in his smiling glance.
And now gathered here with tears in our eyes, grief in our hearts, and stiff proper smiles,
We honor this great loving man. Never again will we see the twinkle of his eye – the slight of his hand
That drew the children of the land.
~ Terri Lewis Flesch