Noted close-up magician and long time Burbank resident Robert (Bob) J. Gwodz, 86, died of natural causes on January 28, 2020. A member of The Academy of Magical Arts since its founding in 1963, Gwodz was one of the original performers at the Magic Castle. In 1970, he was nominated for Best Close-up Magician.
“One of his classic acts involved envelopes,” remarks nephew and amateur magician David La Plante. “A person would sign their name on a plain card, and my uncle would put the card into an envelope and seal it. Then he’d take that envelope and tear it into tiny pieces, only to present an intact envelope at the end in a wallet he had in his suit pocket, with the signed, intact card inside.” As a young adult, La Plante studied magic under the tutelage of his uncle (who he referred to as “The Great Gwodzini” ) and was himself able to become a magician member of the Magic Castle.
At one time, the Magic Castle’s caricature of Gwodz holding an envelope could be found above the staircase leading to the Magic Castle’s lower levels, along with the other caricatures of noted and famous magicians.
Gwodz was born in Detroit Michigan to parents Frank and Rose Gwodz. At age eight, the precocious Gwodz discovered Sterling Magic and Abbott’s Magic. The rest was history. A native of Michigan, Gwodz served as president of the Society of Detroit Magicians and as president of the I.L.M. Ring #22, where he also belonged to the Order of Merlin. After having fought in Korea as a marine paratrooper, Gwodz settled in sunny California, and became a regular at the Magic Castle from its founding in 1963 through the early 1990’s.
“Bob was also an avid collector of rare and old books on the American West and military history,” said long-time friend and fellow book dealer Paul Hunt. “Few booksellers could match his expertise.”
In his later years, Gwodz was a resident at the Olive Plaza Apartments in Burbank, where he had made many friends. “We all miss him dearly,” remarked Executive Manager Jessa Freemyer. “He’d entertain us with stories of his amazing life.”
Bob will be greatly missed by all of his friends and family who knew and loved him.