Steve Dacri is very cool. I know it’s
not cool to say cool any more but it is the word that describes
him perfectly. Nothing fazes him. Well, not so that anyone
would notice. He is truly 100% professional. Jon Racherbaumer,
who is a mutual friend of ours, once told me that the true
essence of magic is a magician who possesses the ultimate
skill. What is the ultimate skill? Simply put, it is the ability
to disguise the technical skill within the performance. It
is the ability to cause an audience not just to suspend its
dis-belief but to totally become so wrapped up in watching
the performance that they forget it is a trick. Steve Dacri
can do that and does it excellently.
2003, I hung out with him and Jan and watched his flawless
performances every night for two weeks at The Orleans Hotel
& Casino in Vegas. Even though I knew what was coming
next he never failed to blow me away (and the rest of the
audience) each & every time. As you read through my interview
you will discover how he got the tag of “ the fastest
hands in magic” . The man who attributed that to him
knew about magic and magicians.
of us old enough to remember Lee Majors in ‘The Six
Million Dollar Man’ will remember that whenever they
wanted to show on screen that something was happening at super-speed
they used a great camera technique of actually slowing the
movement down. Watching Steve Dacri being the fastest hands
in magic is a similar experience. His hands move at immense
speed but no one ever notices because somehow he makes it
appear that they are moving normally.
seen quite a few excellent close-up magicians in my time and
even been a Close-Up judge. I can unequivocally state that
I’ve seen some of the best. Watching Steve Dacri is
an experience on a whole new level. His dedication to the
art and his wealth of experience is obvious within the first
few moments. As a Close-Up magician he is totally unique.
To the best of my knowledge, he is the only magician who does
a Torn Corner card effect using an entire set of drums. You
have to see this to believe it. His effects, his patter and
the effortless manner in which magic happens in his hands,
quite literally, right under the noses of the audience is
something to see.
an MIMC with Gold Star at the prestigious Magic Circle, is
a member of the IBM and SAM and has appeared at many conventions
over the years and does a knock-out lecture and workshop.
We have been buddies for quite a while and share a liking
for Martini’s, good cigars and fresh basil. And yes!
He does make great Martinis. I know!
Thanks for getting together with me Steve. I’ll shoot
you some questions and just feel free to answer them any way
you like. I’d like to begin by asking you the standard
cliché question….namely, How did you get started
As most will tell you, my beginning can be
traced to that Mandrake the Magician magic set. I remember
sitting at the kitchen table with my dad while he read through
the instructions, and I picked up the ball and vase, and within
minutes, I was fooling him with it. The Siberian chain escape,
cups and balls, my first set of sponge bunnies, I remember
them all vividly from that first set. Little did I know that
I would still be playing with those same toys at this stage
in my life
I was 6 (as Vernon said, I wasted my first
5 years) when my dad gave me a "Mandrake the Magician"
magic kit, and the curse has been with me ever since. I did
the ball and vase and sponge bunnies immediately and still
do those silly bunnies now as my opening bit here in Vegas.
(I walk into the crowd, front row center, and do it with 3
different spectators, ending with the big bunny before getting
back onto the stage and starting the formal show)
I was always fascinated with magic and the
reactions one gets from spectators, and being an only child,
I used my alone time to begin the practice process I still
I naturally watched magic on TV every chance I could, and
was hypnotized by a show called "Magic Land of Alakazam"
starring Mark Wilson...so much so that I would begin to teach
myself many of the tricks he did, including some of the illusions
which I made myself from boxes and wood...
moved to California in the 70's, Mark Wilson and I become
friends, and to this day, we talk often and discuss magic
and television aspects of it all the time.
What was the defining moment that made you turn professional?
Ironically, it was my first television appearance.
I say “ironically”, as I was petrified, and still
to this day recall the feeling of my legs shaking while standing
in front of the big camera under the hot studio lights. The
show was called “Ratherdo”, a children’s
show, and it was back in the days of live television. I kept
thinking that if something goes wrong, I’d be toast.
But when it was over, I remember standing on the set, looking
around, and a light bulb went off in my head. This is what
I want to do forever, I thought. Luckily, I got over the scared
part and now look forward to each and every appearance, on
television or on stage. From that moment on, I began shaping
my professional approach, from the marketing, selling and
advertising to the actual formation of specific performances
for every type of show.
