Dealt — Review and Interview

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I was having dinner at a friend’s house last weekend, and as we smoked cigars on the back patio, she asked me my favorite movies of the year. I could only name three. It wasn’t until I was driving home that I remembered another one. The documentary Dealt.

As a fan of magic, and as a kid that tried learning as many magic tricks as I could, I’m always fascinated watching the great ones. I loved the documentary on Ricky Jay five years ago. Imagine my surprise watching one involving a guy that’s perhaps better with a deck of cards than Jay.

Things were off to a great start when we hear The White Stripes belt out “Hello Operator” (although you’d think that the Pilot song “Magic” would be better); although the subject of the film, Richard Turner, hates these being called card tricks or magic tricks. He hates being called a magician; he prefers the term “card mechanic.”

Director Luke Korem gives us a terrific character study that has a very satisfying story arc. It’s amazing to think that a guy who can shuffle cards in so many ways, and with just one hand, is also blind.

At a young age, Turner started losing his eyesight. His sister did as well. Yet where she seems more resigned to that fact, he fought it. So much so, that when he was courting a woman, he never let her know. I can’t tell you much more about the sister or that woman, because it’s so much more interesting if you find out yourself what becomes of them when watching this terrific documentary. Yet at the same time, I have to tell you a few things about this so you go see it. Well, after being fed up with classmates calling him Mr. Magoo, Turner decided to take up karate. He became a black belt by fighting 9 guys at one time, refusing to just accept an honorary black belt that he was offered. He did that after breaking his arm during one of the fights, too.

As much as you root for him, and are charmed by him, he also frustrates you. He’s so determined to live an ordinary life, that he often drives his wife and son bonkers. He refuses to use a cane or seeing eye dog, and often relies on his family.

Remember how nervous we got when a blind Al Pacino wants to drive a Ferrari in Scent of a Woman? Well, Turner rides a motorcycle.

He’s also a perfectionist. There’s never a time he’s without a deck of cards in his hand. As his wife explains, they were once making love. She looked over, and noticed he had a deck of cards in his hand the entire time.

Yes, there are much needed moments of levity here. Another time, he talks about how he always has a deck of cards in his hand, even when lifting weights. He calls it a “3-pack a day habit.”

There’s a moment where Turner is talking to a deaf magician that’s a big fan. It’s such a beautiful moment, watching two men with disabilities, trying (and succeeding) in communicating with one another. All over their love of cards.

You’re lucky enough to catch this documentary at the Digital Gym in North Park, and meet the man himself. On 11/17, Richard Turner will be at the 7:30 p.m. showing, and on Saturday, 11/18, he’ll be at the 5:30 showing. Do yourself a favor — get down there. You’ll be glad you did.

This documentary gets 4 stars. And below, is my interview with Richard Turner.


JOSH BOARD: When I heard about how often you have cards in your hand, it made me think of the documentary on Ricky Jay from a few years back. He spent hours with cards in his hands, too. I was surprised Jay wasn’t commenting on how good you are with cards. Do you know him or have you talked with him before?

RICHARD TURNER:  I’ve known Ricky Jay since the mid-70s and he is a very  talented magician.

However, he and all others will admit that I have everyone beat when it comes to practicing with the pasteboards. I put in ten to twenty hours a day, seven days a week for 26 years straight then after 41 and my son was born my practicing dropped to eight to twelve hours a day and now I only put in three to ten hours a day.

JOSH BOARD: This is probably a stupid question, but…have you ever messed up one of your tricks?

RICHARD TURNER: What I do are not card tricks. I am a card mechanic. I demonstrate how many ways I can take someone’s money at the card table. So there are times I don’t fill a hand. Example: a person can shuffle up the deck, choose the game, how many players and which player wins hand me the deck and 95% of the time that hand will win.

But to answer your question, yes it has happened and when it does I just move on to my next demonstration.

JOSH BOARD: At times in the documentary, you seemed pretty hard on your son. Looking back on it, do you think you were?

RICHARD TURNER: Asa does not think I was too hard on him. In fact he is my best male friend and tells people he’s proud to be my karate student and he now entertains his friends  with the cards.  

