Harry said to Lorayne that he had no doubt that Brooke and Bancroft could drag her with his helpers. That’s what Mr. Lorayne did: surprising audiences and conversations show victims with a prodigious ability to recall and tirelessly marketing the idea that someone can trap an iron memory if they follow his plan.
“No one thinks twice about a doctor to help them see better, or to help them hear,” said Mr. Lorayne, who died April 7 at a hospital in Newburyport, Mass., at 96.
At times Mr. Lorayne worked behind the scenes assisting actors, politicians and business executives with the help of scientific techniques. But it was a porch. Showman, salesman, author, name dropper and weaver of stories that go back to how he overcame the evil of hand-picking cards as a child on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
“He got me out of that cage of shame,” he said. “I had to say those three words: choose paper.”
Since the 1960s, the magic has mostly been laid aside and fully clothed in the act of his memory, first sharpened in the Catskills. Mr. Lorayne would hear the names of hundreds of audience members and then rattle them off — “Mr. Stinson, Miss Graf, Mrs. Graf, Miss Finkelstein” — in her rapid-fire New Yorkese. She could recite every page from a small-town phone or a meticulously arranged 52-card shuffle after hearing it once.
He would challenge the audience to ask questions about obscure Oscar winners or the inhabitants of a distant country. If someone moved he shouts “What’s your name?” or another no brainer, Mr. Lorayne would always have a smile pretending he couldn’t remember.
The story shows that he loved him. He was a regular on“Tonight Show” He developed a friendship with Johnny Carson. In 1985, on “The Merv Griffin Show,” Mr. Lorayne taped the names of 150 listeners after telling them one time. Griffin playfully scolded Mr. Lorayne for not going for the 300.
Mr. Lorayne, ever the self-supporter, replied that he had once memorized the names of 1,000 strangers. “I could remember ten thousand if I had time,” he said. “You won’t get it for two days.”
His memory skills were born out of necessity as a child. Father, he said, would beat the needy through the ranks. Mr. Lorayne suffered from dyslexia, which was not diagnosed until he was much older. “I’m not sure a teacher ever heard that word in those days,” he said.
Out of desperation, Mr. Lorayne found some books in the library on memory training and prompting, a system of using mental cues to aid memory. One book described how ancient Roman orators used “locus” or symbols to remember long distances. I worked hard. He improved his grades and stopped being punished by his father at school. “Something else struck me,” Mr. Lorayne told the Chicago Tribune in 1988.
In interviews and more than a dozen books, Mr. Lorayne shared examples of memory for work. For the French word for melons and pastes, he thought of playing cards: “Pass, to decorate; to decorate “Let’s say you wanted to remember the names of the Chinese rulers: Zhou, Ch’in, Han, Tang, Ming. Mr. Lorayne wrote that he was the first “prehistoric animal” (perhaps drinking Dinah tea).
“the animal turns to chow (or stands in the chow line); a chow bites its chin; it grows its chin in your hand; a huge hand crawls out of the tank (or says ‘thank you’); there it warns ‘you believe in the tank.’
He told The Washington Post that the mnemonic and word association have “nothing to do with intelligence, only memory.”
“Certainly,” he said, “I have made up for it.”
He earned the nickname “Yoda of memory.” Mr. Lorayne relied on decades of attention before the current wave of sportsmen and women who were putting on a better record for the career crowd. Advertisements for his books or courses, filling half the pages of newspapers in the 1960s, promised that he had turned the ordinary man into a “mind magician”.
Among various showbiz acts related to mental prowess, Mr. Lorayne is more like a trained artist compared to the sharper talents of mentalists and others who preach mind-reading talents.
“When I’m in mourning, it’s all about looking at emotions and reading emotions and reading emotions,” said the famous psychic known by his stage name, Mirus Kreskin. “Harry Lorayne, on the other hand, plays with the scientific methods that he has learned, if you want to be mechanical, but always with a lot of skill.”
Harry Ratzer was born on May 4, 1926, in Manhattan in a family that often clashed with his father to meet the clothing line.
After his father died, he left after his freshman year of high school to work odd jobs. His fascination with magic and tricks was always in the background.
It began in the 1940s and became Harry Lorayne after the middle name of his wife, Renée Lorraine Lefkowitz, whom he married in 1948 and became part of the show. At one gig in the early 1950s, the audience included an actor Victor Joryamateur magician (Jory would later appear in the 1962 film biopic of Helen Keller; “Making a miracle,” which led Oscar to Bancroft as Keller’s teacher).
At Jory’s table, Mr. Lorayne had run out of trick cards. His fallback was what he called “bottom-of-the-fall” stupidity: reciting an order of decorated paper after hearing it once. Stunned, Jory began to extol the memory of Mr. Lorayne.
“Well, that’s life changing,” Mr. Lorayne said. And the magic fell, and it was on the way to memory.
Mr. Lorayne was preceded in death by his wife in 2014. Survivors include Robert Lorayne; Elizabeth Lorayne’s daughter-in-law; and a niece, Genevefe Lorayne. Lorayne’s publicist, Skye Wentworth, confirmed the death but did not give a cause. Mr. Lorayne lived in Newburyport.
Well into his 90s, Mr. Lorayne was spinning interviews or stories from his career. Whether knowing it or twisting it into a joke, he peppered the comments with phrases like “if I remember well” and “if I remember.”
In 2021, he told a story about how one of his teachers was recording the questions and answers for class 10. “I’ll never forget this,” said Mr. Lorayne, meaning no pun intended.