First Impressions

You never know who you are really talking to. They could be a terrorist, or a great leader. Let me explain….

It started in Israel. A bomb had blown up in a tourist section of Jerusalem. Dozens of people were dead or injured and all of our major convention shows were cancelled. A young magician, born in Italy, now living in Budapest, named David, was in a challenging situation with the management of the convention due to the cancellation. I stepped in, helped him out a bit, and never thought about it again. That was over sixteen years ago.

I’ve recently returned from Budapest, Hungary. I was flown over, to a most elegant hotel, to perform my full evening show in a well-appointed theater for magic fans who had come to see me in my first show in their country. Why did I end up there? Because I happened to be kind to a young magician, sixteen years ago.

That magician is David Merlini, one of the top escape artists in the world, famous for his “Frozen in Ice” stunt, and “Inside of Concrete” escape. If you Google them, and you will be amazed at the amount of publicity David received on these stunts.

Well, most magicians start off from humble beginnings. When I first met David, I had no idea he would grow up to be one of the most famous escape artists of the new generation. Yes, he was skilled and had good ideas… but who knew? It got me thinking about how many times I’ve met young magicians who then go on to achieve major success.


  • I was standing in a hotel lobby in Austin, Texas, in the late 1990s, witnessing a couple of kids do some cool things with card fans and flourishes. We shared a few laughs and a few moves, and I never knew their names until years later, Dan and Dave.
  • I was in a late-night session with a couple of the insomniac kids in the lobby of the national IBM convention. We were trading moves and magic stories, and talking about what we loved and hated about the state of the art of magic. One of the kids said he wanted to write a book. I thought he was a bit young to be writing books. I didn’t know the tall kid’s name, but years later I found out it was Joshua Jay. He even wrote an article about our meeting in MAGIC Magazine.
  • I was backstage at a show in Vienna, just before the FISM in Den Haag, in 1986. I was giving some ideas to a young man, who was working with sunglasses, magic wands, and cards. The ideas I gave him are still in his act today. Topas went on to world-wide fame and fortune. Even at his young age, he gave me some ideas that I still use in my act!

I’ve learned that age is not really a factor in art. Many of the young people I have met have wonderfully progressive ideas and a strong magical vision of what magic can be.

“I’ve also learned, from my various encounters in meeting magicians, that you can only make a first impression once.”

Our friend Lance Burton shared a very important lesson with a group of our students at a recent Master Class. He said that when he looked back over his life, he didn’t think there was a single interaction with another person where he might have thought “you know, I could have been more unkind in that moment.” Lance reminds us that we can always consider being more kind in every interaction. One lesson I have learned from magic conventions is to surrender to the moment and not rush past fans and friends to get to “other business.”

I remember entering a dealer’s room at the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas, and being surrounded by cameras, fans and tv crews. This is to be expected at these media events, but I really wanted to push through this and get into the dealer’s room to see all of the cool new magic items. Then it hit me, why rush past friends and fans who I’ve worked so hard to cultivate and inspire with my magic, to go buy more magic tricks to impress more people to push past later? It all seemed so pointless and a vicious circle.

I decided, then and there, to surrender to the moment and be 100% present. Being in the public eye can be demanding and even physically exhausting. At the recent FISM in Beijing, China, it seemed that over 2,000 people had cameras and wanted multiple photos with every magic celebrity. It took me several hours just to get from one side of the main room to the other. There was also lots of pushing and pulling and crowding. Through it all, I remembered that I only have one time to make a good first impression, and that any show of impatience or discomfort could be interpreted as a personal rejection…. So I would tell myself to relax, to breathe and to enjoy these moments, because these are the moments I had been working towards.

Nothing is worse than seeing yourself in a photo with an expression on your face as if you’d rather not be there. I try to avoid taking photos with a negative expression on my face. Remember, my friends, facebook is forever.

These moments reminded me of times I’ve toured with major headliners like Diana Ross and Tom Jones, and how they have to hide themselves from the public, avoid encounters as they travel, and insulate themselves from the crowds and fans they have worked so hard to gain. It’s a bit of a paradox, is it not?

You never know, the fan you pose with for a Facebook photo today could be the next great magic star or opinion maker in the world of magic. I take the time and the energy to give each person individual attention. I hope when we meet, I can share that moment with you!

Powered by WordPress | Designed by Elegant Themes