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My Magical Life
As the years pass, I think more and more about some of the incredible things that have happened to me. It’s not too difficult, because everything has been the result of my continuing fascination with the wonderful art of magic. Not just performing magic, but learning, practicing, buying, selling, creating, writing about, marketing, and now teaching and lecturing about this magnificent, mystifying form of entertainment. For reasons I do not fully understand, the Gods of Magic have smiled on me and made my most fantastic dreams come true.
It's been quite a journey. My love of magic has taken Nani and me around the world, several network television series, a record-setting book and history-making performing tours of exotic lands. I’ve made everything from rabbits to elephants appear and vanish, been locked inside a tank filled with water and delighted when I escaped. We have performed my magic on the CBS, ABC and NBC television networks, on half a dozen one-hour magic specials and in many foreign countries. I’ve fooled folks in Madison Square Garden and the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway, in Albert Hall in London, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Ipanema Beach in Brazil, Red Square in Moscow, behind the Berlin Wall in East Germany and on the Great Wall of China. I’ve been magic instructor to many television and movie stars, and I never imagined Cary Grant, Johnny Carson, and Burt Reynolds would know me by my first name. My magic tricks were on millions of Kellogg’s Cereal boxes, bags of Fritos and sides of milk cartons.
Best of all, magic has given me a beautiful, talented wife, the lovely Nani Darnell; two incredible sons, Mike and Greg, and a great deal of satisfaction along the way.
My love affair with magic started when I was eight years old. My father was a salesman, and, as it happens, a very good salesman. We were staying for a week in a hotel in Indianapolis, and one afternoon, all by myself, I walked to a theater nearby which was presenting what to me was an entertainment bonanza – a feature film alternating with a live variety show. One of the half-dozen acts in the show was a magician named Tommy Martin. I don’t remember anything about what any of the other performers did, but I do remember just about everything in the seven or eight minutes Tommy Martin was on stage.
Tommy Martin wore a tuxedo. He wasn’t very old, was clean-shaven and pleasantly distinguished. I don’t remember his uttering a single word during his performance. First, he pulled a handkerchief out of his tuxedo breast pocket, snapped it once or twice, and from it produced a glass of wine. He drank the red liquid and then reached into the air and produced a number of silver dollars at his fingertips, which he dropped with a musical “ting,” one at a time, into the now empty wine glass. There followed a series of other tricks, highlighted by a piece of tissue paper he bounced on a fan that turned into a real egg, which he proved genuine by breaking it into the wine glass. WOW! Then he started magically producing playing cards from the air... then more and more cards appeared. For a terrific ending, a fountain of silk handkerchiefs amazingly appeared and, from the accumulation of colorful material, he unexpectedly produced a full-size birdcage with real birds inside. I had never seen anything like that before. It was magic, real magic, and I wanted to do that too.
As I walked back to the hotel, I passed a small shop, which had some magic tricks in the window. One was a book, Thurston's 50 New Card Tricks. I think it cost me 25 cents. As I continued my walk, I looked through the book and I could see pictures of the author, legendary magician Howard Thurston, producing cards from the air, just as I had seen Tommy Martin do only moments before. And there, right in the book, were instructions on exactly how to do it! Maybe I could learn to produce cards too. But wait a minute. My hands were too small for regular playing cards.
I was so impressed with Tommy Martin’s incredible presentation I could think of little else. I urged my Mom and Dad to come with me to the theater that evening. They agreed and took seats in the orchestra, halfway back from the stage apron. Now I could see if the magic explained in that little book was right. I sat as close to Tommy Martin’s miracles as I could, which was in the front row, to the far left (stage right). When Tommy Martin appeared, I studied him with all the intensity a boy of eight can muster. This time, when the playing cards started appearing at his fingertips, I could see he was holding them between his fingers, buckled behind his hand, which made them invisible to the audience, just as it showed in the book. Then with a wave, the cards would be pivoted to the front and they would appear at the ends of his slender fingers. Yes, that little book was right. That was when I discovered that knowing this miraculous revelation did not ruin the “magic” for me. Just the opposite, it made my curiosity and wonder even more intense.
I have often thought, if I hadn't seen Tommy Martin perform, where would I be today? The road of life has many curves, but now my future is now set. I was headed straight to the Wonderful World of Magic! In upcoming chapters, I will tell you more of what Magic has done to me and for me in the seven decades since I first saw my first incredible magic on that movie theater stage. Hopefully, what I have learned will be of help to you in your life, too.