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Bob Johnston
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I saw this in the New York Times that I get delivered on my Kindle each morning and I think it is worth sharing:

The New York Times (The New York Times Company)

No Rabbit in a Hat, but Steve Cohen Has Magic Up His Sleeve
Richard Perry/The New York Times

CLOSE UP Steve Cohen performing Chamber Magic, the show he does five times a weekend in a plush suite in the Waldorf-Astoria. By N. R. KLEINFIELD THE Millionaires’ Magician does not like doing magic every waking moment. He goes to cocktail parties or dinners and everyone expects lamps to levitate and cards to materialize inside wine bottles. It gets excessive. But magic was the point. So all right, he would do something. When we first met, Steve Cohen had made my pen disappear and turn up behind his ear. Next time, I said, how about something better? He phoned. He told me to come to Riverside Park at 72nd Street just before sunset. “That’s when wishes come true.” He came in a tailored suit. He has red hair, balanced features, a mellow disposition. Around us, people walked dogs. On a small pad, Mr. Cohen drew a circle to represent a wishing well. He gave it to me and told me to write a wish inside the circle, tear off the paper and put it in my pocket. I wrote, “Travel the Appalachian Trail.” We walked toward the water. “Moses had the Red Sea,” he said. “I have the Hudson River.” When we got there, he dug out a quarter, scrawled his initials on it and asked me to write mine, along with a symbol. He told me to toss the coin in the river. Leveling his gaze, he had me fixate on my wish. He mentioned something to do with travel, a politician, Tennessee. Then he said, “Travel the Appalachian Trail.” He said my lucky coin could make the wish come true. Too bad, he reminded me, it lay at the bottom of the Hudson. He clenched his right hand into a fist. Water seeped from it. He opened his hand. There was the coin, wet. O.K., that was better. Steve Cohen does not have the marquee name of a David Copperfield, David Blaine or Penn & Teller. What he does have, at 39, is Chamber Magic, five shows a weekend at the plush suite in the Waldorf-Astoria where Crown Prince Sultan of Saudi Arabia stays when in town.

The audience is capped at about 50 people, who pay $75 each ($100 for the front row). They are expected to dress well. And two or three private events a month, for which he gets $10,000 to $20,000. Mr. Cohen’s specialty is parlor magic, fusing close-up maneuvers and tricks with common objects for small audiences. He models himself after conjurers who entertained the aristocracy in European salons in the 1800s. He does not saw women or make elephants vanish. “He works in the style of a soiree at the home of some Vanderbilt or Rittenhouse, where you might expect an evening of light opera but have lucked into an expert magician,” Teller, the silent member of Penn & Teller, wrote in an e-mail message. The Millionaires’ Magician moniker came about eight years ago, when he was brainstorming with Mark Levy, a marketing strategist and amateur magician, about raising his visibility. He had always cultivated the upper crust, and, in a brief profile, Avenue magazine mentioned that he was sort of the millionaires’ magician. Be that, Mr. Levy said. Mr. Cohen worried it might limit who would hire him. Mr. Levy said, “You’ll get the right calls.” The shtick clicked. Mr. Cohen makes a point of dressing up (he owns no jeans).

He favors props like diamonds over sponge balls. He has performed for Barry Diller, Goldman Sachs, the queen of Morocco, Prince Sultan (whose interest picked up immensely when Mr. Cohen transformed a $1 bill into a $100 bill). For good luck, he keeps in his wallet a souvenir of a trick: the crude drawing Warren Buffett did of his neighbor’s dog on the four of diamonds. Making money in the magic world can itself seem impossible: one client, a little tight, paid him in stock options, another in innumerable limousine rides. Yet Mr. Cohen, the son of schoolteachers from Westchester County, earns more than $1 million a year fooling people into believing something is happening that isn’t. THE Conjuring Arts Research Center, on West 30th Street, is one of those idiosyncratic New York institutions. In essence, it’s a house of secrets. Its library contains 12,000 titles on magic, some from the 15th century. When Mr. Cohen stopped by the other day, he was greeted by Bill Kalush, the director and a sleight-of-hand master. They made small talk about a Japanese magician who recently ate a horse on stage. Mr. Kalush mentioned it was a very old trick. Most are. Mr. Cohen had come to research a trick called Aerial Fishing. A hook is affixed to a string and tossed over the audience’s head. Reeled in, the line holds a goldfish. Dropped into a bowl of water, it swims about. “I have an idea where I’d catch three and then do a fourth barehanded,” he said. Normally Mr. Cohen avoids animals. “If you do magic with livestock,” he said, “you end up becoming a gamekeeper.” He has made a Jeep disappear. It was on a History Channel show about Jasper Maskelyne, a magician who helped Britain during World War II by rendering tanks invisible and making a city vanish and reappear miles away.

