Just For Laughs - Novelties, Magic & Costume Rentals - 1983

Let's Roll !



Torrey Square Center

In 1978 I filed a DBA for the name "Just For Laughs".  It was my intention to someday open a novelty shop in NW Houston similar to Archie's Fun Shop located in downtown Houston, where I was going to buy magic tricks.

My friend Dick Schrum (see Real Equip) passed away in 1982 and left his wife and three kids with a small nest egg from a life insurance policy.  Barbara Schrum, Dick's wife, had been working at a costume rental shop and wanted to use the inheritance to open her own shop.  We agreed to combine the novelty gift and magic product lines with costume rentals under the name Just For Laughs.  We negotiated a lease on space in the Torrey Chase Shopping Center on Stuebner-Airline Drive (later changed to Veteran's Memorial Drive).  I built-out the space creating counters and wall displays and the children helped with the decorative painting.

We held a Grand Opening Festival on October 1, 1983, which included food, games and live entertainment:

Grand Opening Program
Grand Opening ProgramGrand Opening Program

A fellow magician, Ace Star, agreed to perform a straight jacket escape hanging from a burning piece of rope suspended 100' in the air from a crane.  He had done straight jacket escapes as a regular part of his street magic performances, but never suspended from a crane, something Houdini had done.  To top the Houdini feat, we added the burning rope.  I built the apparatus for the suspension and Ace went on to do this stunt at several other events.

Just for Laughs Grand OpeningAce Star Straight Jacket Escape

Inside the yellow and white tent we put on a variety of childrens shows.  For the occassion, I invented my comic magician character, "Presto".  The girls in the shop created the Presto costume for me and I would go on to entertain audiences as Presto - The World's Greatest Magician for the next decade.

Presto - The first show

Presto - BeginningPresto Beginning

One of the advertising gimmicks I employed in promoting Just for Laughs was this fake $20 bill.  When folded in half it looks like a genuine $20 bill folded in quarters.  On the inside was simply our advertising message, promoting the Just for Laughs store.  These were littered around in parking lots at shopping centers all over northwest Houston.  I didn't feel bad about littering because when I would drive by a half hour later, they were all gone . . . picked-up by people.

JFL $20 Advertising Gimmick

Another first, which came out of the Just For Laughs venture was my implementation of my TRS-80 Model I computer as a cash register and inventory control system for the store.  I wrote the software to enable us to manage the store with the use of this computer.  I helped operate the business for the first year and turned it over to Mrs. Schrum and her children while I went on to my next venture, which was the Houston Challenge Game development.


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Last updated May 11, 2012