You are credited with having the fastest hands in magic? Who
coined this description of you and how did it come about?
Christopher made the remark after a performance of mine in
New York City many lifetimes ago. Then a newspaper columnist
repeated it in an article on me, and it just stuck. Before
that, I used "The Master of Magic" as my title,
but after the fastest hands thing came out, I knew it was
a more suitable moniker.
You have appeared on many of the major TV talk shows in the
USA. Would you please share with us some of your most memorable
experiences on these shows?
With so many television appearances under
my belt, you can imagine that I have many, many fond memories.
Most of them involve working with some of the greatest names
in show business. I have been extremely lucky to have been
on TV with some true legends, and in almost every case, they
were all so accommodating and extremely fun to work with.
I recall the very first national TV show, with the one and
only Milton Berle. It was another live show, and it was a
lot of fun. Berle played the part of the perfect foil, doing
his best to make me look good, and sitting at a table with
him and the host, I fooled him badly, as he confirmed later.
It was an experience I will never forget. Even more fun for
me was AFTER the show, when we both sat in our dressing room
and he told me show business stories, we showed each other
card tricks, and talked about magic for almost three hours.
On another show, with Joey Bishop, I made him so frustrated
he kept yelling at me and telling the audience how angry I
was making him. It made for a great segment.
was the most enjoyable host to work with, and he had me on
his show seven times. Once, with Tony Curtis, we did magic
while seated at a table, and joked about Tony’s role
as Houdini. Before the show, I taught Tony Curtis a magic
trick that he later presented during our segment together.
When the segment ended, I was finished, and headed to my dressing
room. The director came to me and said that another guest
had not arrived, and would I like to do another segment. Of
course I said SURE and although I had not prepared anything
else, I ran to my dressing room, grabbed some coins and another
deck of cards and did another segment, with the adrenaline
TB: You are now one of the most sought after close-up/parlour
magicians but in the past you also got involved in some large
scale magic. I am thinking here about the time some years
ago when you performed Houdini’s Water Torture Escape
for a live TV audience…recount for us the events surrounding
that amazing performance….
As I have always focused on close-up magic,
but I have been known to present a large scale illusion show,
not something many magicians are aware of. I did that show
for a number of years at corporate events only, and still
occasionally have a client request some version of that show,
at which point I head over to Johnny Gaughan’s shop
and dig out the props and begin the rehearsal process again!
My publicist had been toying with the idea
of some sort of a “stunt” to create publicity…such
ideas as hanging from the top of a building upside down in
a straight jacket escape (not in your life) or “buried
alive” (I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid!) were
kicked around. I suggested, as a tribute to Houdini, a re-creation
of his famous Underwater Escape, to be presented on Hollywood
Boulevard, on the very star that Houdini has on the “Walk
of Fame”. I had no idea how to do the trick, but figured
it would be an easy thing to master (I love challenges!).
How wrong I was! I went to see Walter Gibson
at his home in upper state New York with a bottle of scotch
and a tape recorder. By the time it was empty (the bottle,
not the tape recorder) Walter had shown me the actual notebooks
that belonged to Houdini and discussed the method he used
to bring about this great escape. I then went to see Johnny
Gaughan, who built the tank, and began a seven week program
of practice and conditioning.
arranged that I would present the trick live on ABC television,
permits were secured for closing Hollywood Boulevard for an
hour, and a huge crane was erected on the sidewalk next to
the tank. I practiced the various elements of the trick, mainly
the holding my breath for two minutes part while chained to
a giant weight on the bottom of the tank. I never did the
trick until the night before, once, in the parking lot, with
the headlights of a few cars illuminating the tank. I nearly
passed out, had to come out long before I was supposed to,
it was a complete disaster.
The next day, I somehow pulled it off on television,
it went without a hitch, and the amount of press we received
was astounding. Within a few weeks, my agent called and said
he had an offer for me to repeat the trick, this time on the
stage of Radio City Music Hall. I was stunned, and although
I vowed to never get into the tank again, the money was too
good to pass up, as well as the opportunity to fulfil a childhood
dream of playing on that famous stage. I will never forget
the experience, as it almost ended in tragedy.
