You would expect a magician to utter such words as, “That was a magical year!” But in the case of 2013, I can safely say that it was a year full of non-stop magic.
Please enjoy reading my 2013 highlights, complete with photos. (Click photos for a larger view, and click the links for even more details of each event.)
• 15,000 guests visited me at Chamber Magic in the magnificent Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. I presented 5 shows every week, 250 shows in total. Chamber Magic is now in its 14th year, and I’m loving every minute.
• I performed in Moscow at a private party held in a Russian Foreign Ministry palace.
• I was a presenter at TEDx Broadway. We invited random audience members onto the stage to name their favorite drinks, and drink them from my magic teapot. My favorite reaction was from a Twitter response: “This magician at #TEDxBroadway just made a Mai Tai out of thin air. JESUS LIVES”
• My television special Lost Magic Decoded aired internationally in Israel, India, Canada, Brazil, Indonesia, and Italy. Together with talkshow legend Dick Cavett and director Robert Palumbo, I presented a screening & discussion in New York City at the prestigious 92nd Street Y.
• David Ben invited me to Toronto to present six performances of Chamber Magic at the prestigious Luminato Arts Festival. Previous performers at past Luminato festivals include Juan Tamariz, Mac King, and Max Maven. The Canadian national newspaper Globe and Mail raved: “You haven’t seen magic tricks until you’ve seen Steve Cohen.”
Anyone with a handheld device is a magician of sorts. So how to explain the resurgence of old-fashioned magic in popular culture? Why are people falling for a brand of entertainment that seemed at its height a hundred years ago, when Harry Houdini was all the rage? Haven’t we moved beyond that?
Apparently not. In a private suite at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, Steve Cohen, known as the “Millionaires’ Magician,” presents a stately 90-minute illusionfest, Chamber Magic, five times a week. Last year he became the first magician in nearly four decades to appear at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, and his refined act has impressed guests at the homes of Barry Diller, Martha Stewart and Warren Buffett, among others. And maybe that’s the role of magic these days – to provide a dash of wonderment for those who have seen it all.
Toronto’s Luminato Festival is a big deal. Each summer, hundreds of performing artists are invited to Toronto to participate in a 10-day celebration of the arts. Since the festival’s inception seven years ago, “magic” has been included in the programming thanks to the efforts of David Ben and Julie Eng. International stars of magic such as Juan Tamariz, Max Maven and Mac King have performed their full shows there in previous years.
This year I was asked to present “Chamber Magic” at Luminato, and I’m glad I accepted the invitation. On June 17, 18 and 19, I performed six shows (two each night) at the George Brown house, a National Historic Site that usually is off-limits to the public. The house was completed in 1876 and restored to its former glory – an excellent location for my old-school brand of parlor magic. In fact, the show was situated right in George Brown’s parlor — you can’t beat that! […]
On June 2, 2013, I took the stage at the 92nd Street Y in New York City for a memorable evening of magic. The program featured a screening of my History Channel program “Lost Magic Decoded” as well as a lively question-and-answer session, and a live performance of magic. Moderating the discussion was my pal and fellow magician Dick Cavett, the legendary talk show host, and we were joined by Robert Palumbo, the director of my program.
Here’s the introduction that Eric Lange read to the sold-out audience heard before we walked on stage:
“Welcome to a magical evening at the Y!
“Tonight we’ll be “Looking for Magic with Steve Cohen,” who has delighted and mystified audiences all over the world. He’s the star of Chamber Magic, the longest-running solo magic show in New York, presented each weekend in an elegant suite in the Waldorf Towers. His audiences include a who’s who of celebrities, royalty, and other notables. A media favorite, Cohen was also the star of a sold-out solo show at Carnegie Hall and a TV special you will see excerpts from tonight, Lost Magic Decoded, that premiered on the History Channel in 2012.
“Cohen will talk about the making of the film with the film’s writer, director and co-producer Robert Palumbo, whose credits include documentaries for HBO, Showtime and National Geographic. Steve and Robert traveled the world on their magic quest, so they have a few stories to tell!
“We’re honored to welcome back famed talk show host and author Dick Cavett, who will moderate their discussion. […]
I CAN’T ADEQUATELY EXPRESS how surreal it is to stand in the wings of the Ed Sullivan Theater, waiting to be introduced. Fifteen minutes prior to show time, I was sitting in my sixth floor dressing room watching David Letterman deliver his monologue on a small plasma television. It was like watching his monologue any other night at home. Moments later, however, I was on the ground floor, standing in the wings of that very theater, peeking out into the darkness. Running through my mind: “Am I about to walk onto the Letterman show I was just watching?” It was like seeing a two-dimensional scene turn three-dimensional.
Fortunately, the producers helped me to feel well prepared. Seven days before my appearance, they granted my request to visit the theater and sit in the guest chair at “home base” (the raised platform where Letterman’s desk is located). I spent two hours in the theater that day, practicing my sleights in the guest chair, and going over camera angles with the directors and producers. I even practiced walking out from the wings several times, to become accustomed to the route, the trajectory, and the temperature (it’s very chilly).
