James Randi (1928 – 2020)

This past Tuesday, October 20, we lost one of the great defenders of the skeptical mind. James Randi, also known by his stage name The Amazing Randi, was a stage magician (amongst other things) who devoted much of his life to debunking pseudo-science including spoon-bending and the paranormal. He touched many lives and was an inspiration to many in the LGBTQ community when he came out in his 80s. I had the opportunity to meet him at the 2017 North Eastern Conference on Science and Skepticism. We spoke briefly about Hitchens, whom he greatly respected. For more on that event, see the posting I did at the time as well as his NYT Obituary and the 2014 documentary An Honest Liar.

Also see his tribute to Hitch: We Lost A Giant.

The Amazing Randi at the 2017 NECSS

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Randi with his signature skull-topped walking stick standing in front of a painting by his partner, artist Devyi Pena. This photo was used in a 2014 New York Times article.

James Randi was the keynote speaker at the 21017 North Eastern Conference on Science & Skepticism held on Friday, June 30th in New York City. I arrived a few minutes early and spoke with him before he took the stage. For anyone not familiar, he is a professional skeptic who has had a long career as a magician and an escape artist. He was a good friend to Issac Asimov, Carl Sagan and Johnny Carson, he inspired Penn & Teller to become magicians, and he was a friend and admirer of Christopher. After Hitch died, he wrote a touching tribute with We’ve Lost A Giant.  In 2014 he was the subject of the documentary An Honest Liar.  At 88 years of age, he is still going strong.




Me (Tom Casesa) with Randi before his talk.




Randi posing with a fan. Devyi is on the right (vest and white shirt).



The address took place in the ballroom of the Hotel Pennsylvania




Randi’s partner, artist Deyvi Peña.


Randi was able to meet briefly with J. DeRiso of Howard Beach, who made an appearance at the conference



Randi took the time to talk (and often) joke with everyone who wanted a signature.


James Randi, Amazing Skeptic

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This is a follow-up to yesterday’s well received post which showed a photo of Christopher ignoring a door sign.

The picture was found on James Randi’s site, accompanying his tribute to Hitchens (reprinted below). Randi is worth knowing about. After a career as a professional magician (The Amazing Randi) he devoted his life to debunking and exposing frauds of all sorts, from  fake spoon bender Uri Geller to the common psychic medium.  At 87, he is retired from his organization, the James Randi Educational Foundation. The JREF no longer sponsors the  $1 million challenge, (money offered to anyone who could prove psychic ability), but continues as a grant making entity.

Check out his de-bunking videos on YouTube, and the documentary An Honest Liar.


We’ve Lost  A Giant

(by James Randi, Dec 11, 2011)

I’m very, very, saddened as I learned that Christopher Hitchens has left us after only 62 years of a brilliant, dedicated life.

Before I type one more word, I’ll point out that those angry, frustrated, hateful, frightened, detractors were simply wrong when they predicted that he would turn to some deity or other before he died; that would not have been the Christopher that I knew, the brave warrior who wielded his pen as a sword and thereby cut such a shining path before him. I’m certain that as he closed his eyes he was aware that he’d done an excellent job, he’d said his piece, he’d reached so many people around the world who needed to know that they were not under the command of any jealous, vengeful, insecure, capricious, cruel, god who created them and then played with them like helpless toys to satisfy divine whims. Christopher was one of my giants…

I’ll miss him, but I’ll try to carry his message to others who’ve not yet heard it, though my words will not read as well, nor will my phrasing of them approach Christopher’s standards. However, I choose to respect him by always referring to him as “Christopher,” since he seriously disliked “Chris.” Please join me in that nicety.

Yes, it could be said that Hitchens was unwise about his heavy smoking and drinking, which may have brought about his too-early demise, but he was a fully mature adult who made those decisions for himself. I have inveighed in the past against those unwise practices because they have cost me other good friends and family, and I myself am certainly not free enough of “sin” to cast any stone in his direction.

As I write this, I’m told that The New York Times has stopped the presses to include Christopher’s obituary on their front page, and I swear that I could hear him guffawing at that. We so much enjoyed his wit and wise words at the The Amaz!ng Meetings he graced with his presence, and we will feel this loss every time we stand before a TAM audience.

Goodbye, Christopher. These tears in my eyes are of pure joy at having known you.

James Randi.