The Readers Digest version of the Radio City
Music Hall performance:
I was about to be lowered into the tank, hanging
upside down, swinging back and forth, looking out at 6,000
faces, memorizing the moment...then I was lowered to the top
of the tank, my hands just breaking the surface of the ICE
COLD water. It is at this point that the lowering stops and
I do my deep breathing before being lowered the rest of the
way into the water.
They wait for my signal. I take my final breath,
then yell "Now" and hold my breath. They lower me
in. Or they are supposed to.
For some reason, they resumed the lowering
thing, then stopped when my elbows hit the water and...they
just stopped unexpectedly. I was wondering what was going
on. I waited. Finally, when I realized they were not about
to continue, I let the air out...and at that very instant,
they resumed the lowering and before I could say SHIT...my
head and entire body was submerged into the tank.
I clearly remember hanging there, upside down,
wondering what the hell I was doing there...my Dad's voice
saying, "when are you going to get a real job"...and
knowing full well that I would never be able to last without
the needed air. Heck, I could barely do it with the deep breathing
thing before going in...but here I was getting locked in and
realizing I would probably pass out soon. I could just imagine
all my friends and audience members watching, and how they
would react when I did in fact pass out and have to be rescued.
I knew my agent was in the audience, and I remember thinking
"I hope he will still book me again"...
curtain is pulled up over the tank (about a minute) I have
the opportunity to bend upwards and sneak a bit of air from
the gap between the tank cover and the water surface...I did
that, but found they had overfilled the tank, so there was
Now I realized why I liked close-up magic
so much. No danger of dying.
I did my best to remain calm. Panic eats up
too much air. I hung there, and did all I could to free myself,
kicking, pushing, struggling, and attempting to not soil the
water I was in...
Without going into the secret details (I'd
have to kill you all) I managed to get out, but was so dis-oriented
that when I jumped down to the stage floor, (now standing
in the space between the tank and the curtain) I reached down,
pulled up the curtain and stood (barely) with arms outstretched,
waiting for the applause.
However, in my dizzy state, I didn't realize
that I was actually at the REAR of the tank, now facing the
very surprised orchestra, unseen by the audience. I quickly
slipped back under the curtain and wiggled my way to the front
of the tank, then reached down and pulled the curtain up to
reveal myself to the audience. Huge applause...I was so weak
I had a hard time walking, but I somehow did...to the edge
of the stage and bowed and drank up the applause and told
myself I would never do this stupid trick again!
I had to be taken to the hospital right after
my act, as my legs (ankles) looked as if they were broken
(they were not) but the audience had no idea I was in trouble.
part of the show? It was the most money I ever received for
a single performance ($25,000. US) plus $12,000 in costs and
travel...not exactly Lance Burton salary, but for me, it was
You number amongst your friends many movie stars and other
celebrities. One of them is Tippi Hendren who, some readers
will remember, was the female lead in a few Hitchcock movies
…if I remember correctly I believe it was ‘The
Birds’ and ‘Marnie’. A couple of years ago
you were involved in putting on some shows to help her animal
charity..tell us a little of this story….
I am always available when a charity event
for animals is happening, and Tippi has an amazing facility
in Northern California called Shambala, where endangered cats
are cared for and raised. Naturally, the place is always in
need of money to operate, so Tippi arranges these events to
raise awareness and funds. Irene Larsen, the wife of the late
Bill Larsen, Magic Castle founder (along with his brother
Milt), is also a huge animal lover and a great supporter of
organizations which cater to animals, so she usually arranges
a night at the Magic Castle, with much food and drink donated,
and many celebrities in attendance.
Irene always asks me to perform at these functions,
and I am always happy to oblige. On this one particular night,
after performing at a table for Linda Blair of “The
Exorcist” fame, I stepping over to the table where Tippi
Hedren was sitting. I performed a series of table tricks,
and ended with the production of one of my business cards.
