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Comedian-magician Carl Ballantine's final exit


Comedy-magician and actor Carl Ballantine, who died  Tuesday at his home in the Hollywood Hills at age 92, had not been ill, but he had been feeling the effects of old age over the past six months, said his daughter, Saratoga Ballantine.

She had been staying overnight at her father's home off and on in case he needed help in the night, and she was there when he died.

"He had a great exit," she said. "He was up at 3 in the morning. I could hear him stirring, and I came in and said, 'Hey, Dad, what's going on?'  He said, 'I gotta get home.' I said, 'Daddy, you are home.' He said, 'Can I take the robe?' I said, 'Of course, it's your robe.' And then he said, 'Where are my shoes? I need my shoes.' I said, 'Daddy, you don't need your shoes.' He said, 'Yes, I do; I gotta get out of here.'"

She put his shoes on and said, "I love you, Papa," and then went back to sleep.

When she woke up at 6, she discovered that her father had moved to another part of the living room, where he had been sleeping, and that's where he died.

"He was lying back with a big smile on his face, with his shoes and robe on," she said. "He was going home."

Ballantine said that in the hours after her father died she has talked to many people who have told her similar stories "of how their family members had left wanting snow shoes or needing their coat or [asking] 'Why is that light so bright?' or 'I want to see my mother.' They are always off to the next adventure very verbally."

"I'll tell you the truth," she added. "I think my dad had a great life. He had such wonderful friends and a wonderful time. ... He didn't like being old. He used to say, 'I wish I was 45.' I'd say, 'Me, too.' "

The full obituary is here.

-- Dennis McLellan

Photo: Carl Ballantine, performing as a magician. Credit: Ballantine family photo

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I laughed and enjoyed his character from McHale's in peace,Carl...

The corny jokes, the magic tricks that never worked, the chutzpah, the smile that said, "We're in on the gag together," we'll remember Carl for a long, long time.


I may not be famous but I consider Carl a true friend. I have known him since meeting him in the 1940s, and have kept in touch ever since.Thank you Carl.

Thank you... for providing illumination of his final night. He was a wonderfully funny man and I am grateful to have been able to see him perform. His death actually reminded me of his continued existence... I had forgotten about him over the years. Thank you, Ms Ballentine, for sharing such a private but important moment in time.

thanks for laughs.

Born Meyer Kessler in one of Chicago's Jewish ghettos, The Amazing Ballantine made a career out of being bad, that is performing magic tricks that didn't quite come out right and then making humorous put downs of his own ineptitude that evoked torrents of laughter. Ballantine, like W. C. Fields and Jack Benny before him, who respectively had abandoned careers as a juggler and a vioinist, found out that his comic asides were far better received than the prestidigitation he was attempting.

Naming his two daughters after two of his favorite racetracks was another example of his crazy sense of humor, something I hope his offspring could be sanguine about. But then we have heard stranger monikers bestowed on children by entertainers of far more recent vintage.

Thanks Dennis for that wonderful story about his last night, and I hope his wish to have his ashes scattered at Santa Anita comes to fruition.

I met Carl in in Lake Tahoe. I had played Harrah's with the Radio City Music Hall show "Kick's '76." Carl had come in to play "Kick's '77" the following year. I was living in Tahoe, we met and hit it off and remained friends down through the years. What a wonderful friend, a kind and a generous man. He was an excellent raconteur and a live wire fun individual in person. Always young in heart, a great showman. Warmest condolences to his family and many friends. I also miss his friendship greatly, he was always available for a phone call a clever note or a visit.


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