Chan Canasta Letters

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While working at Mayo & Associates, Bocian befriended Chan Canasta, a mentalist and TV celebrity magician, known from appearances on the Ed Sullivan, Arlene Francis, and Jack Paar shows. In a series of letters, Bocian explained to Canasta the origins of his involvement in New York’s Chinatown. As a veteran PR man, Bocian never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Chan Canasta photo: Getty Images

Letter to Chan Canasta dated March 17, 1972


"For the past year I have been doing a lot of work in New York’s Chinatown. Helping the various cultural groups. I’ve become something of an expert in Chinese affairs. I know more Chinese groups than the average Chinese in New York. It’s simple. I think Jewish. There are Fifth Ave, Park Ave, West Side, Uptown, Westchester Jews. The same for Chinese. The Fifth Ave Chinese don’t talk to the ‘downtown’ Chinese. Just like the Uptown Jews don’t talk to the Lower east Side Jews. Then there’s French, Spanish, Polish, Russian, Italian,, [sic] etc Jews who all feel superior to each other. So there is Peking, Chang King, Shanghai, Singapore, Canton etc who feel superior or inferior to each other. Anyway this is the first time that ‘downtown’ New York Chinese had a professional Press Agent helping them.”

Letter from Chan Canasta to Bocian dated December 17, 1965


Letter to Chan Canasta dated May 4, 1976


"I got involved with Chinatown when a theater owner asked me to get some publicity for an unknown actor in a movie Fist of Fury... I did such a good job that it started the avalanche of kung fu movies in the U.S. ...The theater owner also owned this paper and that is how I am here.”


“I have become involved in the past few years with the Chinese community. So now I have become an expert in ‘Downtown’ Chinatown politics...In the meantime I have been studying the Chinese history and manners. They think I’m part Chinese. I tell them I was born in K’ai Feng so they can understand why a Jew is helping the Chinese. K’ai Feng was a capitol [sic] of China in the 11th century when it had a large Jewish colony. The Jews had been there since then...”

Letter from Chan Canasta to Bocian dated May 6, 1976