MEET OUR MAGICIANS
"The Bay Area is fortunate to be home to a remarkable number of talented, accomplished magicians. A select few of these, happily, call the California Magic Club their second home. Many of these performers appear regularly on our stage and perform close-up at the dinner tables during the “dinner-time magic” portions of our evenings. They are all extremely skilled in the fine art of magical entertainment, and I’m grateful that they are my friends. I hope that you’ll soon get to know them better — both on these pages, and in person, on your next visit to the dinner theater."
Gerry Griffin — Owner/Host
Larry "Zappo the Magician" Wright
Known by his stage name Zappo the Magician, Larry has been performing magic professionally for more than 50 years. Growing up just five miles from Disneyland, Larry was a regular visitor to all of the various magic shops in the park, enabling him to learn from some of the greatest magicians around.
Larry performs for every type of occasion, from children’s parties to corporate events, and even casino shows in Reno, Lake Tahoe, and Las Vegas. Equally comfortable doing close-up magic inches from the noses of spectators or performing on stage in front of hundreds, Larry presents a very popular comedy show suitable for family audiences. He has performed at nearly every major hotel and country club in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as at private events for well-known corporate clients and celebrities including George Lucas, Robin Williams, and Carlos Santana. Larry also has been an opening act for Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Don Rickles, Rod Stewart, and Charo.
Larry is a founding cast member of The Buddy Club, the Bay Area’s oldest children’s theatre company, where he has done family shows for their series for more than 25 years. He is a past president of the local chapter of the Society of American Magicians, a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians’ Order of Merlin, and a 40-plus-year performing member at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.
Steve has been involved with magic for over 35 years, virtually all of that time as a hobbyist, not a performer. A collector of old and rare conjuring books, Steve is a student of the history of magic, and, as a professional writer, has written about various aspects of the art over the years.
Convinced that his training as an advertising writer — which affords him a deep understanding of audience perceptions and how to influence them — had informed his thinking about magic, Steve took to performing in 2007. He believes that his delayed entry into performing, postponed until his “mature” years, has given him an acute eye for what audiences want and like, as well as a sharp filter for the kinds of effects that suit his easygoing style and personality.
Specializing in close-up magic with cards, Steve tries always to balance the lighthearted nature of his work with the more serious, underlying sense of amazement that must be at the heart of all good magic. “The magic we perform for our audiences today,” says Steve, “are the memories they will recall twenty years — and maybe a lifetime — down the road.”
Robert "Bobby Vegas" Kane
Robert Kane — aka Bobby Vegas — got his magical start in San Francisco in 1982 when he saw Bay Area magic favorite Dick Newton perform an amazing version of the Linking Rings. Shortly after, while attending the University of San Francisco, Robert began to frequent San Francisco’s famed House of Magic, where he was shown card tricks that made his jaw drop.
Robert first focused on learning the history of magic and collecting antique magic apparatus, but later, upon meeting Gerry Griffin, also learned to love the performance aspect of the art. Gerry became his mentor, and taught Robert the importance of being kind to your audiences and giving them joy: if an audience likes you, they’ll be more inclined to like your magic.
Although Robert has the opportunity to perform at various venues around the Bay Area, he has chosen to make the California Magic Dinner Theater his performing home: the only place where audiences can laugh and be amazed by his magical miracles.
Hank got his start in magic in the “traditional” way, having received his first magic set as a young boy. From the age of 9 on, he practiced his tricks and devoted hours upon hours to learning his craft. It was during this time that his family lived on Long Island, in New York, where Hank developed his unique brand of “family friendly” East Coast humor.
Today, Hank’s sharp wit, comedy, and audience interaction gets people quickly laughing and thoroughly enthralled. A professional magician since 2005, Hank has worked for companies such as the Oakland A’s, De Leon Productions, Hornblower Yachts, Traveler’s Insurance, and Sutter Health, among many others. In addition to being a regularly featured headliner at the California Magic Club, he has had the privilege of performing in such venues as The Grand Sierra Resort & Casino in Reno, as well as The Exploratorium, The California Academy of Sciences, and The Fairmont Hotel.
In recent years Hank has been interviewed by legendary Bay Area disc jockey Peter Finch of KFOG Radio and was featured — in a segment showcasing the California Magic Club — on the TV show Bay Area Backroads.
It wasn’t just the puzzle part of the Rubik’s Cube that so delighted John when he was a child. It was a magic trick that his brother did with it that blew his mind. John obsessed over how he did it, until he snuck into his brother’s room, got the Cube, and figured it out. So began John’s odyssey into the world of magic.
Once the fire was lit at that young age, John poured over everything he could find on the subject in the school library. Using mainly cards and coins —because they were cheap and easily accessible around his house — he enjoyed performing for friends and family, and seeing the expressions on their faces when he fooled them.
