Unsung Heroes

“What’s the story of the hidden daisies among the roses, 
and the stars which break at the dawn?”

– Saleem Sharma

Unsung Heroes
Larry Hass, Associate Dean

In the run up to magic convention season, I found myself observing how many familiar names were on the convention bills. Many of them are the same names we saw at last year’s conventions or the year before. Some of them will be the same at different conventions this year. And some of these people are familiar because they receive a lot of attention in the magazines.

This is terrific for these magicians, and I am delighted for their success and celebrity: it helps spread the word, get the bookings, and pay the bills. But I am also aware that the famous names in magic are a very thin slice of all the magicians who are out there performing excellent magic shows for non-magicians in real-world venues, night after night, week after week, year after year.

So as a gentle corrective to the “season of celebrity” I wanted to dedicate this Museletter to some of the unsung heroes in magic today. That is, talented magicians who are out there making excellent shows and who are unlikely to get much coverage in the echo chamber of our subculture. You might well know some of the names I’m about to mention, but it’s more likely you won’t. That’s part of the point and the fun!

To gather these names, I emailed a wisdom team of respected friends and advisors, asking for their recommendations. My approach was not scientific or systematic. I simply asked some people whose opinions I trust, and by no means do they canvas the country or the world. Also, I am severely limited in the space I have available here. This all means there are a lot of unsung heroes I have missed!

Let me also say that it wasn’t at all necessary for the performer to be connected with the Magic & Mystery School. Instead, the criteria I presented in my request were simply: 1) that the magicians should be performing excellent magic on a regular basis, and 2) that they haven’t yet received the kind of recognition in the magic subculture their work probably deserves. Despite these rather open criteria, I was amazed to see a number of these names appear on several replies. Tells you something!

Here they are, then, in alphabetical order; some unsung heroes performing magic in the world today:

  • Alfonso (Southern California): close-up and parlor magic
  • Jeff & Kimberly Bornstein (Los Angeles): corporate mentalism
  • Dennis Debondt (Chicago): comedy magic
  • Dan Fleshman (Vail and St. Louis): close-up and restaurant magic
  • Greg Gleason (Las Vegas and on cruises): illusions, close-up, and card magic
  • Geoffrey Grimes (north Texas): walk-around, close-up, family entertainment
  • Mark Haslan (Southern California): close-up card magic
  • Debbie Leifer (Atlanta): comedy magic
  • CJ May (Hartford): environmental magic
  • Eddie Medrano (Southern California): comedy magic, clowning, and circus
  • Erick Olson (Orlando): comedy magic
  • Roland Sarlot & Susan Eyed (Arizona): parlor, platform, illusions
  • “Baff-alo” Bill Smith (Atlanta): hospital, community, clowning
  • Steinar Thelen (Norway): parlor, platform, emcee
  • Phil Van Tee (Southern California): comedy magic
  • Arjan Van Vembde (Amsterdam): close-up and parlor magic
  • Tom Verner (cities all over the world): Magicians Without Borders
  • Jim Vines (New York): close-up magic
  • Woody Woet (Amsterdam): comedy magic

In closing, allow me to say what a deep personal pleasure it was to read and learn about these magicians and the very fine performance work they are doing. I hope that you, too, will take a little time to broaden your magic horizons by getting acquainted with them.

So, who have I missed? Who are your unsung heroes? Whether they are folks on my list or on your list, I encourage you to make a special point to go see them work next time you are in their area. If you enjoy their magic, let them know. Working in the trenches is challenging, and your good words can make a big difference. Also, spread the good word to others whenever you can.

Indeed, the world needs magic. And there are unsung heroes all over delivering it.

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