Mr. Cohen demonstrated the technique. It was all in the lighting. “But I don’t do flashy, big magic,” he said. “My magic is more of a thinking man’s magic. Most of it happens in your head. If you want to see a Las Vegas show, go to Las Vegas.” Mr. Cohen’s heroes are two 19th-century magicians, Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin, who performed for high society in small theaters in Paris, and Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser, who did magic in Vienna salons for tiny audiences. Mr. Cohen once visited Hofzinser’s grave in Vienna. They look a little bit alike. It disturbs Mr. Cohen when tricks are exposed on the Internet or by the Masked Magician TV show, “Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed.” “A lot of young magicians will show how a trick is done and put it on YouTube,” he said. “It’s like a father telling his son that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.” Being a successful magician, he said, comes down to three things. “The first order of importance is you have to have a great personality so the audience likes you,” he said. “The second is presentation — what are you going to say. The third is technique. Most magicians don’t get this. They think everything is technique.” NAT ZUCKERMAN was a sign painter and an amateur magician. Standing at one side of the room, he asked his grandnephew to pick a card and slide it in his pocket without examining it. He yelled across the room to his wife, “Viola, what card did he take?” She named the five of hearts. His grandnephew checked his card. Five of hearts. The grandnephew was Steve Cohen. This was the first trick he learned. He was 6. When he was 10, he performed at a birthday party for a 4-year-old neighbor. It led to more. For four summers, starting when he was 12, he attended Tannen’s magic camp on Long Island. A fellow camper was David Blaine and his counselor was Johnny Ace Palmer, a skilled close-up magician. While in high school, Mr. Cohen got $20 an hour to walk around doing magic at a local restaurant. He went to Cornell University and majored in psychology, figuring things like persuasion and eye tracking could help an aspiring magician. He dated a classmate, Yumi Morishige, clinching her affections when he whipped away a cloth napkin and produced a dozen roses. They married and moved to Tokyo. She worked as a journalist. He became a legal translator, squeezing in magic shows on the side. After a few years, they returned to New York, where he continued translating and hustling magic gigs. He hung out at the bar of the Peninsula Hotel. He would nurse a soft drink and do tricks for the bartender. People would notice, say wow, and book him. He did a regular show at a friend’s apartment, until after three weeks the man’s wife tired of the furniture being rearranged. He moved it to the National Arts Club, where he met Holly Peppe, now his manager, who connected him with the Waldorf in 2001. The first few years, he had to beseech friends to attend. Ms. Peppe called her dry cleaner, her trainer, anyone. Then she introduced him to a Web site,, that enabled him to send e-mail to tens of thousands of people. In 2003, another site listing local activities,, mentioned him. Shows have been sold out for the last six years.

Once a month he does Miracles at Midnight, which is limited to 20 people who pay $250 each to see tricks culled from his private events: a borrowed watch turns up baked inside a loaf of bread. Why do magic? “I love giving people that reaction,” he said. “Wow, I can’t believe that!” HE had shopping to do. The owner of Tannen’s Magic shop on West 34th Street showed him a fake dove that looked real. “Nice,” Mr. Cohen said, but he doesn’t do birds anymore. There were raccoons, rabbits, skunks. He thumbed through a mentalism book, one of his specialties. “Mentalism is the last form of adult magic that people believe in,” he said. “They think it might possibly be real.” To maintain his image, he stays away from obvious props like black boxes with dragons stenciled on them in which objects vanish. He mentioned something said by Joseph Dunninger, the famed mentalist: “Every time you take out a prop, your price goes down.” He bought two tricks he liked, a book and some cards. Then he walked a block south to Fantasma, a newer magic shop.

