For over one hundred twenty years, Carnegie Hall has been a world-famous venue for music, but not magic. It was an honor, then — a once-in-a-lifetime achievement — to be able to perform my full evening magic show there on January 12, 2012. The show ran two hours, and received a standing ovation from the sold-out auditorium.
I’d like to thank all of you who came to the show. I’ll always remember the electric anticipation you projected as I walked on-stage. Looking out at you, I felt anticipation too — like we were creating a historic moment together.
Throughout my career I’ve always believed that magic has the potential to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other performing arts, such as ballet, opera and orchestral music. Magic can be more, much more, than a simple diversion. The artistry required to construct and stage a theatrical magic show is on par with the training, thought and creativity required to present other traditional art forms.
My personal goal in staging a magic show at Carnegie Hall was to prove that the art of magic is capable of accepting its due respect, if only we give it the chance. It was immensely satisfying to see that the public supported this belief; the entire theater was sold-out months in advance.
Because I am used to performing for small audiences of 50 people at the Waldorf-Astoria, the nearly 300-seat Weill Recital Hall presented some challenges. I did my best to cross the footlights and reach out to the entire audience, even up to the balcony.
In this blog, I’ve composed a full report of the evening, from my perspective as performer and producer […]
Magicians and secrets have a funny relationship. The normal people who comprise our audiences watch us perform miracles and cannot begin to imagine how a person might learn the requisite techniques and other arcane knowledge to accomplish the impossible. Magicians on the other hand know all about the vast oceans of literature (in print and on film) obsessively detailing and documenting the history and lineage of all these bizarre, clever and wonderful ideas. They know you can walk into a magic shop and buy whatever you like without having to fight a dragon or some other kind of mystic wizard’s trial. They worry that their audiences will run home after watching a performance and look for the explanations on YouTube. The “secrets” are out there, if you care enough and know where to look. And yet, magicians and laymen can look at the same “miracle” and both be mystified—if for different reasons.
For example, many close-up magicians know the story of Max Malini’s famous production of a brick or a block of ice from under a hat as recounted by Dai Vernon in Stars of Magic. Vernon was tasked with watching Malini over the course of an evening’s dinner performance to try to pin down the little man’s sleight-of-hand secrets—in particular the the block-of-ice-under-the-hat trick. Throughout the full evening’s meal, Malini never left the table. Malini then proceeded to perform the trick and “…when Malini lifted the hat, a block of ice the size of four fists lay in the center of the table […] Vernon swears to this day that ‘The little bugger had no time to load up.’” While the regular audience members wondered how the ice got under the hat, Vernon was dumbfounded as to how the ice got to the table at all. A bribe to the waiter proved unsuccessful, and they never found out from where Malini had procured the ice.
On the other hand, whenever Steve Cohen performs the trick as the opener of his exclusive Miracles At Midnight show, the source of the block of ice is somewhat less of a mystery. The show is his second as part of his residence at the über-opulent Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan. The kitchen at the Waldorf-Astoria is located on the second floor and takes up the area of a full city block. “They have a huge walk-in freezer, and they’ve let me have a whole shelf in there just for blocks of ice for this trick. I used to go down myself to fetch the ice, but it gets so cold in that freezer that our arrangement now is that I simply ring down to the kitchen and they run one upstairs for me at the beginning of each show.” Of course. Everything’s easy once you know the secret.
But while Steve’s audiences—like Malini’s—are astounded at the appearance of the ice under the hat, magicians marvel at something else. They don’t marvel at how the ice appeared under the hat or how the ice got to the table, but at how Steve Cohen himself has managed to “magically appear” in residence at the Waldorf-Astoria with not one, but two elegant, high-end magic shows—one of which costs $250 per person. For close-up magic! And coming this January, Steve will be premiering a stage show at a local Manhattan venue named Carnegie Hall. Compared to those “miracles”, blocks of ice and bricks under hats might as well be the old stretching thumb trick your uncle does […]
As readers of this blog know, I am somewhat infatuated by Max Malini, the extraordinary magician who entertained celebrities, tycoons and aristocrats. I’ve modeled my career on his, and have been tracking down Malini stories for years. Many of these stories are chronicled throughout this blog.
I recently acquired Malini’s advertising booklet at auction (circa 1926) and was delighted for two reasons simultaneously. First, it is an honor to own this historic memorabilia of a prominent magic figure. The booklet is in very good hands.
Second, the text of the booklet has confirmed that Max Malini stayed and performed regularly at the hotel where I’ve presented Chamber Magic for the last decade: the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.
In his advertising booklet, he includes laudatory letters from prominent figures, including President Harding. Here is one of the inside pages, containing personal notes from General Pershing and Vice President Charles Dawes […]
My favorite comment after returning from my Philadelphia tour was an email I received from a guest. He wrote, “Your show is a thing of beauty, a magical symphony.” Wow. What a nice compliment. But I must say that Philadelphia audiences – who came out in droves to the magnificent Four Seasons hotel last week – made my job a pleasure indeed.