During this pre-show visit, I met band leader Paul Shaffer and explained that I’d need to borrow one of his rings for my performance the following week. He let me handle his wedding ring and confirm that it would be the proper size for my ring-in-walnut trick. I also met many of the staff: the director, executive producers, stage hands, audio techs, and writers. I did several card tricks for them in a casual setting, to get them excited about the upcoming “Close-Up Magic Week.” Of course, I also had an ulterior motive – to become a familiar face. The director, Jerry Foley told me that this visit helped save us a lot of time in creating a comfortable working relationship for the following week’s show.
The only person who I didn’t meet was David Letterman. In fact, the only time I shared with him occurred on the day of the show, at his desk, while cameras were rolling. [click for more…]
Join us for a private screening of my History Channel special, “Lost Magic Decoded,” that follows my journey across three continents in search of some of the most puzzling illusions of all time.
“Lost Magic Decoded” was praised by The New York Times (“baffling”) and USA Today (“jaw-dropping”).
The screening will be hosted by legendary talk show host Dick Cavett (click on his name to read his NY Times blog), and will include a discussion with the film’s writer/producer/director Robert Palumbo. I also plan to perform some live magic after the screening.
If you are in the New York area on June 2nd, I hope to see you there. [Click for more…]
Immediately after my recent appearance at TEDxBroadway, the following quote appeared on Twitter:
“This magician at #TEDxBroadway just made a Mai Tai out of think air. JESUS LIVES.”
I appreciate the enthusiastic response, but I assure you there was no divine intervention!
In fact, this was not even the first time that my favorite routine, Think-A-Drink, was performed on Broadway. My hero “Think-a-Drink” Hoffman himself performed the any-drink-called-for act in 1939 at the Broadhurst Theater’s original production of “Streets of Paris.” The show starred Carmen Miranda, and also featured Gower Champion, and Abbott & Costello (before they made their first movie).
I was happy to perform my version of Think-a-Drink on the Broadway stage once again, albeit 74 years later!
Yes, that’s me standing in the Red Square in Moscow. And yes, Saint Basil’s Cathedral looks like a giant Carvel ice cream cake. It was certainly cold enough to stay frozen (see below)! My trip to Moscow was a great adventure, and I’d like to share some of the highlights with you.
The purpose of my trip was a private performance, held in a bona-fide palace owned by the Russian Foreign Ministry. I was invited to perform at the 60th birthday of Yuri Bashmet – one of the world’s finest viola players. Also present were my dear friend Anne-Sophie Mutter, and renowned conductor Valery Gergiev (of the London Symphony Orchestra). The audience was mostly Russians and Germans, but this was an extremely cultured crowd, and […]
Roberto Giobbi is an extremely talented magician from Muttenz, Switzerland. I hold him in the highest regard as a sleight of hand expert, and have learned a great deal about card magic through his book series, Card College. It’s a testament to his ability as both a teacher and a writer that even professional magicians refer to his books to acquire nuances and touches on material that they’ve used for years.
Another book that Giobbi released recently – not in the Card College series – is titled Secret Agenda. It’s an unusual book because it contains 365 pages, one for each day of the year. The reader is encouraged to read one page daily, and not skip ahead. Giobbi wants the student to reflect on the daily lesson, to savor it, and not burden himself with information overload. Some days he introduces a clever card magic sleight, on other days a poem.
The December 29th entry was meaningful to me, and I wanted to record the action steps that I’ve taken as a result of reading this book.
Giobbi encourages magicians to prepare a Utility Bag that is brought to every show. He writes:
“This bag is a lifesaver for any performer traveling to a booking. […]
A cluster of of well-to-do couples huddle in the lobby of the Waldorf Towers in New York City, buzzing with anticipation. At the stroke of 8:45 p.m. on Saturday evening, a tall man in a tailored suit ushers everyone into a gold-plated elevator – the same one that the President of the United States rides when he stays in New York. Primping and fidgeting, the group lines up at a suite at the end of a hallway on the 35th floor. 58 people file in for tonight’s magic show in Steve Cohen’s living room, run solely by word-of-mouth.
Cohen’s “Chamber Magic” shows inspire an intimate, old-timey parlor feel. Attendees, many of whom have purchased tickets months in advance, are expected to dress well. He doesn’t bother with hats, rabbits, or sleight-of-hand tricks; instead, he uses one gleaming tea kettle to produce five different drinks at the audience’s request.
At age 10, Cohen worked the elementary school circuit, appearing at kids’ birthday parties and Cub Scout meetings. Now, he brings in about 300 viewers each weekend – including high-profile guests like Martha Stewart, Barry Diller, and David Rockefeller – and a seven-figure annual income. “I put people in an environment where anything can happen,” Cohen says, pausing to sip Kombucha tea (the ginger helps his throat). “People start thinking, Maybe there’s another force in the world, and this guy has control over it.”