I first talked about my performances for the Mario Lemieux Foundation, and how important it was to me in this post.
After the 18th hole and the days round was finished, the players would slowly gather four by four in the clubhouse. The only ones in there beside the players were the staff and me.
After entertaining for several hours, I had gathered a collection of cards that were stuck to the ceiling of the clubhouse, and the manager looked up and noticed the four signed cards : Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Recci, and Lynn Swann!
He took the cards down, framed them , and then put them back up on the ceiling in exactly the spots they had been in!
Please pardon theses these slightly blurred photos.
Working on cruise ships has afforded me the special opportunity to see and visit parts of the world I otherwise may never have!
Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Hawaii, the Caribbean, the French Riviera, the Mexican Riviera, The Amazon, Venice, Europe, and a host of other destinations have all been the sights of my performances and adventures!
I was able to swim with dolphins in Cozumel, cuddle with stingrays in the Caymans and fulfilled one of my life dreams, to catch King Salmon and Halibut in Alaska, which I did while performing on board Regents’ ship, Seven Seas Mariner, for the summer season.
I spent the majority of my time at sea entertaining on two Major Cruise Lines, Regent and Oceania.
I have also provided world-class entertainment on Silver Seas, Crystal, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Celebrity.
As the highest rated entertainer each summer I worked for Regent and Oceania, I was asked back season after season, culminating in a four month contract to entertain on the inaugural voyage of Oceania’s “Riviera”.
Working practically every evening during that tour allowed me to further hone my skills as a close-up magician, and as I strolled among the passengers in the bars and lounges I built up excitement and anticipation for my weekly stage presentations in the main theater – which created a sold out venue for my Mentalism Show!
I was able to further refine and shape my Mentalism Stage Show as these constant performances gave me a greater understanding of not only exactly what worked but also how to seamlessly interact with a full production crew- and these ships were equipped with the latest in theatrical technology!
All these skills have translated to my corporate and private shows, where I’m a Magician & Mentalist in Ft Lauderdale, and I also do Mentalism in Miami and NYC, as well as across the United States, and these shows now take up the bulk of my career.
Thank you Michael Day, Brett Bullock, Jan Stenning and others, for trusting me to entertain for all those years onboard your fine ships!
On the ship I often worked close-up in the lounges, and here a group of passengers is about to see my unique version of card to ceiling
It was while performing for the Mario Lemieux Foundation Celebrity Golf Tournament that I had the pleasure and honor of performing for three gentlemen whose careers represented the very pinnacle of their respective sports when they played: Mario Lemieux, in his prime, arguably the best hockey player ever; Johnny Bench, perhaps the best catcher ever to play baseball; and Michael Jordan, well there is no argument, the best basketball player ever. These three greats all signed cards that appeared unexpectedly, some said impossibly, in a sealed envelope, in a zippered compartment of my wallet! To see the full collection of cards that have also made that unique journey, please click this link.
I was honored to be asked back by Mario the next year to perform, to again be able to contribute to the success of this great cause.
The Mario Lemieux Foundation was created in 1993. In that year, Mario was enjoying the greatest season of his brilliant career and on pace to establish a new NHL scoring record. Then he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease.
For me, Mario’s story goes to show the fragility of life, and also the will to persevere, and in turn to help others; just as I love to share my magic with others, to give them a glimpse that says the impossible is possible!
I had the pleasure of performing for the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass during their annual collectors trip to Tacoma and Seattle, where they also visited the home of Dale Chihuly, the foremost glass sculptor of our time.
Coincidentally I performed for Dale on several occasions in Florida, and here is a photo from one of them.
I entertained all 95 collectors at the Tacoma Art Museum with my stand up Mentalism Show, “Extraordinary Moments “.
I was thrilled to receive a standing ovation!
I had a chance to visit the Seattle Space Needle, awesome views of the city and the Bay!
The views from my hotel room of the Space Needle at night:
I had the great honor to perform at the Kravis Center 25th Anniversary Tribute to its Volunteers, where I performed my Mentalism Show to a crowd of over 500 guests! As a Mentalist in Miami, I always enjoy the ride to Palm Beach to share my art! Continue reading →
As a fan of stand up through the ‘80s comedy boom and the show America’s Got Talent, I was ecstatic to meet Howie Mandel at a recent Young Presidents Organization soirée in Miami. Hosted at the LIV Nightclub in the lavish Fontainebleau Resort on Miami Beach, the YPO event was an exclusive evening for helping successful vineyard executives network and get inspired by various speakers.
In traffic, stopping and starting, it became instantly apparent that the best time for Magic was going to be when we got on the highway; at one point we had some unexpected extra viewers when a city bus passed and several of its passengers watched as a card rose from the hand of one my volunteers!
