How I Got Started in Magic


My interest in magic started back in the late 60s. While my father and I were watching television, we saw an advertisement for “TV Magic Cards.” The trick blew me away, and I was hooked. Later on, I saw a fellow at the county fair selling the “Svengali Deck” of cards. As he performs, I realize this is just like the TV Magic Cards – must have watched the guy for two hours straight! I finally bought one of those decks, and have been in love with magic ever since.


Not too long after that, a television series called “The Magician” starring Bill Bixby aired. Much to my disappointment, this show ended after only 23 episodes, but it was a blast while it lasted. During this same time, Mark Wilson had his series of television specials called “The Magic Circus.” I was on magic overload by this point in time.


In 1975 my father passed on. He had always encouraged me to pursue magic, and now I was on my own. I had worked up a pretty good repertoire of magic, spending most of my Friday and Saturday nights at a nightclub in San Francisco called “The Magic Cellar” where I became acquainted with professional magicians – Slydini, Albert Goshman and Martin Lewis to name a few. I also got to know a gentleman named Vic Kirk, who later became a close friend and mentor.


I spent all my spare time pouring over magic books, and in those days there wasn't video tape, internet or anything like the resources we have today. Only the occasional television special. Fortunately, people like Dick Cavett, Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas all had shows with time devoted to magicians. That's where I saw performers like Dai Vernon, Derek Dingle and a bunch of others too long to list here.


Later in 1975, I went on a cross country trip. While stopped in Dallas, Texas, I visited a small nightclub where a magician named Derek Dingle was performing. Derek was, and still is, another legendary figure in the world of magic. I was lucky to have spent the afternoon with him, and for about three hours I saw some of the greatest card magic in the world. That was a pivotal moment for me, and from that point on, card magic was my greatest interest.


To be continued...


a Brief Interlude with Magician Timothy James 

A short film with Magician Timothy James filmed this last weekend!


How did he know that?

You'll be asking yourself just that this weekend after you meet our headliner Doug Kevilus. This mentalist is a club favorite, and you won't want to miss it. We stole a moment of his time for a few questions about himself and his love for the art of mentalism. To get tickets for this coming weekend, click here.


Tell us a bit about yourself? I’ve always enjoyed watching magic ever since I was a young boy. Whether it was watching my father perform magic or watching David Copperfield on television, I couldn’t get enough of it. As a teenager I joined the Society of American Magicians with my father and there my education in the world of magic took off. Now I enjoy performing for audiences just as much as I enjoyed watching it as a kid. Getting to see people light up and laugh when they experience something unexplainable feels great. I’m thankful that I’m able to bring some wonder and mystery into the lives of those that watch me perform.


What is mentalism? Mentalism is a branch of magic which deals with mysteries apparently produced by using the powers of the mind. Unlike a lot of traditional magic performances where the audience sits and watches, mentalism is very dependent on audience participation. Performances may include feats of telepathy, clairvoyance, divination, precognition, psychokinesis, mediumship, mind control, memory feats and rapid mathematics.


How do magic and mentalism relate? While Mentalism is a branch of magic, it has its own special appeal. Mentalism represents a power or ability that has universal appeal with untold ramifications. Everyone has had a moment in their life when they thought that having the ability to read minds would be a life-changing force. When people watch magic, no one really believes that what they are seeing is real. They know there is a trick to it; they just don’t know how it was done. They know that the magician is only pretending to do real magic. When they watch a good mentalist perform the question they ask themselves is, “Did he really do it?” They don’t wonder about “how” of it, they just appreciate the power of it.


Do you think mentalism is performed differently today? Historically, I think mentalism was performed in a manner that was a bit on the dull side, almost like attending a lecture at a university. The performer would act as the “professor” and demonstrate these unbelievable feats of mind power. The time audiences would accept a performance like that has passed, and will not hold the attention of today’s audiences. Now audiences want to be entertained and intrigued, not just listen to someone speak. Most importantly the show has to be about the audience and making them the stars of the show. When you are able to impact your audience on a personal and emotional level you leave them with something that they will never forget.


