The Early Days
When I first came to Florida to start my career as a professional Magician in January of 1990, I knew only one person, my dear friend Paul Fisher, with whom I shared my first apartment in Dallas and who now invited me to stay with him in his Miramar home until I got settled.
I had chosen Florida, naively thinking that I’d work on a cruise ship. During my first interview with a cruise line entertainment director, I was asked what my stage show was like. I replied that I was a Close-Up Magician and didn’t have a stage show. He had never heard of Close-Up Magic and was not interested in seeing or hearing more about it so… end of interview!
(Ironically, several years later I spent many highly-rated and successful summers performing on several different cruise lines… but that’s for another Blog!)
How was I going to make a living as a Magician?
Remember, this was in 1990, well before David Blane, Penn & Teller, AGT, etc. Close-Up Magic was not as popular, accepted nor understood as now; convincing owners to trust you with their clients was a groundbreaking endeavor…
The first thing I did was to try to get a gig performing in a restaurant. After almost two months of calling and visiting restaurants, I finally convinced two different restaurant owners to give me a try, and I got two gigs on the same day! One was at TGIF, performing table-to-table Close-Up Magic at their Sunday brunches for $75 and the other was at Stan’s Restaurant, an iconic steakhouse on the Intracoastal where my deal was $25 plus tips, plus dinner, no lobster.
The Next Step
Once I was established at Stan’s, I called local entertainment companies, party planners and booking agents and said, “I’m a professional Magician. I work at Stan’s. Please come in for dinner on me one of the nights I’m scheduled to perform and I’ll show you some Magic. Then you can hire me for your corporate events and high-end private parties.”
When I was on-board with several planners and agents, I called others and said, “I’m a professional Magician and I already get booked by these agencies. I’d like to see if we can work together. I’ll come into your office and show you and your booking agents what I do and then you can hire me for your high-end events.”
During this time, I would give out my business cards at my restaurant gigs, which by now included high-end South Beach establishments like Bang, Living Room, and at Balthazar’s in NYC. balthazarny.com
For the first year, I heard from no one… nothing! Then one day, the calls finally started coming in and soon I was getting inquiries regularly. Not every call led to a booking so I made it my business to do as many gigs as possible, realizing that the best way to get a gig was to have someone see me perform at an event that they were attending. I looked at every gig as an opportunity for more gigs!
After 4-5 years, I had to cancel my restaurant performances on a Friday here, a Saturday there, until I finally made the leap to the next level; I quit all my steady restaurant gigs and opened my schedule to be available for the private parties and corporate events that I was now booking.
That moment was almost as scary as the moment 5 years earlier, when I quit my last waiter job and looked up to the Universe, embracing the journey without hesitation – a journey that is now in its’ 30th year – a joyful career where I am not only known as a Close-Up Magician in Miami, and a Corporate Mentalist in NYC; I entertain folks across the country and around the world!
Close-Up Magic & Mentalism Today
I am proud to say I feel partly responsible, along with my contemporaries, that during those first decades, I assisted in creating a novel interest and acceptance for Close-Up Magic. So many people have enjoyed an uplifting experience with Magic that there is currently a renaissance of Magic and Mentalism, especially Close-Up Magic, with never before seen levels of exposure!