John spent years practicing, honing his skills and expanding his repertoire. Eventually, he was encouraged by his good friend Gerry Griffin to perform professionally. Taking Gerry’s words of encouragement, John has been doing exactly that, since 2007. Aside from his appearances at the California Magic Dinner Theater, John performs at a variety of other venues, from private parties to corporate events.
When Craig was growing up, the Doug Henning and David Copperfield television specials were an “event” in his home. His early fascination with magic was triggered by those great magicians, and continued through his teen years and young adult life.
At the age of 31, Craig signed up for a beginning magic class at a local arts center, and his passion deepened. He began to carry a deck of cards with him everywhere, and joined his local magic club, anxiously preparing for each meeting with a new effect. As his interest in magic grew, he had the opportunity to see other magicians perform, including well-known names such as Daryl, Gregory Wilson, Losander, as well as many others, often during their appearances at the California Magic Dinner Theater.
Although he performs on stage a few times a year, Craig prefers the less-structured ambiance of close-up magic. He likes to improvise and get a feeling for what his audiences would like to see, often using their personal items to perform miracles. In the end, Craig enjoys showing people something they never expected, thoroughly entertaining them, and leaving them with the impression that magic is a true art form and one of the purest forms of entertainment anywhere.
At his seventh birthday party, David received a flat wrapped box that looked suspiciously like it might contain a new sweater, but, when opened, revealed a “Houdini Magic Set.” The inevitable sweater did appear as a gift, and while it made the Colorado winter seem warmer, it was the magic set that actually lit the fire: it transformed David into a magician.
David continued performing magic through college and graduate school at campus cabarets and coffeehouses. (“You learn a lot performing magic for people who have been drinking.”) He found a career in theater, and he created magic for productions at many venues in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Life on the Water theater, the Marsh Arts Center, the Oakland Museum, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
As a professional magician, David has been called “a master of deceit” (KRON 4 TV), performing magic that is “lyrical” (SF Arts Monthly) and “an extraordinary delight” (SF Bay Times). He loves performing at California Magic and thrives on the camaraderie of the magicians there. “As long as Gerry lets me in the door, I’ll always think of Cal Magic as a second home.”
Although Jeff came to the art of magic later than many, he nevertheless has been performing now for more than 30 years — in nightclubs, restaurants, hotels, and review shows, as well as at private parties.
While magic had always been an interest for Jeff, it was never the trick deck, “plastic box” kind of magic to which he had access as a boy. Instead, after discovering a dusty old tome in a used bookstore, he became obsessed with pure sleight of hand. Four years later, he was performing as a full-time professional and today remains a popular San Francisco Bay Area magician.
Among many of Jeff’s career highlights was performing in ice shows — literally on ice, in a pair of skates — at state fairs, hotels, and even on a cruise ship! But the deeper mystery for Jeff was always how magic affected the rest of his life — a secret he believes is revealed in every show he does.
Unlike many magicians who became involved with magic at an early age, Mike came relatively late to the art, having started in earnest when he turned 30. Although he had always been a fan of magic, he never believed it was something that he could do. But when he received his first order of tricks and books, he was hooked. Over the next few years, he practiced night and day, fully obsessed with learning all he could about magic.
In the past decade, Mike has performed both in the U.S. and overseas. In England, he supported himself by performing on the streets and in neighborhood pubs. In Turkey, he was an invited guest performer at the Izmir Illusion Festival. Mike’s experience ranges from street magic to children’s parties to theater shows, and virtually everything in between.
Mike’s love of sharing magic with people has led him to compare being a magician to a superhero, in that he is able to create a lifelong memory of a moment for audiences, who will remember it fondly, and share it with others. Those moments more often than not include large doses of smiles and laughter, which not only define the ambiance that Mike creates in his performances, but which are — apart from the stunning illusions themselves — the real secret of his magic.
Alvin’s love of magic began at the age of 14, when, like many of his fellow magicians, he saw his first David Copperfield television special. Unlike a lot of today’s performers, however, Alvin wasn’t aware during those early years that magician’s clubs and fraternities — or even magic kits — existed! As a result, he grew up doing magic not knowing the “traditional” way of performing.
But this led him to see magic as a way of expressing and conveying experiences from other parts of his life. His goal, even from his early years, was to perform magic in a way that would resonate with all people — to express an emotion that would be familiar to his audiences, regardless of their background, experience, or culture.
Before developing more formal routines, Alvin performed mainly in lounges, bars, and during hotel cocktail hours. Today, his repertoire has expanded to include corporate events, private parties, and, of course, the California Magic Dinner Theatre. To this day, Alvin’s first love remains the personal and one-on-one interaction of close-up magic. His passion for the art continues to be a constant in his life that shines through every time he performs.
The order in which these performers appear on this page is how I picked their names out of a hat. Top hat, of course.