I showed it on both sides, (the back is blank) then placed
it in Tippi’s hand. I asked her for an autograph, and
then said, “Thank you, that was fast”, and asked
her to turn the card over. When she did, her actual autograph
was there. She has a very distinctive signature, and always
draws little birds all around her signature, sort of a nod
to her most famous move role in “The Birds”. She
was completely blown away.
a couple of years prior to this event, I was hosting an event
at Universal Studios which honored horror movies and the stars
from many of them. At the reception afterward, Tippi was one
of the many stars in attendance, and I approached her, and
asked her for an autograph. I handed her my card, and she
signed it. So, here I was, entertaining at one of her parties,
and I knew she would not remember me, so I made sure I had
that autograph with me at the Castle, hoping I might have
the chance to use it in a trick for her. It was a great effect,
and quite surprising to her and her guests.
TB: In the world of magic you and I share many friends in
common and they all speak very highly of you regarding your
Sponge Ball effect. Personally, I have seen you do that effect
many times and yet I never tire of the grace and beauty that
you impart to the effect. I guess we can almost say that it
is the effect that you are most associated with…fill
in the background and tell us how this ended up in your act.
I always loved sleight of hand, from when
I was a little brat, first learning magic. The sponge balls
fascinated me. A retired magician, Henry Duncklee (a Ringling
Brothers magician and sign painter) whom I had met by accident
one day, gave me advice: stick with sleight of hand, you can
build a career on that, and nobody can ever take it away from
you, if you practice diligently.
He then showed me a large catalog, from Tannen’s, and
pointed out a few tricks that I should get: one was the Benson
Bowl, which I promptly ordered, along with the Audrey Walsh
Sponge Ball Book.
months with the book and that routine, which came with four
squares of sponge. Once I perfected it, I purchased a set
of sponge balls and made it a goal to get good with them,
and hopefully become the best at sponge ball magic. After
almost ten years of constant, daily practice, I finally began
to feel I had the expertise to begin showing them off. When
I started lessons with Tony Slydini, and later became friends
with Frank Garcia, I brought out my sponge balls and they
helped me refine my moves and expand upon my repertoire of
vanishes. I discovered that they each had their own unique
methods of vanishes, and that inspired me to further develop
my own original moves. I have been told I have the best vanish
in magic, and although I don’t believe that, I can say
that I have made a career out of those little circles of sponge.
You are just as well known for The Multiplying Rabbits …..how
did this come about?
Naturally, I am always looking for ways to
improve or enhance my act, and since I first learned how to
do sponge moves with a primitive set of sponge bunnies in
my first (Mandrake the Magician) magic set, I was eager to
develop an original way of presenting what many magicians
consider a throw away kids trick. When I created “Magic
Secrets”, the very first magic video program for the
general public that taught magic, I wanted to have a simple,
non-sleight of hand method for people to learn. I remember
shooting the instructional portion of that video at The Magic
Castle, and when we finished, there was a lull in the activity,
and I was sitting there at the table, waiting, and some of
the crew members were standing around, waiting to start shooting.
One of them said, “show us that trick again”.
I knew they all had just seen my explanation of the trick,
so I decided to have a bit of fun with them. I repeated the
trick for them, but in a different way, using sleight of hand
to vanish the bunnies, and then cause them to multiply in
their hands, again with a series of moves, rather than the
easy method we had just taped. They were, needless to say,
So, I have always been carrying a set of bunnies
around with me, for those special occasions when I might need
a quick trick, and over the years, I have developed a way
of doing them without the need to go to the pockets for the
extra bunnies. And my old friend, the late Irv Weiner used
to carve out a nice set of sponge bunnies from foam, and he
gave me a set which I still have, although they are now so
hard that they are impossible to use.
About four years ago, my friend Steve Goshman
brought me the first set of 3-D bunnies that he made, along
with the matching large one. I was VERY excited, as I always
have felt that the sponge bunnies, done properly are very
strong, and especially powerful with adults. The drawback
had always been that the little flat sponge bunnies didn’t
look like much, and so I rarely used them in a professional
setting. Suddenly, with the 3D bunnies from Goshman, all of
that changes. I developed a new routine using 5 little bunnies
and one giant bunny, and worked it into my shows in Vegas
for over a year, perfecting it, then writing out the routine,
and finally, filming it in front of many audiences, as well
as the teaching of it.
first lectured at The Magic Circle in London, I brought the
bunnies along, and they were an instant hit. For the next
two years, I did my first lecture tours, both in the UK and
in America, and the bunnies were a prominent part of my lecture.
