Alakazam: Ohio’s traveling magicians

Magician David Anthony
Magician David Anthony wows the crowd.

Who travels for a living? Truck drivers, certainly. Commercial airline pilots. The people who fix office copy machines. Also, magicians.

Yes, magicians. Ohio is home to many magicians who take their shows on the road — to fairs, festivals, corporate retreats, birthday parties, business meetings, libraries, college campuses, camps, restaurants — any place they’re invited to perform. These four Ohio magicians share a peek behind the curtain.

David Anthony, Broadview Heights

“As kids, we have a sense of wonder,” says Cleveland-area magician David Anthony. “As adults, we start to lose that wonder.”

To renew that wonder, if only for a while, is one reason Anthony performs magic — close magic, stage shows, and comedy hypnosis. Styling himself as an elegant, updated, Rat Pack spin-off (radio station WKYC called him “the Sinatra of magic”), Anthony’s hallmark is casual sophistication, even when he dresses down for college audiences.

Developing his own ideas — working up a three-minute trick, perfecting it, and then adding music, choreography, and “rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal” — usually requires months, Anthony says.

Anthony often gives onstage credit to his parents, who have supported him since he was 12. “I always wanted to be a doctor, but my parents begged me to be a magician,” he jokes to audiences.

Anthony performs often at Cleveland’s Alex Theater — his last eight shows there have sold out — as well as at corporate events, banquets, school assemblies, casinos, and summer camps.

While he’s proud of Cleveland and its support of the arts, Anthony hopes to become a known name far beyond Cuyahoga County. The ultimate goal?

“To be a household name,” Anthony says, and his wife, Alicia, echoes him: “To be a national name.”

Carroll Baker, Columbus

As a child, Carroll Baker won a contest at vacation Bible school. The prize: a Susan B. Anthony silver dollar and lunch with Harry Blackstone Jr. — which led to a one-off as a magician’s assistant when Blackstone visited Columbus’ Children’s Hospital, now Nationwide Children’s Hospital. It certainly set things in motion.

These days, at Gahanna’s Old Bag of Nails restaurant, Baker moves from table to table, joking, teasing, and performing tricks — though magicians prefer not to talk about doing tricks: “Dogs do tricks,” Baker says. “Magicians perform magic.”

“What grade are you in? Seventh? For the first time? Good for you! What’s your favorite subject?” he asks a young girl out with her family.

“Oh, boy,” says the middle schooler, pausing to think. Baker pounces.

“Oh, boys!” he says.

He admits to having “a head full of one-liners,” thanks to 28 years in bars and restaurants.

While he jokes, he asks customers to think of an invisible card, then pulls that card from his own very real deck. He has people autograph playing cards that somehow, some way, wind up on the ceiling of the restaurant.

As for what 6-year-old Baker did to win an afternoon with Blackstone: He memorized Bible verses — 23 verses to the second-place winner’s four. “I try to have fun with everything I do,” he says.

“Magic Nate” LeGros, Delaware

Here’s the thing about Magic Nate: He’s funny, he’s friendly, and he performs to music without speaking a word.

LeGros says a show for deaf students was his first experience doing magic to music — realizing he had to figure out a way to perform without talking.

The show was a hit, and Magic Nate made wordless magic his thing. He chooses the music carefully and times even small movements to the notes, to good effect.

During a show at the Delaware Country District Library, he incorporates every child and several adults in the audience into his wordless performance.

“That’s crazy good!” a child exclaims as Magic Nate makes a series of small balls appear and disappear.

He closes the program with his signature act: the balloon swallow. He blows up a long, skinny balloon, the end of which ultimately winds up in his mouth. Slowly and ceremoniously, with much working of his jaws, he consumes the whole thing. The kicker, LeGros points out, is that he doesn’t produce the balloon from behind somebody’s ear or under a chair. It’s G-O-N-E gone.

Magic is endlessly variable, LeGros says. “Once you know the basics of magic,” he says, “you can pretty much do anything.”

Cinde Wolf, Cincinnati

“The Amazing Cindini” performs on a Sunday evening at Mac’s Pizza Pub in Mason. The moment she pulls out three lengths of rope and asks a child to sprinkle them with magic dust, a crowd gathers around her. Cindini gives each child the chance to sprinkle magic.

Female magicians may be somewhat rare, but they do exist, says Wolf. “Being a female magician really helped me get started,” she says. “I get a lot of calls specifically because I am a female.”

Cindini picked up her wand 25 years ago. Two of her cousins were professional magicians, and she’d always been intrigued.

Her cousins, though, were never willing to teach her the secrets of the trade. “They just wanted me to enjoy it,” she says. She has a different approach: encourage children who are interested in the craft. To that end, she teaches magic at workshops and summer camps. One of her favorite stories has to do with teaching a child a magic trick. The child performed the trick, then said, “But when are we going to do magic?”

The magical part of magic isn’t just the trick itself, Cindini says. A good magician hones her act, gives it personality, and makes it her own. “Just because you know the secret and you know the trick doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good performer.” When magic is performed well, she says, “it’s things that change right before your eyes. That’s why I love it so much.”