|magazine had an ad for Westchester Parks and
recreation looking for talent to
perform in 40 shows for the summer. You
traveled all over upstate New York.
I decided to audition.
There was a long six foot table in an
empty room with three people with
clipboards. I set myself up and took a
deep breath and they just stared at me. I said,
"Please forgive me but I am a performer
who works for audiences. What I am
looking at now looks like a tribunal. It
would be so great if you could put your
pencils down and sit back and enjoy the show.
Then you can write your notes." They
look at each other like I was crazy. They
put their pencils down and pushed their
clipboards away. They watched my show
and actually applauded like an audience.
After the show they asked me to wait in
the hall. I thought I blew it but they
called me back in and asked, What's your availability
for the summer? I worked the entire summer sometimes
doing two or three shows a day. They even
gave me extra jobs on the weekend.
After the summer I put together a show
for schools called Believe in Yourself
which tells my story. And they were so
kind. They recommended me to the school
department. I wasn't just lucky. I worked
REALLY HARD to survive. Not bad for a
fourteen year old. These were the
best times of my life.
STEP RIGHT UP
After the school shows, what kept you
There was a guy named Tommy Laird.
He used to hang out at the NY
magic shops and find acts for this place
he put together (I think it was Theater
of Illusion) on 47th and Broadway. It
was just a doorway on the street and
you went downstairs into the basement
of the building. He had it set up with
different stages around the perimeter. It
was a sleazy place but that is what it was
supposed to be. I got to work with some
great people that taught me the ropes.
I remember Tisha Booty was the human pincushion.
There was also Congo the jungle creep.
He wore a leopard loincloth. He'd
have buckets of water and start yelling
at the ceiling, "Bruha come down from
there! He'd reach into the buckets and
pull out these wet rubber snakes scaring
the whole crowd. Then there was lady
Estelene who was a sword swallower. I
loved being there.
Were you doing escapes?
Oh no! I was just doing magic. The other
magician was this skinny kid named Chris
Capehart. Lou Lancaster worked there
too. The mind reader was a guy I had seen
in agents offices while I was doing the
go sees. His name was Dick Brookz.
I remember the place. It was across from
Tannen's. To be honest I never went in
there because it looked a little unsafe.
I thought it was beautiful. Everyone did
great acts and Tommy would pitch the
Magic Mouse. It was a perfect reproduc
ion of a sideshow. It has to be dirty, dank, and sleazy. I worked there to
learn how to work the crowds. I needed those chops to be able to handle any problem.
At this point, you started to make friends with other magicians?
Yes there was a gang that used to hang out at all the magic spots. If you needed something,
you'd go to Russ Delmars. If he didn't have it, you'd go to Mike Tannen's. If he didn't have it,
you'd go to Lou Tannen's. On Friday if you weren't working, you'd go to Tannen's. Whoever was
there, you'd go to dinner with them. Usually it was Frank Garcia, or Jeff McBride, or Presto.
All the fancy hotels would have happy hour between 4 and 7 where they would have cheap
drinks and a free food buffet. On Monday you would go to the St Regis, on Tuesday, the
Waldorf. We knew the whole schedule.
Is this around the time you got involved with the S.A.M?
I learned about the SAM from the guys in the magic shops. I went to the meetings and wanted
to become a member but they wouldn't let me.