Johnny Magick doesn’t like the word “trick”.
“A trick is what a prostitute does for money,” said the local performer, who recently returned to the Kootenay after spending time performing and working in Las Vegas and Hollywood.
“There are people who are tricksters, and then there are magicians. There are people out there, they may have a business card with a top hat and a bunny, but I wouldn’t say they’re magicians.”
A real magician, according to Magick, is somebody who elicits an emotional response from the audience and stimulates them to think.
“Real magic has a raison d’être. It’s designed to be more than ‘aha! Look at this!’ It’s supposed to have an emotional hook. It could have social commentary sometimes or it could be pointing out bigger mysteries in the universe,” he said.
Magick, who is a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and regularly lectures about magic and has served as a judge in magic competitions, studied under magicians Jeff McBride and Eugene Burger and completed their master class program. He was thrilled that he successfully fooled them during his final performance.
“I needed to go out and hit the entertainment capital, see if I had what it took. I was pretty stoked to see I fooled some of the world’s best magicians, and now some of them are using my effects in their shows.”
Magick started booking gigs, and was regularly flown down for celebrity parties in Beverly Hills and elsewhere. He said it was a thrill to be performing at that level, but also exhausting.
These days he’s working a little closer to home, at Jackson’s Hole & Grill on Friday nights and Finley’s Irish Bar & Grill on Saturdays.
“I want to create an experience where magic happens right in your hands,” said Magick, who specializes in mentalism and close-up magic. “You’re not a passive receiver. I want to hook in, get you emotionally, get your brain stimulated.”
Magick originally became interested in magic at the age of six, when his mother invited a friend over named Cody.
“My mom had a native friend she’d gone to school with, and he was staying with us. He was kind of a gypsy guy, lived out of a backpack, kind of a couch surfer.
“He knew a little bit about everything, he’d just have that little nugget of info about this and that, just enough to make him come off as cool so people would let him crash,” he said.
The first time he saw Cody perform, he knew something important was happening.
“I remember thinking, because I went through a terrible amount of abuse, if I could do that I could shape the world around me and make it how I want it to be,” he said.
“I started bringing these books home from the library and immediately I was disappointed, because I thought I would have complete mastery of the universe. I realized it wasn’t so.”
But he was already hooked.
“It became my salvation,” he said.
By the age of 14 Magick was performing on the streets of Toronto to make a living. At the time he was working to feed himself, but he always had larger ambitions.
Now that he’s rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s best, he’s ready to settle into an easier routine and to focus on teaching.
“I’m essentially a magician’s magician these days,” he said, specifying that he still routinely spends up to 12 hours a day working on his material.
Magick said he now plans to stay in Nelson long-term. Though he will continue to travel and perform elsewhere, he called this his home.
“I’m going to be here, for sure. You don’t pick this town, this town picks you. If you’re here long enough, you’ll know that.”