Fool Me Once Sometimes growing up is hard to do

When I was about five years old, my mother’s cousin who I’ve always looked up to, took me to Al’s Magic Shop on Pennsylvania Ave and 12th Street in downtown Washington, D.C. across the street from the Old Post Office, you know, the building Donald Trump is renovating, building a hotel.

The Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Ave in Washington, D.C.

So here I was, just a little kid, hanging out in the coolest old magic shop probably in the world seeing all these illusion props, tricks and apparatus all over the store. In the back of the store contained monster masks and costumes, like the Mummy, Frankenstein, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and many, many more. A salesman who was also a magician would invite you to see almost any trick you were interested in buying. You'd have to see the trick in action before you would buy it--kind've like kicking the tires of a new car.

See the

After watching a few tricks performed by the magicians who worked there, I was hooked! I also became intrigued by Magicians on TV who could "saw a lady in half" or make her float high in the air while passing a gold hoop around her to make the audience believe that there were no strings attached. I wanted to be like the these awesome magicians but I had no idea how to go about it.

I decided that the best way for me to learn magic was to apprentice with a magician who lived nearby so I got out the huge yellow pages phone book and started calling area magicians. Called every one and asked them if they would like an apprentice. This was probably my first successful telemarketing experience.

Because before long I was working with Gene Kownacki, who was known as Gene, the Magic Clown. He explained to me over the phone that he had a great reputation as a magician/performer for the Kennedys, had performed at the White House, and had advance bookings. The first time I went over the Gene's, he performed magic for me for hours and I went home with a couple of new tricks.

Gene The Magic Clown - The Washington Post

I worked with Gene for a number of months and had the time of my life watching him do magic in front of many kids and adults. He took me under his wing and showed me many of his tricks. I even performed as his secret volunteer from the audience to help him pull off an amazing illusions without the audience knowing I was in on it--he actually sawed me in half in front of everybody.

By the time I was seven, I had my own act and was performing for the local neighborhood and as much as I practiced, the kids I performed to would think they knew how I did my tricks. They would scream, “I know how you did it!”

These kids tried to expose me with their theories. It didn’t matter that they didn’t really know how I performed the trick. It was the fact that they knew it was a "trick" in the first place. They could see right through me!!!

I quickly realized that magicians were people who tried to fool other people. I didn’t want to be someone who was always trying to fool people. Of course it’s entertaining to watch Magic if it's performed well. But I was an amateur. The good ones though seem to be shrouded in mystique, like many of those fake mediums and their mystical séances.

Houdini Séance

I decided I wasn’t out to fool people. Instead of becoming a better magician and learning more magic tricks, I eventually lost interest. I think I ended up giving away a couple of trunks filled with Magic Tricks to the first kid who showed interest.

I became the biggest skeptic of them all!!!

I was growing up. I became skeptical as I watched magicians on TV. I was skeptical about my own success as a Magician because I lost the belief that I could actually fool people. I would never have the power of magic--of fooling people. I was never a good liar either (so I had to become an honest person).

Sea-Monkeys Advertisement

Call me naïve on other things though (in some ways, I'm still naïve). I hadn’t learned what ‘caveat emptor’ means (let the buyer beware) and I grew up thinking most products live up to what they advertised as. For example, Sea-Monkeys. They were only a little over a dollar for a package and they were supposed to create a bowl full of happiness. But for me they never worked! [Supposedly they work for other people, is it possible I got a really old batch or something? I don't know.]

At my young age, I didn't know salespeople could be so tricky either--they tell you one thing and do quite another. Boy, was I naïve. I had to learn it all the hard way.

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