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Conjuring tapped for entertainment at Inaugural Events

Prez to dig a tastin’ of prestidigitation as 20 wizards serve close-up sorcery at Bush inauguration dinner soirees.

Not since the days of president Martin Van Buren, known as, “The Little Magician” has magic cast such a spell in Washington. Legerdemain has been selected as the appropriate entertainment to compliment the George W. Bush presidential inauguration festivities. On Thursday January 18th, 20 top magicians will be deployed at 3 party sites (Washington Hilton, 2300 guests, 9 magicians; Union Station, 1400 guests,6 magicians; National Building Museum (known as the Pension Building to Washingtonians 1300 guests, 5 magicians). Magicians include: Alicia, Michael Ammar, Steve Bedwell, Tom Burgoon, Daryl, Marc DeSouza, Michael Finney, Dan Garrett, Paul Gertner, Giovanni, Charles Greene III, Falkenstein & Willard, Eric Henning, Todd Lamanske, Patrick Martin, Jimmy Miller, Alain Nu, Darwin Ortiz, John Shryock and Steve Zuckerman.

Magic producer David Sandy talked with Magic Times as to how it all came about. “On Dec. 23rd I was contacted by Michael Ammar. Michael had been approached by Mercer Reynolds, a friend and business associate of George W. Bush who had seen Michael perform at some function. Mr. Reynolds sounded Michael out on performing magic at an inaugural banquet. Michael enlisted my aid because of my producing background.” David is currently producer of Tom Mullica’s Red Skelton Tribute show and “The Workshop,” as well as being an advertising executive and public relations director for the IBM. “Michael also wanted to ‘open up’ the opportunity so that other magicians and magic as a whole could benefit from the exposure that participation in a presidential inauguration would have.”

David Sandy, Daryl, Alain Nu, Michael Ammar

“Obviously, there was not much time to prepare. Submission of a proposal was required by Dec. 26th. I scrambled to assemble a plan which called for 39 performers, some of whom would work at ‘performance stations’ where seating would be provided for short parlor shows. Even though it was all very last minute, I put it together, forwarded it to the Republican National Committee who are coordinating the inaugural parties, and then waited. And waited.”

“Finally, on Friday, Jan. 12th I was contacted by the committee and told thanks, but no thanks. Magic had been nixed from the program. The next day, Saturday the 13th, my cell phone rang. The committee had changed their mind and now wanted me to resubmit a pared down proposal of more modest scale. Things started happening quickly. Sunday morning we began contract negotiations. A lot of customizing was required. They had problems with our typical photo/video restrictions. They couldn’t very well tell CNN to stop shooting when one of the magicians was performing.  They also initially called for 10 million dollar liability insurance coverage. I pointed out that this was close up magic, there were no lions or tigers , tanks filled with water, or big pyro effects. The worst that could happen is someone gets a paper cut from a playing card. Sunday was a whirlwind but by 5:45 we had a signed contract.”

The president will visit each venue sometime between 8 and 10pm. Guests will have cocktails, receive the president, vice president, and entourage and have dinner. “One of the reasons close-up magic was selected as the featured entertainment is because of ‘it’s flexibility,’ David explained to Magic Times. “30 to 35 minutes of table and walk around magic will be presented at each site, actual timing to integrate with the presidents arrival, dinner, etc. There will also be a celebrity host at each location; piano music and string quartets as background dinner accompaniment  and “Living Statuary.”

Paul Gertner, Charles Greene III, Dan Garrett, Giovanni, Darwin Ortiz, Marc DeSouza

“So far, there have been no problems with Secret Service security checks of the magic performers. Michael and I selected performers from a pool of people we’ve worked with before and who were available for the date. The magicians are working for less than their usual fees, but all realize the public relations and advertising benefits of participating in this prestigious and highly visible event. I know that several of them are working up special topical routines and a few have already incorporated their participation in the presidential inauguration in their promotional materials.”

“The presidential inaugural committee has been wonderful to work with, even in light of the limitations and accommodations of a hectic schedule to make arrangements” David said. “Throughout the negotiations and preparations they have treated magic and magicians with respect. It is my goal to not just meet their expectations, but to exceed them. Michael Ammar is to be thanked for opening up this opportunity for magic to get this great exposure. I’m honored to be involved as coordinator of the magic team.”

—Richard Steven Cohn

Historical note: Martin Van Buren, in addition to his nick name of “The Little Magician” was also known as “Old Kinderhook” referring to his district in New York State. Sometimes this appellation was shortened to just it’s initials on broadsides and political tracts. This is the origin of the oft repeated Americanism, “O.K.”

Richard Steven Cohn has written for Genii, Magicol, M.U.M., The Yankee Collector, MAGIC, as well as magic themed articles for Brooklyn Bridge Magazine and Stagebill. He is a magical consultant for television and theater and performs both as a single and with his wife Alexandra.

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