Person of the Week
The meaning of magic is bringing joy to others. As a kid it is about learning the tricks…. Now it’s more about the people. It’s not about me when I go to a table, it’s about making the evening great for the audience!
1. What led you to the mission of being a magician?
My career first started off as a hobby. I had this kid in my neighborhood that had a magic set. I went to his house one day and he said, “Hey. Could I show you some magic?” I was about fourteen or fifteen and I had never seen anything like that before. I thought, “Wow! That is pretty cool!” I ended up borrowing his magic set. The bug really bit me and I’ve been doing magic ever since!
As time went on, I saw more and more magicians on TV. I started working at a magic shop – Gene DeVoe’s Magic Den. The magic store was in downtown St. Louis and later moved to Maplewood. When I started working at the Magic Den, I found myself around magicians that came to town.
Gene DeVoe was my mentor. He took me under his wing and showed me the in’s and out’s of magic. He taught me about performing. Gene was instrumental in getting my magic show together. He was a very famous magician in his own right. He and his wife Trudy played Vaudeville. He was a prominent, competent, and well-known magician. He passed away in 1989 when he was 71.
I wrote about him in one of my very first books. I wrote the book Magician Tested Audience Approved: The Magic of Dan Fleshman and The Excellence of Danny Fleshman) (Dan also has a set of three DVD’s to showcase his close up magic routines.)
I kept pursuing magic, continued to practice, worked at performing, and attended conventions. When I graduated from high school, I thought, “This would be really fun to do full time!” I got into performing for a little while but got sidetracked. I started doing table side magic at the clubs when I was twenty-three and the owner asked me, “Hey would you be interested in going down to one of our clubs and trouble shoot for us?” I started managing comedy clubs for several years. I travelled throughout the Midwest opening and managing clubs for the next seven years. But then I got back into doing magic full time.
2. What does this mission mean to you?
The whole concept has changed over the years. It’s about the entertaining part. It isn’t about the magic tricks anymore. When you are a younger kid, you are learning about the moves, practicing a lot, figuring out new things. As a kid I’m glad I spent the time doing that – learning so many tricks. Now it has become more about the people as opposed to the magic. I leave my ego out of it now. I step aside and say, “It’s not about me when I go to a table, it’s about making the evening for the audience – as opposed to what can I get out of it.” I ask myself, “What can lend to the evening for the guests that come to the restaurant?”
I believe I have been given a gift. The meaning of magic is bringing the joy to others through the gift that I have been given. I get to share this gift with other people. At the same time I make my living at it.
3. What was your best day as a magician?
This may not be the answer that one would expect. My best day for me is when I got sober. I’m still in recovery – one day at a time. Trust me. I didn’t want to stop drinking. I hit rock bottom and ended up going to the hospital and going into treatment. It was one of those things that is a part of my story. In fact, we would not be talking if this had not happened.
This had an impact not only on the magic, but on my whole journey. As they say, it’s not the destination, it is the journey. When I was in treatment, I started listening to people rather than telling them how everything should be. I wasn’t a bad person. The problem was, my life was not getting good. Getting sober put me in a different mindset and everything changed. I did a one hundred and eighty degree change. I started looking at everything differently – the whole world differently.
My performances changed one hundred percent. My attitude changed. I had a change in the outlook of my life. By having that spiritual awakening, I started to look at things in a more positive way as opposed to negative. It had a huge impact on everything. Things started to get better. I thank God for this. I was given this gift that I almost threw away.
At first I was scared to death. It had been years since I had performed sober. I wasn’t stumbling over drunk, of course. I thought, “Wow, I haven’t done this kind of magic in a long time – without having something in me.” I just took it one day at a time and it was a slow process. There were a lot of people helping me. They were in my corner and I succeeded to live that good life.
4. What was your worst day as a magician?
Nothing ever failed during a performance — such as a trick not working. I don’t ever remember an embarrassing moment. I can remember something that happened when I was working at a restaurant. There was this little three-year-old girl running through the restaurant and there were no parents with her. I said, “I’ll watch where this kid goes and see if I can help out and get her to her parents.” The servers were falling over her.
The kid led me to the mother. I asked the mother, “Is this your child?” She said, “Yes it is.” I basically told her that the servers were almost falling over her. I was also concerned for the little girl’s safety. There was hot food and the possibility of strangers being around her. I explained this to the woman and asked her to keep the child at the table. I was really concerned that someone was going to pick this kid up and walk out of the restaurant with her.
But the problem was – she was not my kid and these customers frequently went to this restaurant. My actions got back to the manager and I lost my job. That was not a good day.
I told the manager what had happened. He asked, “What do you want to do?” I said, “I think it is best that I go home.” He agreed. The next day the general manager called me from the restaurant. I knew he was going to fire me. He wasn’t angry at all. He told me that they had had problems with this particular woman in the past. However, she knew the regional manager very well. She called the regional manager and had connections. I accepted the fact that I made a mistake and I was not asked back.
I do seminars for magicians. I have travelled all over the world and taught magicians. I teach about working in restaurants. My students are people who are especially interested in this skill of working in restaurants – close up magic. I tell them about that story. That was not something that I am proud of, but it happened.
5. How did you survive your worst day?
I had put my foot in my mouth! A friend told me, “Closed mouth gathers no foot!” I needed to think more before I spoke. I knew that I had made a mistake. I should have gotten the manager and explained what had gone on. He should have taken care of that situation.
My recommendation is to not have any expectations before the performance. Be accepting of all things that happen to you during the performance. Here is how this happens. If I start to have expectations of people, places, and things prior to doing something such as what the people are going to be like, what the setting is going to be like, what my show is going to be like, then the fear thing starts to set in.
The acceptance part is so big. I know that terrible things can happen to people. I wonder, “How can they get through that?” Whatever is going on in my life is miniscule compared to what is going on in someone else’s life. If I can keep that in mind, it starts my day off good. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen and it is OK. Life is going to go on and things will be fine. Everything happens for a reason.
Once doing magic gets in your blood, you never want to let it go. I’ve known people doing magic for thirty-five years and they are still into magic. They do magic as a hobby and go to magic conventions. But they might be a doctor or a lawyer or a fisherman in Alaska. Once it becomes a love, it becomes a part of you. You never really let go of it. It is always really there. So the key is education and practice, practice, practice.