I showed magicians that this could be a solid piece of entertainment
for all ages, particularly adults. It is a major part of my
act in Vegas, as a matter of fact, I walk into the crowd,
with camera following, and do them with 3 different spectators,
and it really sets the tone for the rest of the show.
Over the years you have lectured and held workshops. You were
invited twice to lecture at The Magic Circle. Tell us a little
about that experience.
A huge honor and thrill for me. I actually
lectured 3 times over a period of two years there, once with
my “Insider’s Workshop”, in the Devant Room
with only 8 people, which was a lot of fun, and twice on the
stage for the membership. It is hard to believe that they
would invite me to begin with, I just do tricks, you know?
I am very lucky, though, in that I had the great opportunity
to become friends and study with some of the true masters
of the world of magic, namely, Frank Garcia, Tony Slydini,
Albert Goshman, Charlie Miller and of course, Dai Vernon.
They patiently taught me the methods and techniques and nurtured
my skills, and without their kindness and efforts, I would
not be the performer that I am today. To be asked to share
with the members of The Magic Circle, this same knowledge,
is a passing on of the material, if you will.
clearly the excitement of those special nights, and I know
that, as silly as it may sound, Vernon and the others were
there with me, smiling down on those occasions. They had to
be. How else could I have pulled it off? The reception was
terrific, and in speaking with many afterward, it felt extremely
rewarding to know that many felt they were inspired to do
better magic and give more thought to their individual performances.
That’s really what it is all about.
Speaking of The Magic Circle, whilst you were in England you
did a lecture tour which you affectionately named ‘The
Fish & Chips Tour’. Share some of your memories
This was my very first lecture tour, aside
from a few sporadic lectures in the States, and I was very
excited about it. It began with a lecture in London for The
Magic Circle, and then hit 8 or 9 clubs in different cities
throughout England and Ireland. It was not very long, as I
was under contract to Caesars Palace, and only had 3 weeks
off. So Morley Budden arranged as many as he could in a very
short period. I drove from one end of the country to the other,
London one night, Winchester, Devon, Derby, Manchester, and
then off to Dublin. I can’t say enough about the hospitality
and the positive reception we received along the way, at each
and every stop.
When we arrived in Dublin, we were performing
on a Friday night, and spent the rest of the weekend with
our dear friends Ruairi and Salud O’Connor. After my
performance, the rest of the weekend was filled with parades,
fireworks and street celebrations. We thought it was in our
honor, until Ruari explained the real reason. Even though
it was May, the weekend was designated as “St. Patrick’s
Day” celebration, due to the fact that the actual date
in March was cancelled due to the mad cow disease scare. We
visited as many pubs as possible, in our quest for the perfect
pint, spreading magic along the way.
I was really surprised by the number of people
who were eager to see my lectures during this quick UK trip,
and I vowed to return, which I did the following year. On
the strength of the first tour, I was invited back to The
Magic Circle, and then on to 30 other magic societies in England,
Wales, and again back to Dublin. Jan and I will never forget
the trip, and neither will the car rental company, as we completely
wrecked a brand new Mercedes (we didn’t, the car wash
did!) along the way. As I have stated many times before, the
greatest part of the trip was the surprise honor of receiving
my MIMC with Gold Star onstage at The Magic Circle after my
third lecture there.
TB: Apart from being a professional magician you are
also a Drummer. During one of the British tours you ended
up in Liverpool at ‘The Cavern’ . You played drums
there…how did all that come about?
When I knew that I was lecturing in nearby
Manchester, my agent contacted the Cavern Club in Liverpool
to see if they would like to have a magician appear. They
were very happy to give it a try. They warned me, however,
that the crowds tend to get rowdy, and they did not know how
they would receive me. Well, I must say, within a few seconds,
the place went completely quiet, and they became totally absorbed
with my act. Very enthusiastic response, it was a most enjoyable
moment for me, to be on that historic stage.
