Brian R. Gillis

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Brian R. Gillis

1946 - 2018

Brian R. Gillis Brian R. Gillis, world-renowned magician, 71, of Hollywood, California, passed away on July 2, 2018 at Torrance Memorial Hospital in Torrance, CA. Born in Niagara Falls, New York, he was the son of the late Roland Edwin and Evelyn Joan (Bosso) Gillis.
Brian was born and raised in Niagara Falls, attending and graduating from Niagara Falls High School, Niagara County Community College, and SUNY Brockport. After graduating, he worked briefly as a math teacher in Connecticut and North Junior High School in Niagara Falls. He also was an adjunct philosophy professor at NCCC. He co-founded Power City Motorcycle in 1969. Brian was legally blind in one eye, but overcame that handicap to become a world-renowned magician. He used his power of memorization to fool the DMV by memorizing the eye chart with his good eye and repeating the letters back when seeming to use his other eye.
Brian holds an unofficial record of memorization by being able to identify 76 people with their names after hearing each name only once in one evening. He appeared regularly on the NBC "Tonight Show" in the late 1980's and early 1990's under the billing of "Johnny Carson's favorite magician." He worked every Sunday with Jay Leno at The Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, CA. They shared a love of cars. As a prankster, Brian got a laugh out of driving and shopping at the Dollar Store in his Rolls Royce. He appeared and won on the Gong Show twice, billed as Mr. Toe Jangles, performing with his toes. Brian toured all over the world doing magic performances at famous venues, for world leaders and for major corporations.
He also performed at parties and held private shows for many celebrities and was dubbed the "magician to the stars," performing most notably for Paul McCartney and Muhammad Ali, amongst many, many others. Brian won the World Magic Award for being the best close-up magician competing against the world's best. Most recently, Brian was a regular performer at the famous Magic Castle in Hollywood California. After his death a Broken Wand Ceremony was held at the Magic Castle to honor his life. Many magicians spoke to a sell-out crowd about Brian and how he inspired and mentored them in their careers. A collage of photos assembled into one large frame of Brian and the hundreds of stars, politicians and other notable personalities he entertained is being permanently hung in the Magic Castle.
He was featured in an HBO Special, episodes of the Crime Channel to catch pick-pockets and multiple movies. His life and work were most recently profiled in the 2016 film "Magicians: Life in the Impossible" which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Aside from his love of magic and entertaining others, Brian will be remembered for his sense of humor, generosity, kindness, and his love of his family and his dogs.
Brian is survived by his brother, Gregory G. (Judith) Gillis; his nephew, Rodney Gillis; his niece, Monica (Michael) Haun; his great-niece, Matilda Haun; his great-nephew, Richard Hetherly; as well as several aunts, uncles and cousins.
Visitation will be held on Saturday, August 11th from 12-4 PM at the M.J. COLUCCI & SON NIAGARA FUNERAL CHAPEL, 2730 Military Road, Niagara Falls, NY 14304, where a funeral service will follow the visitation at 4 PM. Interment will be held at the convenience of the family in St. Joseph's Cemetery, Niagara Falls, NY.
Memorial offerings may be made to the Niagara County SPCA, 2100 Lockport Road, Niagara Falls, NY 14304. Visit for online condolences.
Published on August 8, 2018
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