The Bird With One Wing
I have an image that haunts my mind from a story I heard a long, long time ago of a bird who lost one of his wings.
He spent many years trapped on the ground and in despair he would look up each day longing to be up in the sky completely liberated. The rest of the story is a blur in my memory but when I think of René I can’t help but feel that the bird turned out alright and that he found a way to fly again beautifully.
“It Can’t Be Done Any Slower” is a catchphrase used by Héctor René Lavandera, known to the world as René Lavand. René was born September 24th, 1928 in Buenos Aires and was only 7 years old when he learned his card trick. As a 9 year old child René would suffer great tragedy when he was hit by car while playing in the streets during Carnival, an accident in which he lost his right hand.
"It was an accident that definitively determined the path I would take. It seems as if I owe so much to that cruel twist: my distinct personality, my artistic career, my success in the world."
As a young man René fell into a gambling addiction and lived as a gambler. As his technical abilities improved he considered making his living as a cheater but knew that it was an empty road. René was 22 years old when he began working at the Banco de la Nacíon Argentina, a job which paid the bills while he honed his art. In the corner of his desk he had hidden a deck of cards and in the corner of his soul… many dreams.
“Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he started to push himself, trying to come back to life, feeling the fire that flows through the veins of men who want to push beyond their own limitations. A fire that nothing and no one can extinguish. Proof that life is stronger than death and that love is stronger than pain.”
- Ascanio on Lavand
At 32, he debuted on stage at the Tabarís Theatre in Buenos Aires. René’s magic was like nothing ever seen before. Everything that came out of René was beautiful. He has “a way of looking, of being, of moving, that is harmonious and dramatic”. He spoke of life as a marked deck, shuffled by the hand of God and in his hand a deck of cards appeared to be pieces of cardboard painted with strokes of dreams, lies and love. René would speak poetically, his stories filled with imagination and beautiful metaphors. René Lavand was so highly regarded by his peers that famous poets, authors, and songwriters such as Rolando Chirico, Ricardo Martín, and Don Atahualpa Yupanqui wrote stories, poems, and lines for his exclusive use.
René achieved tremendous success, appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson as well as countless other programmes internationally and was able to tour the world performing his magic.
The line he used to close several of his tricks was "No se puede hacer más lento", it references the slow, graceful, confident and determined manner in which he moved and is also the title of his signature effect.
I couldn’t do anything with a deck of cards when I started to study sleight of hand. I remember watching a video of René perform “No se puede hacer más lento” and dreamed of being able to do magic like that one day. It was the first piece of magic that I really dedicated myself to learning and I’ve been studying it since I was 17 years old. It’s a piece that I’ve grown with and has grown with me and I always perform it as a tribute to René who has had such an impact on my magic and my life.
When I was 22 years old I heard that René would be performing his show in Italy. Even though I didn’t even have a cent for the trip I forced myself to find a way to get to Italy to see him. By the time I arrived to the theater in Italy I was exhausted, having traveled for almost 2 days without sleep. I was so tired that my eyes kept closing and I would drift into microsleeps until one time I opened my eyes and René was on stage preparing for the show. I was wide awake by the time the show started and René performed some of the most beautiful magic I have ever seen. In his old age I honestly expected him to have slowed down technically but he amazed me as he, without hesitation, executed his incredible sleight of hand flawlessly. The stories he told were so touching that the audience was in tears.
I’m so happy that I was able to meet René while he was still alive. That’s going to stay with me until the day I die.
If there is someone in the world who is alive who you want to meet please don’t wait.
Do it today, and if you can’t do that today than you should at least start seriously planning it right now. You don’t have forever and neither do they.
You will never regret it.
René said that audiences, in their final applause, gave him the sensation of having arrived to rescue him and he would usually end each show with a story that his friend Rolando Chirico wrote on a paper napkin:
“Thank you. Yes, I did forget something: my farewell story.
An old Oriental magician lost his right hand at the height of his fame. He suffered greatly. With that hand he had entertained thousands of children and adults.
One day he cursed the gods of fate and he was condemned to eternal sleep. He was condemned to live in a cage which could only be opened by one’s right hand. He passed many cruel years there.
But one day, unexpectedly, the door opened. He rushed out crying tears of joy thinking that at last he had been forgiven; but he was struck paralyzed when he noticed that from the handle of the door hung his right hand.
From those long forgotten ages of the past, his lost right hand had come to rescue him.
I want to say to you here, ladies and gentlemen, that tonight you and all of the audiences of the world, are for me precisely that:
a key that opens my cage… forever.
Thank you René!