After the show, while standing at the bar with the manager
and the band that was playing, we began to talk about music,
and I mentioned that I was a drummer. The band invited me
to sit in with them during their next set. THIS was the thrill
of a lifetime, let me tell you!
Luckily, Jan captured it all on video, as
we were shooting footage all throughout the tour, and at the
conclusion of my shows here in Vegas, we play the footage
of my drumming in Liverpool as the audience is leaving.
returned to Liverpool the following year, I was invited to
perform at The Cavern Club again, and this time, invited to
actually sign the famous wall on the stage. I am honored to
be the only magician who has ever appeared on the Cavern Club
stage, and also the only one to be invited to sign the wall.
If you ever get to Liverpool, check out the wall - my
signature appears just below The Beatles!
In recent years there has been one person who has been your
stalwart companion and support, your lovely wife Jan. It is
my pleasure to know Jan and she is a truly wonderful human
being. It is obvious to anyone who knows you both that she
is an integral part of your Life both professionally and personally
….share with us some of your experiences.
It is true, I could never have achieved all
that I have without Jan’s assistance in so many areas,
both creatively and otherwise. She is my toughest critic,
my biggest fan, and my loyal supporter. She is also a great
cameraperson, as is evidenced in the two programs we shot
while on tour “Fish & Chips Lecture Tour Video”
and “The Master Routines”…
people know how we met, or when, but it is a truly magical
story, which I will share. I was living in Boston, and on
a visit to California, was performing at The Magic Castle,
and Jan was in the audience with her soon-to-be husband. After
the show, Jan and Joel invited me to join them for a drink,
which I did. I was completely mesmerized by her, and when
we were sitting at the bar, and Joel was off watching another
show, I asked her to marry me instead of her boyfriend. She
laughed. She married the other guy. We remained friends, and
I even was asked to be the godfather to her son, Brent. Fast
forward about 15 years, and I was once again single, and so
was Jan. I asked her again, this time she said yes, and we
have been together ever since.
It was a great pleasure for my wife, my son and I to hang
with you and Jan for a couple of weeks in Las Vegas in August
2003 when you had just opened at Brendan’s at The Orleans
Hotel & Casino. It was the first weeks of The Xtreme Close-Up
Magic show. Later the show moved from Brendan’s to Sazio’s
next door. Talk us a little about those early months.
When The Orleans Hotel & Casino first
contracted us to present the show in their hotel, they suggested
Brendan’s Irish Pub for the location. I checked the
place out, a large, elegant pub with 17 TV screens all around
the place, and I figured it would be the perfect place to
present close-up magic with a roving camera beaming my hands
up onto the many TV screens around the room. What I did not
anticipate was the noise level - the place has a very large
bar, imbedded in the bar along the back of the room are video
poker machines - which means that guests will be playing the
machines during my entire act. Also, although the hotel initially
told us and advertised the show as a family-friendly affair,
on opening night we were told that people under the age of
21 would not be allowed to attend. This meant refunding many
tickets every night. It also meant that some folks were disturbed
by the noise that continued at the bar during my shows.
After three shows, I immediately knew we were
going to be constantly engaged in a battle with the bar patrons,
and although I was able to quiet down the place within a few
minutes, it was too much trouble. We spoke to the hotel and
they offered another location, next door, in the function
room of the very popular “Sazio” restaurant. This
place was heaven compared to the noisy pub, plus it offered
the added element of food.
The show became a dinner show, with a strolling
guest magician during the meal, followed by a “special
guest” magician from the Vegas area, and a guest magician
(usually from The Magic Circle) who went on as the deserts
were being served. I would then go on, do about 45 minutes
in a quiet, intimate environment. Better, but not perfect.
The room was too sterile, so we decorated it with magic posters,
magic props and candles, plus added two large video monitors
on either side of the stage to handle the video camera feed.
It took some work to get the room rocking, but we were grateful
to be there, and while there, we were able to create a lot
of word of mouth and generate fabulous press coverage, which
led us to a new hotel on the Strip.