JOSH BOARD: How’s your son doing with college life?

RICHARD TURNER: He loves it! In the film he is off to University and now he is in his senior year. How time flies!

JOSH BOARD: It seems when you get into something, you really go all out learning everything you can about that. I’m not just talking about being a card mechanic, but with karate. What are the pros and cons of that?

RICHARD TURNER: Not getting frustrated when others want to stop after 8 or 10 hours where I won’t stop even after 16 hours. So I will take a break letting them eat or use the restroom while I try to relax as I’m anxious to get back to whatever project I am engaged in.

JOSH BOARD: When you were kicking butt with karate, did anyone ever tell you that you reminded them of Chuck Norris? I have to ask that, as I was a kid in the ’70s and thought he was the coolest thing on the planet.

RICHARD TURNER: Many times as we are the same height and weight with blond hair and a beard. There is a picture of me doing a six foot high sidekick and at first people think it is Chuck Norris. I will email that picture.

Here is my Chuck Norris story.

In the DEALT film are my two karate instructors, John Murphy and John Douglas. One time at the Tijuana Forum there was a confrontation between Chuck Norris and five fighters from “The Black Federation.” There was a showdown. I stood with Douglas behind Murphy and Norris and  to my relief one stern rebuke from Norris the federation backed down and left. I was the weakest fighter of us four and was relieved when they backed down.

JOSH BOARD: Are you still doing your one-man show? It looked interesting.

RICHARD TURNER: I had to put it on hold as the filming of this doc took up my time and travel. Now I do more inspirational speaking for large corporations. But it is likely we will stand it back up.

JOSH BOARD: Regarding your show, how has it changed, and what have you learned about yourself from doing it?

RICHARD TURNER: I have done over 10,000 shows with over 150,000 hours of practice. So it keeps evolving to higher levels of skill and what I have learned about myself is that I am the poster boy for Obsessive compulsive behavior, and I don’t shy away from that tag.

JOSH BOARD: Have the casinos in Las Vegas ever hired you to show them or tell them various ways people can cheat?

RICHARD TURNER: Yes, but my friend Steve Forte (who is in the DEALT film) that is his area of expertise and he’s great at it!

JOSH BOARD: I thought your relationship with your wife was fascinating. And after years and years of card tricks, what was the first trick you ever pulled on her?

RICHARD TURNER: I asked her to go rattlesnake hunting. That was our first date then we played poker and I won her shoes.

JOSH BOARD: Was the making of the documentary more intrusive than you had anticipated?

RICHARD TURNER: No, it was all fun. My family and I had from one to four cameras and at the AMA awards there was as many as ten cameras, they were in our home, following us around the world. But since I can’t see many times I did not know the cameras were going and they caught many interesting things and moments some of which I hoped would make the cut and others I’m glad did not like when I used my face to block a wall or door.

JOSH BOARD: I loved reading that the press materials had quotes from Penn & Teller. Are there any stories you can tell me about them?

RICHARD TURNER: Yes, many. Here’s one. I performed with them live in September and I asked Teller if he would like me to show him how and what I was doing on their show when I fooled them. He said yes and this is how Penn described the moment. Teller was on his knees, three inches from Richard’s hands and said, “Richard you are showing me nothing! I can’t see what you are doing or how you can do it. You are driving my mind crazy!” Then Richard took one of our decks and did the same thing. He fooled us with every single move he did”

JOSH BOARD: I understand you lived in San Diego for awhile. Where did you live, and what can you tell me about your time here?

RICHARD TURNER: I grew up in El Cajon and went to El Cajon High. After high school I joined the theater company “The Lamb’s Players.” They have two beautiful award winning theaters one on Coronado Island and the other in Horton Plaza.

JOSH BOARD: Any last things you can tell me about your life, or this film?

RICHARD TURNER: I have lived a blessed life with a beautiful wife of 27 years, a great son, and blessed with wonderful friends from one end of the planet to the other. For over 40 years I made my living passionately with a deck of cards. Also, in the DEALT  film people laugh, cry, their toes curl, they are motivated and leave the theater inspired. No one could ask for more than that!

God has blessed me richly!