Whenever I launch the show in a new city, there is considerable risk on my part. Will people show up? How do I get the word out? Do I have any fans in that city who can help drum up interest?
Fortunately, Philadelphia is close enough to my home base in NYC that the word spread quickly. I even got a little advance press on a cool blog that has a large local following. The four shows sold-out swiftly, even before I arrived in town.
Another part of the risk in performing in a new city is that […]
It’s the dream of any performer to stand on-stage at Carnegie Hall, presenting what they’ve trained their entire life to perfect.
I’ll have my chance on January 12, 2012, and I’d love it if you would share this momentous evening with me.
Carnegie Hall has three performance venues – I’ll be performing in their most intimate: Weill Recital Hall. Tickets went on sale this morning at 11:00am, and the box office tells me that they had people queuing up on the phones, waiting for the sale to begin.
This is a one-night only performance of my stage show “Theater of Wonder” – which is entirely different from “Chamber Magic,” now in its eleventh year at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. If you’ve been to my smaller show and want to see more magic, “Theater of Wonder” is for you.
Tickets are available at the Carnegie Hall box office (57th Street and Seventh Avenue), through CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800, or online […]
Vera Wang referred to Steve Cohen as the best-dressed magician she’d ever seen. Cohen was hoping for just best dressed. When the dandy magician isn’t shocking the who’s who of New York City from his private suite at the historic Waldorf Astoria, he’s conjuring up bespoke suits from London and ties from Tokyo’s finest men’s shops. In between ducking in and out his closet to show off more “gems,” we asked Cohen a few questions about his personal style influences and the importance of always dressing the part.
GQ: You go by the Millionaires’ Magician. You probably have a lot of well-dressed spectators.
Steve Cohen: [Hesitant laugh] Oh, sure but I wouldn’t particularly be able to say who’s well-dressed, because sometimes you get wealthy folks who come through who are dressed in casual clothes. Sometimes people, especially the nouveau rich, will intentionally not dress to look wealthy. They call it “Stealth Wealth.”
GQ: Let’s talk about the dress code. It’s a pretty audacious move to tell a room full of millionaires what to do.
Steve Cohen: One time I had a fellow come to my show who was wearing […]
Before serving dinner at a dinner party in Manhattan, my host asked that I do “a little something” for the guests. I declined politely — I don’t like to perform when I’m not actually working — but when people hear that there’s a magician at the table, they expect to see a trick. These were not children, mind you, but some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in New York.
I turned to the woman next to me and asked for one of her earrings. She was hesitant to remove one of her diamond studs for a magic trick. She thought I might damage it. But when our host nodded his approval, she allowed me to remove it.
“The Flying Earring Trick!” I announced, holding up my hand to silence the guests. The glittering diamond earring rested in my left palm, shining in the light from the chandelier overhead. I slowly closed my hand into a fist, and explained that I would make the earring fly – invisibly! – from one fist into the other. All of the guests looked at me with skepticism as I opened my left fist: empty. They craned their necks in closer. I then opened my right fist: also empty. The lady’s face turned pale.
“If the earring didn’t fly into my other hand, it could only have gone one other place.” I pointed to […]
Being the Millionaires’ Magician has placed me into some pretty amazing situations. Like the time I entertained at the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington DC, during the Bloomberg after-party. This is the most “glam” party to attend, held at the Russian Trade Mission. Michael Bloomberg was there. Donald Trump was there. A-list celebrities at every turn. And it was my job to entertain them.
As I performed privately for two of the guests, I noticed that a photographer was furiously snapping pictures over my shoulder.
The photographer later informed me: “Those two men you just entertained were the Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of Transportation. The only person who can usually bring them together is the President of the United States. And you just did the same thing with magic!”
This reminds me of another occasion, when Michael Bloomberg invited me to his Park Avenue office in NYC prior to being elected mayor. After chatting for twenty minutes about golf, memory techniques, and how to master a second language (he was studying Spanish), Bloomberg asked me to show him some magic.
Being the Millionaires’ Magician has placed me into some pretty amazing situations. Like the time my client — a high-end Israeli jeweler — hired me to magically pull a $2 million diamond necklace out of thin air. Or the time I performed for a wealthy businessman in Omaha who owns the original Louisiana Purchase document, handwritten by Thomas Jefferson. He keeps it on display in a climate-controlled museum case in his basement.
Last night I was booked to perform at a private show for just eleven people, in a Madison Avenue apartment in New York City. As always, I will not reveal the names or details of any people present, out of respect for privacy. Needless to say there were several billionaires in the room.
During the show, I asked the host if he had a favorite book. He answered, “Yes, it’s To Kill A Mockingbird.” I inquired if he had that book handy. His eyes darted to the corner of the room, and I followed his gaze. There was a hardbound copy of this book on display in a special place on a side table. He said, “I have another copy in the next room, but the one over here is a first edition, first printing. It’s in mint condition, and extremely rare.”
I took a deep breath and picked up the book. This would be my first time performing magic with a book that (I later discovered) is worth $25,000.
Instead of my usual routine, in which I handle the book, I opted […]