We moved into the Flamingo Hotel next, on
the Las Vegas Strip, (across from Caesars Palace, where I
had worked for nearly six years previously), into a real live
theatre called O’Shea’s, which held 150 people,
with video screens, and perfect acoustics. We did the show
there for 3 months, then the hotel gave us notice that they
were going to close the showroom and turn it into a bingo
hall. Just what Vegas needs, right?
now in negotiations with another hotel on the strip, the Imperial
Palace (right next to the Flamingo Hilton), which will l be
the new location for Xtreme Close-up Magic. We are very excited
about this, and anxious to continue the show here in Las Vegas.
I mentioned earlier that you have many well-know friends but
you often refer to one in particular with great respect and
affection. I am of course, referring to a living legend of
magic, the one and only, the great Carl Ballantine …tell
us about your friendship ……
Like so many others in the magic world, I
was a fan of The Amazing Ballantine since I was a little boy.
I enjoyed his performances on the Ed Sullivan Show, and also
his great acting work on “McCale’s Navy”.
Back in the mid-eighties, I had the honor of appearing on
a show with Carl, at the Tannen’s Jubilee where he was
the special guest. We met backstage, struck up a conversation,
and instantly connected on many levels. We became friends
from that weekend, and remain such to this day.
Carl and I go to the race track together a
lot, he has taught me many systems for winning, and we spend
endless hours laughing, talking about magic, smoking good
cigars, and solving all of the world’s problems. He
is a great cook, and when we are in town, we share many meals
together, both at his house, and at ours, where I try to outdo
him with my recipes.
He is a constant source of inspiration, he
offers advice and comments about my show, he always attends
my performances at the Magic Castle, and he has generously
given me many priceless bits that are now a part of my act.
honor for me was to get Carl into The Magic Circle, and work
with him to present a special lecture. Although illness prevented
him from accompanying me to London to present this lecture,
we did present it at the IBM convention in San Diego a few
years ago, and it was easily one of the highlights of the
great convention. Carl is probably the funniest person I know.
He is always funny, has a natural sense of humor and knows
more jokes than anyone on the planet. Jan and I are blessed
to have Carl in our lives. He is part of our family, and we
a part of his. I could never fully thank him for all of his
support and love. I only hope I have half as much energy and
talent when I am his age.
TB: Since July 2003 you were back in Vegas having
fun and starring in ‘Xtreme Close-Up Magic’ at
The Orleans Hotel & Casino but this is not your first
time performing in Vegas is it? You were at Caesar’s
Palace for many years. Share some memories with us of those
-performed in Las Vegas a long, long time ago, at the
now-departed Thunderbird Hotel and Casino, in the lounge,
presenting a type of close-up/stage magic that could be described
as “Parlour Magic”. Shortly after, I opened for
Tom Jones at Caesars Palace with a stage act, then over the
ensuing years, as an opening act for other celebrities, including
Bob Hope, Wayne Newton, Charo, Tony Orlando and many others.
It wasn’t until Caesars opened Caesars Magical Empire
that I got the chance to present close-up magic in Vegas,
in a showroom designed specifically for this type of magic.
After 6 years of this, and I can tell you that the Secret
Pagoda Showrroom was my absolute favourite place to play in
Vegas (with 75 seats, camera assisting the performance and
the best audiences anyone could possibly imagine), I was hopeful
that the door would finally be open to bring close-up magic
the kind of focus and attention it deserved for the general
public. I would do five shows a night, five nights a week,
for eight weeks at a time. Then it would be off for a month
or two, followed by another eight weeks. I never tired of
it. David Copperfield stopped by to see me there, as did many
of the local magicians and entertainers. The weeks flew by,
and It took a couple of years, but finally, we were contracted
by the Orleans Hotel and Casino to present “Xtreme Close-up
Magic” there for six months, and the show was enthusiastically
received but the public and the media. That led to a 3 month
contract on the Strip, in the Flamingo Hotel, (O’Shea’s
Theatre), and more fabulous reviews and critical reception.
just presented the show in a new hotel, the Imperial Palace,
and I can happily say that “Xtreme Close-up Magic”
will soon be opening there (in October), so that visitors
to Vegas can continue to enjoy close-up magic along with the
other fine examples of traditional stage magic here.
For anyone who has seen you perform it becomes immediately
obvious that you have a deep rooted passion for magic and
for performing. You tend to favour a kind of intimate form
of Close-Up magic …tell us how this evolved into the
kind of act you are doing today …..