Occupying the store’s center is a display of original Houdini props. A dummy Houdini descends from the ceiling and extricates himself from a straitjacket. Next to the display is Rambo, the store’s pet rabbit. Mr. Cohen studied a row of trick drinking glasses. He vetoed the beer glass — better suited for the thousandaires’ magician — and took a Champagne flute. He hoped to do a trick making caviar and Champagne materialize, a good Millionaires’ Magician effect. Later, he picked up June, his 5-year-old daughter, from preschool. The other parents know him — the magician. His son, Alex, who is 10, can do some card tricks. June can do one trick. Someone secretly draws something on a sheet of paper and June, from across the room, produces a matching drawing. It took him a year to teach it to her. His wife used to be able to rip up a dollar and reassemble it, until she forgot the restoration part and moved away from magic. At preschool, he steered June and a dozen classmates to a hallway and did a few tricks. Card stuff, a glass of orange juice emerging from beneath a handkerchief, an orange turning up inside a girl’s hat. Giggles, bug-eyed looks. June wanted to do her trick. A school worker was drafted to covertly draw something simple a child would recognize. June came up blank once, twice. She was rusty. One more time. The worker drew a heart. June drew a heart. IT takes an hour and a half to set up the Chamber Magic show at the Waldorf, as long as the performance. There is what the audience sees — not much — and what Mr. Cohen conceals in the room, which is a lot. Upholstered chairs stood in four rows in the suite’s living room, its windows extravagantly draped.

A small cloth-covered wooden table was up front. Mr. Cohen, in a morning coat, positioned himself behind the table. He began with cards and an absorbing coin trick. He wove in humor, personal ruminations, audience involvement. The show is 12 tricks, each consuming seven or eight minutes and anchoring in the mind. His signature is Think-a-Drink. It has existed in some form for over a century. The version Mr. Cohen does was popularized in the 1930s by Charles “Think-a-Drink” Hoffman, who performed it in vaudeville houses. Favorite drinks were scribbled on slips of paper by the audience, and Mr. Cohen poured four of them from a tea kettle: grapefruit juice, red wine, a martini, a margarita. He asked the wine person to pick a year. He chose 1720. “This is a free drink, sir,” Mr. Cohen said. A volunteer poured a final drink that matched the choice on a slip of paper that had been tucked into his pocket: chocolate milk. Over time, Mr. Cohen has poured more than 100 drinks from his kettle, without missing. Once someone, presumably with stomach issues, chose Pepto-Bismol. “I can’t pour medicine,” Mr. Cohen said. Magic continued happening. Cards rose from a deck, three rings borrowed from fingers in the audience became linked. Mr. Cohen segued into some benumbing mind-reading (your daughter’s name is Sara, you met John Kennedy, your lucky number is 56). Then the triumphal climax, an astonishing card trick where shuffled cards from two decks aligned in order. After the final show, some other magicians came by and they retreated to the lobby bar for drinks and a session. Soon, they were showing each other card manipulations. “You seen this one?” “Let me show you this.” A match book turned into a crumpled card; the backs of queens changed colors. Dialogue grew esoteric. “Was that stolen from the back or the middle?” “The middle.” “That clip shift is unbelievable.” David Kaye, a children’s magician who performs as Silly Billy, said: “We are a little eccentric. I brought a girlfriend to a magic convention, and she said all we do is sit around and talk about nothing.”

Then Silly Billy showed a trick, cards with slices of cake on them, the slices mysteriously changing size, a card left with no cake at all. “Very nice,” Mr. Cohen said. “That’s cool.” The night lengthened. It was almost 2 in the morning. The magicians kept talking. Kept doing tricks.
Brent McLeod
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Thanks so much for sharing
What a fabulous write up but Steve is such a Unique performer in his specialised Market-Fabulous to read about!

I too perform only Corporate & Theatre shows and reading about Steve is a real inspiration and certainly raises the Ladder as to where we need to aim for as a performer etc...

Thanks again

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Profile of mumford
Very impressive. There aren't too many magicians on earth that have their own venue and long running show and are successful both artistically and financially.
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Profile of CarlEJones
Like many others on TMC I've seen Steve in action at the WA. Amazing setting. Amazing "pre-sell" of the event by it's location, marketing, etc...

It was a real highlight of that particular trip to NY and one which I plan on repeating later this year.

Steve and his show are as high class as you'd ever imagine a magic show could be.

100% thumbs up to see this show if you can get there!

Best Wishes
THANK YOU for helping us carry on our laughter ministry in hospitals to kids of ALL ages. Our visits are ALWAYS free. We NEED & DEEPLY appreciate your gifts of magic so that we can do what we do. Please PM me with questions or, for a faster reply, in most cases please text or call 214-578-1601
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Profile of NYCJoePitt
I am seeing him on the 14th of this month. Looking forward to it.
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