The Amazing Johnathan refuses to disappear

Updated September 12, 2018 - 8:19 am

The Amazing Johnathan invented a magic trick to perform on himself. It’s called “Hide the Pill.”

It didn’t work out too well.

“I was taking so much medication I decided to stop taking one of my pills,” the magician said. “Well, after a while I couldn’t breathe. I figured out which one I needed.”

This went on for eight months. A.J. has been prescribed up to 18 pills to stay alive, a startling achievement given that he was given one year to live in 2014. He turned 60 on Sunday, celebrating with a small group of friends and his wife, fellow magician Anastasia Synn.

The event was marked in a macabre way by Mike Hammer, the Four Queens comic magician, who presented A.J. with a gravestone and a “Happy 60th birthday” message. The piece is a testament to the magician’s unexpected survival.

“I can’t believe it, either,” Johnathan said Tuesday afternoon. “I feel pretty good, actually. I just take my medication as directed, try to stay out of hospitals and not think about it.”

A.J., whose legal name is Johnathan Szeles, has not performed this year in Las Vegas (his most recent date in town was at Rocks Lounge at Red Rock Resort last October). He has been battling the degenerative heart condition cardiomyopathy, and in 2014 his doctors told him he had about a year to live.

“Obviously,” he says, “that diagnosis was completely wrong.”

A.J. is the focus of the documentary “Always Amazing: The True Story of the Life, Death and Return of the Amazing Johnathan,” which screens at the Los Angeles Lift-Off Film Festival on Sept. 23. The doc premiered March 10 at the Just for Laughs Film Festival in Vancouver, British Columbia. He has dates Oct. 5 in the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan, Illinois, and Jan. 18 at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut.

Synn takes much of the stage time, giving A.J. a chance to pace himself. She just appeared on Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us” and is the subject of a lengthy feature in the trade publication Vanish. A widely regarded stage performer, Synn has been married to A.J. for eight years and his sidekick for the past five. These two are still carrying on, in a magic act that refuses to disappear.

On the topic of magic …

Windows Showroom at Bally’s looks like the next magic box (that’d be an apt name for it) entering 2019. Caesars Entertainment has been working to take over that venue for months. This event should lead to the relocation of Wayne Newton and the Bronx Wanderers. Xavier Mortimer and Santiago Michel (host of the Spanish-language “Illusion Mental” show) are two Sin City Theater magic mainstays who will be seeking a new place to perform, too. According to the current blueprint, this strategy should work for all of those entertainers.

We just mentioned him …

Newton was spotted at the South Point on Monday, recording a promotional spot for NBC and Sunday’s South Point 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Newton was similarly filmed by the network in advance of the Vegas Golden Knights-Washington Capitals Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena.

Jukebox at The Mirage

Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox is coming to the Strip, at the Terry Fator Theater at The Mirage, for eight dates running Nov. 2 to 11. All shows are 7:30 p.m. Bradlee and Postmodern infuse a big-band swing vibe to music of any genre (“Straight Up,” by Paula Abdul, “Goldigger” by Kanye West and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses are common covers).

Love the move by MGM Resorts to hook this band into one of its venues, even if the Fator Theater is not exactly groove-conducive. But the band most recently played The Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall in April, and — from those who were there — there was some serious dancing going on. This is a show that Vegas needs.

Tune this in

In a very Vegas booking, Slash featuring Miles Kennedy & The Conspirators appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” at 11:35 p.m. Wednesday on ABC. Column fave and Vegas native Frankie Sidoris is on guitar and Sin City Sinners founder Todd Kerns is on bass and Brent Fritz on drums. Kimmel, of course, is also from Las Vegas and attended UNLV.

Cool hang alert

Travis Cloer, late of “Jersey Boys” and a crazy-great performer wherever he appears, joins “The Cocktail Cabaret” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Shows are 6 p.m. at Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace. I dig T.C., and not only because he allows me to refer to him as “T.C.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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