Putting together 12 Magicians and having everything run smoothly was something I wasn’t often asked to do. To have pulled it off so successfully; well, I was proud of that! The professionalism of all the Magicians I hired shone through as each one of them got rave reviews when the buses completed their journeys and the passengers emerged smiling.
Performing Magic on a moving bus, although unique, was not the only transport vehicle I’ve performed in…
Magic in the Air
I was hired by Carnival Airlines https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnival_Air_Lines (yes, there was a Carnival Airlines!) to do “Magic in the Air” as part of a publicity campaign on flights from Florida to NYC and back, during the Christmas holidays.
Once the airplane had leveled out, I slowly walked down the aisle, performing Strolling Close-Up Magic for three or four rows at a time, lingering at more receptive areas. I would make a second pass through the plane later on, and invariably the passengers who missed me the first time would stop me this time, wanting to see what so many others were laughing and applauding at!
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
I’m pleased to have a roster of “Transportation Performances” performing aboard cruise ships of all sizes, on private yachts, on the Tri Rail, in private limousines, from within the Todd Tongen Taxi, and I’m proud to include the Delightful Dozen bus excursion and holiday airplane performances too.
I’m always glad when my clients just can’t get enough Close-Up Magic & Mentalism and ask me to work in unusual conditions!
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!
As a Close-Up Magician, https://www.magicbymio.com/videos/ I never imagined myself performing Stage Magic. As a kid, a Stage Magician was someone who cut ladies in half and restored them, or had dancing ladies that turned into tigers that disappeared in a huge cage, or like Richiardi The Great, https://geniimagazine.com/wiki/index.php?title=Richiardi_Jr. who, in his grand finale’, would have a woman’s bloody entrails spilling out onto the stage as he invited spectators to file past and witness the carnage that his buzz saw had wrecked upon his lovely assistant who lay motionless and eviscerated before them; a spectacle that few who witnessed ever forgot!
That was something I never thought I’d be.
When I realized that Stage Magic wasn’t the only option and discovered Close-Up Magic as a legitimate, although highly difficult, way to make a living as a Magician, I devoted myself to becoming a full time Close-Up Magician!
Stephen Bargatze & Mac King
One day, after 12 years of making a living exclusively at my art, I found myself on a flight to Phoenix to entertain Mario Andretti and other celebrities at a charity golf tournament. I noticed that the passenger right next to me was reading Magic Magazine, which at the time was a top trade publication for Magicians. I started a conversation:
“I noticed you’re reading Magic Magazine. Are you a Magician?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“Are you a Close-Up Magician or a Stage Magician?” I asked.
“It’s almost impossible to make a living as a Close-Up Magician. I do Stage Magic. What do you do for a living?“, he asked.
“Close-Up Magic!” I revealed and we hit it off tremendously!
His name was Stephen Bargatze. https://www.magicofstephen.com/ When our mutual gigs in Phoenix were done that day, Stephen invited me to take a quick side trip to Las Vegas to see his friend Mac Kinghttps://www.mackingshow.com/ perform and Stephen brought me backstage to meet Mac. Watching Stephen and Mac perform – two of the funniest stage performers in any genre – was a complete pleasure as well as a fantastic example of what was possible and what to strive for!
The entire experience was amazing and I was proud that I was a full time Close-Up Magician!
It was with trepidation, albeit with lots of excitement, that after several years of Close-Up, I took my first stab at a Stage performance; the picture is of me floating a crumpled paper ball before it became a rose, in a flash, at Roses Bar on South Beach. My Show went well and I started getting more requests to do something for everyone after my Close-Up set, so I decided it was time to expand and include the Stage Show aspect of my craft.
Since I had always incorporated Mentalism in my Close-Up, it was natural that Mentalism was the direction I chose when I began performing a short Show, usually at the end of the evening, during my Corporate and Private events.
Regent and Oceania Cruises
The real turning point came in 2007, after two years of performing daily as a headliner – the only headliner not on stage! – on the luxury liners of Regent and Oceania Cruises. https://www.rssc.com/ I was performing Close-Up exclusively, strolling throughout the bars, lounges and public spaces on board and receiving rave reviews from the passengers. It was then that I was asked to add a 45-minute show once per week. I told the Entertainment Director about my show; although it had no dancing ladies and tigers, it was an audience participation experience that amazed in ways that were subtle yet just as impactful. They tried my Mentalism Showhttps://www.magicbymio.com/mentalism/ and got great reviews!
So that combination, performing Strolling Close-Up Magic in the bars, lounges and public spaces for 5-6 days, followed by a Mentalism Show in the 500-seat theater at the end of the week, continued for the next several seasons on board! I added sound cues and lighting effects and in the beautiful, state-of-the-art theaters on the ships, my Mentalism Show took shape and grew into what is now a full evening presentation at private events as well as in public theaters around the country!