When I was about 7 years old my grandmother (although my mother claims it was she) asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Because I always heard my deceased grand father was an accomplished musician (among other things) and had during my embryonic stage wished for me to be in his band with "The Royal Hawaiians"; I said "musician". She thought I said magician and bought me a magic kit for Christmas.
So it was by accident that I became involved in magic. It turned out that I had a knack for performing and it wasn't long before I was making money performing at birthday parties, bat mitzvahs, PCTA meetings and boy scout functions. My mother was instrumental in helping me make costumes and marketing myself. I attended the world renown Tannen Magic Camp and placed first in their competition as The Trickster. Jeff McBride was one of the judges for the event. I began attending and performing at magic conventions in the tri-sate area and was introduced to The Amazing Randi by William Gallagher backstage after one of my performances.
Let me take a moment to explain. The Amazing Randi was one of my idols. Houdini,
Blackstone, Thurston and Randi posters littered my bedroom wall. I was meeting the greatest living magician in the world and I hadn't even turned 15 years of age. Randi gave me compliments on my act and then offered some advice on how to improve it. This turned into an on going relationship that culminated into an apprenticeship. I was eventually brought in by Alexus Vallejo (Randi's assistant and protege) to live and study at his residence in Rumson New Jersey. Alexus and I became friends due to our mutual interest in producing music.
Randi's house in Rumson was like a museum of oddities. The tudor style house had a huge cathedral like ceiling that was adorned with a huge blood red velvet curtain that covered a mammoth stained glass window. There were also two parrots Wasquar and Fred, and a black cat of course who's name escapes me. I was fortunate to have been exposed to many of Randi's distinguished guests. It was not uncommon for Randi to be on the phone chatting with Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov or Johnny Carson. [picture Jerry Andrus one of my favorite guests of Randi]
A popular feature of the house was the front doorway entrance. The door was over sized with arched corners very much like an old castle. The peculiar thing about the door was the doorknob was on the wrong side. That is to say the door knob and the hinges where on the same side of the door. The effect was strange because as you expected your host to greet you on one side but he appears on the other. If you weren't paying attention it could really be off-setting. It was really cool.
Other features of the house included a hidden bookcase doorway that opened by magical means. A music studio in the basement along with a workshop. In the attic was a darkroom and Alexus's room where he and I spent many an adolescent hour doing things we weren't supposed to do. Youth is wasted on the young indeed.
My course of study was high school, ballet practice, mime and magic practice and endless impromptu lessons on a plethora of disciplines; science, math, classical music, photography, videography, history and of course magic.
to be continued...