What's the ideal atmosphere for seeing mentalism performed? Because mentalism has so much audience interaction you need to have an atmosphere where there are not a lot of distractions. At the same time people in the audience should be relaxed and feel like they can participate in the show without fear of embarrassment.


Have anything to say to the “I'm-not-convinced” readers? I would invite them to come see for themselves what can happen. I actually encourage people to be skeptical and to use their critical thinking skills when looking at any situation. I myself announce at the beginning of my show that what I do is not supernatural, but rather the result of years of practicing skills that anyone can develop. I don't try and change anyone's opinions, I just want to them to be entertained.


Who is your favorite mentalist or magician? How have they influenced you? My favorite mentalist would be Banachek. I have been fortunate to meet with him twice, and attend one of his lectures. Watching and learning from him has certainly made a change in how I perform in my show. He is one of the best performers I have had the privilege to watch and learn from.


Do you have a favorite Cal Magic memory? I think getting to know the members of the audience more intimately at Cal Magic than in other places I’ve performed make up many of my favorite memories. The very nature of Cal Magic allows the guests to meet with the performers in a way that isn’t always available. I remember one guest in particular even asking me to predict her upcoming due date.


"Mystifying Magic" -The New York Times

Check out this fun video of Magician Alex Ramon! We are very excited he will be headlining our show this weekend. This performer has traveled all over the world with some of the greatest acts, and it's such great fun to have him with us on Friday and Saturday night. Read his bio and other cool info at


A Few Minutes with Magician Timothy James

Magician Timothy JamesMagician Timothy James sat down with us last weekend to chitchat before the show. He's one of the original magicians to perform at our dinner theater when it opened on April 1st, 2004. We are always so happy to see him on stage – James is crowd favorite! He has appeared on cruise ships, at corporate events, colleges, comedy clubs -- he's even performed for Hollywood celebrities Geena Davis and Shia LaBeof.


How did you get into magic? I was always into comedy variety entertainment. I'm a big Dick Van Dyke fan – he was always doing different crazy stunts and magic tricks. Then I saw David Copperfield on television, and I fell in love with that. I was always more into the jugglers, the comedians, and watching Johnny Carson even though I wasn't suppose to stay up that late. Magic just fell into that perfectly. I was on and off with magic for years until I borrowed a friend's magic kit and I didn't want to give it back. I finally got my own and it took off from there.


Are there any magicians that inspire you? There is a gentleman named John Carney, and I like him because he does really funny comedy with amazing magic. Usually you see a comedy magic show done in a tongue and cheek sort of way, but when John Carney is doing comedy magic, he's genuinely funny and the magic is amazing and skillful. The other magician is Eric Buss. He's incredibly creative, and I'd love to step inside his brain for five minutes and walk around.


What part of your show means the most to you? Probably the raccoon. A lot of people do the Rocky bit but I have my own way of doing it that is completely different. There's other stuff I am more proud of like bending spoons with my mind, which is a lot more difficult and I've spent more time working on it, but I've done Rocky for a long time. It's really evolved and I've added a lot to it. I am working on a couple other things I am really excited about.


Do you have a favorite California Magic Dinner Theatre memory? Yah, I do! One night there was a group patrons that spoke Japanese, and I pulled one girl up on stage for a trick that didn't really speak English. I know a little Japanese, not a lot, but I've been working on it, and I've been told that what I do know, I speak fluently. So, I started speaking to her in Japanese, and it became a whole new trick for everyone in the room! That was a really cool moment.


How did you meet Gerry? He sold me my first set of multiplying billiard balls which is still one of my favorites. That was at his old magic shop in Pleasant Hill, and I was probably twelve years old. He's been a great mentor.


Is there something about magic you'd like the public to know? Don't think so hard. I get so much joy out of seeing magic performed well, and it's less about the secret or how it's done. It's about the experience of being astonished. So many people are hung up on how it's done, but the secret is such a small part of that. Sit back and enjoy the experience of it.