ROWANTON, CONNECTICUT – Harold Leisk, famous magician and entertainer extraordinaire, was found dead in his house last week, apparently from an aneurysm. He was 64 years old. Left behind were his wife of 34 years, Sky, and their Husky, ABC, whom they adopted after he had served for several years as a sled-dog at the North Pole.
According to interviews conducted during the height of Harold’s career, Mr. and Mrs. Leisk purported that Harold began his famous purple crayon act when he was only four years old. While a dubious claim that Harold himself neither affirmed nor denied, it is believable that a man of such theatrical skill must have been a child with some imagination and much dramatic flair.
First starting out performing for small campus clubs at NYU, which he attended for only two years before dropping out, Harold quickly learned that his skills were truly unique. He claimed that his purple crayon, which later transformed first into a purple baton and then into a purple walking stick, were the true source of his “powers.” Unlike Harry Houdini, who called himself an illusionist, Harold insisted on the term “magician” early in his career, ensuring his audiences time and time again that he was, indeed, performing magic.
There was some controversy surrounding his touring act during the 1970s, when he was accused of planting inflammatory audience members in each theater he performed at. The claims that these raucous fans, meant to distract the rest of the attendees from some trick taking place on stage, eventually fizzled out once the fan club Harold Hamsters officially formed. In an interview in 1998, Harold told The Guardian, “I have no idea why they call themselves hamsters, and I certainly didn’t put them anywhere they didn’t want to be.”
The fan club website, however, explains this odd choice: “In 1969, at the Hollywood Bowl, Harold drew a hamster spinning in its wheel, and enlarged the image to fill the entire stage before erasing the wheel and allowing the oversized hamster to wander the stage freely. This was seen by many, and by his biggest fans in particular, to symbolize the importance of the arts, the choice we have to escape the hamster wheels of our lives and explore our natural creative states. Harold never again drew this creature, and we believe that he was requested to cut the hamster from his act so as not to stir unrest in the audience, as he did that night to his own apparent delight. From this act our name originates; we believe in art, freedom, and the inspirational power of Harold’s Purple Crayon.”
Though never admitting to such liberal leanings himself, Harold did exaggerate his dress and clothing as he grew older, wearing an entirely purple suit, a purple silk top hat, and, eventually, a purple walking stick, believed to have been subtly mocking the one-percenters.
“I never got rich rich,” Harold said on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart only a few months ago, as preparations for a recording of his act were underway. “I got rich enough not to worry about sending my dog to college!” He winked at the camera as Mr. Stewart burst into laughter. “No, but seriously,” Harold continued, “I don’t have to worry, and I can afford to live in Connecticut, but I would pay more taxes if I could, and I sure as hell — am I allowed to say that or will it be beeped out? — don’t intend to leave this earth without leaving the bulk of my money to people more deserving than me. Sky, of course, but also some other things I’ve got up my sleeve.”
As if he knew that his life would soon be over, Harold created several scholarships for underprivileged students applying to colleges with the intent on focusing on theater, writing, or visual arts.
Harold’s funeral was private and quiet, although the Harold Hamsters believe that before dying, he drew his own casket (purple, of course).