Ever since I first discovered a love of magic,
I was fascinated with the fine art of sleight of hand, and
in particular, close-up magic. Milbourne Christopher and others,
like Frank Garcia and Tony Slydini, early on, urged me to
focus on close-up magic, even though the obstacles to earning
a living with this type of magic were huge. They all told
me that if I did it well enough, I could earn a huge living
with it. And they were right!
the reactions I get from working in such a close-up setting,
with the audience members close enough to touch the props.
It is a great thrill, and every audience adds to that thrill.
To be in a position to finally be able to place close-up magic
on the map, and make it a permanent part of the Las Vegas
scene in most exciting and rewarding, not only for me, but
for audience and for future magicians as well.
There are many magicians around today and they all, to a greater
or lesser extent, do tricks moderately well …but there
are those like yourself who also focus on Presentation and
Performance. What advice would you give to other magicians
about Presentation & Performance.
There is no other element of an act that is
more important that these two things. Presentation consists
not only of the flawless execution of a sleight or series
of moves, but the proper blending of those moves with the
personality of the performer. Unless the whole package is
perfect, the act will never reach the heights of success that
the real workers attain. It is really more important than
the skill level of a person in the execution of a trick or
routine. The personality, the connection with the audience,
the likeability factor of the entertainer, these are the components
that separate the men from the boys, the amateurs and semi-pro’s
from the real professionals, the small percentage of those
performers who consistently make the big bucks, and exist
in the top percentage of entertainers branded as the best
of the best.
You must spend as much time, or even more, on the development
of a stage persona and the “packaging” of the
act components with the personality and method of presentation.
As Bob Hope once told me, “You have 30 seconds for the
audience to fall in love with you. If they don’t, you
will fail, no matter how well you present your talents.”.
my onstage persona and presentation over time, and by going
on stage without props, as a way of finding my strengths and
character elements that would assist me in connecting with
my audiences. There is no shortcut to developing these skills.
Spend a much time as possible refining and practicing these
skills until you are clear on your stage personna and how
to connect with your audience.
You are now a highly experienced and a seasoned Pro. However,
it was not always like that especially when you started out.
Knowing what you know today and with the benefit of hindsight
what advice would you give to magicians starting out?
One of the most important pieces of advice
I received early on was from Tommy Tucker, of Tommy Tucker
and Liz fame. When I first was visiting magic clubs and practicing
for eight hours a day, wondering how I would become a professional
and make a living at this, I asked Tommy what advice he would
give me to get me going in the direction of making a career
out of magic, he told me, “Take every job possible.
Perform at every chance. In every venue. Don’t pass
up a job, no matter what the pay or circumstance.”
I listened, I worked everywhere, in every
possible venue, and did so for many, many years. The result
is that I got so much experience working in front of real
audiences, and that alone was one of the key factors in preparing
me for a career in magic. I cannot stress enough, the importance
of working in front of paying people, in so many different
types of venues. It gives you the all-important experience
of thinking on your feet and sensing the reactions and mood
of the people you are in front of.
I would also offer the following: Too many performers or would-be
performers are impatient, and feel they are ready to make
it happen in front of paying people, long before they really
are ready. Nothing sinks a career faster than presenting a
poorly prepared show, a performance that is not flawless in
every sense. People judge you on each and every show you do.
There is no room for error. No excuse for a lack of perfection.
A true professional NEVER makes a mistake in front of an audience.
NEVER present a show or effect until it is completely perfect.
No matter how long it takes. WAIT until you can do everything
in you act perfectly, or else you will find yourself in a
hole that you will never fully climb out of.
Thanks Steve it has been a real pleasure hanging out and conversing
with you ..and the Martini’s are pretty good too!!!
Likewise,Tony. Sorry I can’t share the
martini recipe. That is a secret, known only to Terry Seabrooke
Tony Brook is the Director of International
Operations and a Founding Member of the Panel of Magic Advisors
for Magic Web Channel, as well as an acclaimed performer,
producer and writer. He lives in Portugal.
Check out Previous Tony Brook InConversationWith columns:
Walter Zaney Blaney
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