Jeff McBride: Battle of the wizards on television and the Las Vegas Strip

Editor’s Note: After a glorious nearly month-long family vacation in the Italian and Sicilian countryside, Robin Leach is back and resuming his new daily columns today with the news of shock stunt king Ryan Stock bringing his horror-filled show to Hooters Casino direct from the blazing arrow incident fired by his girlfriend Amber Lynn that pierced his neck on AMERICA’S GOT TALENT.

We’ll continue guest columnists in August while Robin works from the cooler climes of La Jolla near San Diego in advance of our newly designed website launching soon.

On Friday in his debut Neon column, Robin has a preview of the Magic Live! convention here next week for 1,600 worldwide illusionists, conjurors, magicians and wizards. Today, his guest columns are from two Las Vegas magicians, Dan Sperry and Jeff McBride. Here is “masked magician” Jeff:

By Jeff McBride

TV does not make you rich. It makes you famous. Famous makes you rich! There is a simple formula for getting a showroom in Las Vegas. Get on television, and you can get a show in Las Vegas. Television sells tickets. No television? No deal. Get some television, get some fame, then get rich! But what if there just are not enough showrooms to go around? The battle begins!

Oh, there is magic, magic everywhere! Magic on television with Penn & Teller’s FOOL US, THE CARBONARO EFFECT and the new hit TV series HOUDINI AND DOYLE. Magic is in the movies with NOW YOU SEE ME 2. The Four Horsemen are the magical stars in the film. They combine their talents to pull off high-tech hijinks.

Perhaps many magicians in Las Vegas are inspired by this team and are banding together to maximize box office potential. Las Vegas casino execs love magic shows. They know that a good illusionist can give the visiting gambler hope in the face of impossible odds. “If that guy can make the tiger appear, perhaps I can do something impossible, too?!”

There is big money in big magic. Today, there are many wizards battling to get attention on television and to get their show in a room here in Las Vegas. New shows abound, and there seems to be stiff competition to find the right room for the best magic show.

Dick Feeney is still working on getting his WORLD’S GREATEST MAGIC SHOW back into a casino property, and Simon Painter’s successful production THE ILLUSIONISTS is touring multiple units worldwide and rumored to be opening here next year. Also in the running: MASTERS OF ILLUSION. Many European illusionists are in talks with casinos and tossing their top hats into the Las Vegas ring, as well. Let the best mage win!

MAGIC MAKES DREAMS COME TRUE

Mat Franco had the right stuff to make it big in Las Vegas. Early on in his career, Mat studied his magic at my McBride’s Magic School in Henderson. Now he is the winner of AMERICA’S GOT TALENT and has his own Strip headliner show, MAT FRANCO: MAGIC REINVENTED NIGHTLY at The Linq Hotel.

APPEARING & DISAPPEARING IN TOWN

The new kid on the block is a Frenchman named Xavier Mortimer. His show The SHADOW ORCHESTRA toured France to sellout crowds. Xavier was then headhunted for Cirque du Soleil’s MICHAEL JACKSON ONE at Mandalay Bay. After a few years as one of the principal performers, he has written a new star vehicle titled XAVIER MORTIMER’S MAGICAL DREAM.

Xavier is a multitalented magician, juggler, musician and actor. If you are looking for something different in the way of magic, you can find him at Sin City Theater in Planet Hollywood. Magician Murray Sawchuck continues his run on the same stage.

Mon Dre is now the featured act at The Stratosphere’s new Happy Happy Comedy Hour comedy room. Mon Dre is a regular at Wonderground and features doves and the amazing finale production of … um, no spoiler here! Just go see his super-cool style of magic at 6:30 p.m.

It seems about time that Criss Angel has opened a show that many expected to see at The Luxor years ago. His TV series MINDFREAK premiered on A&E on Wednesday, July 20, 2005. Now more than 10 years after the TV show aired, the live version, MINDFREAK LIVE!, is running at box office blockbuster numbers at The Luxor. I have heard good reports from local magi about his new illusions in the show.

WONDERGROUND

After a long day of mastering the impossible and competing for showrooms, almost every magician in Las Vegas attends our monthly magic party, JEFF McBRIDE’S WONDERGROUND. It is now in its eighth year and is the best value in Las Vegas. Only $10 for locals gets you an epic night of immersive magic theater with more than 20 performers, dancers and artists. This is a local favorite, the center of the Las Vegas magic community.

Each month, WONDERGROUND conjures a three-hour magic extravaganza and is produced by a team of talented magicians. Tim Wise and Will Bradshaw host stage shows. Christian Diamond hosts close-up magic.

You can witness local and visiting international illusionists sharpening their skills and working on new mysteries in hopes of baffling Penn & Teller on their next season of FOOL US. You can witness “The New Breed of Vegas Magic” each month onstage and up close. Recent showstoppers include Bizarro, variety artists Les Contortionettes, juggler Niels Duniker and comedy daredevils Ryan Stock and Amber Lynn.

You can meet many celebrity magicians. Recent visitors include Siegfried Fischbacher, Lance Burton, Mac King, Mat Franco, Xavier Mortimer, Fredric DaSilva, Murray Sawchuck, R.J. Owens, Dan Sperry, Rudy Coby, Gerry McCambridge and Kevin James. More: VegasWonderground.com.

Band of Magicians from Australia and illusionist Greg Gleason are in the running for their own rooms on the Strip. Gleason makes his helicopter appear onstage each night in the touring version of MASTERS OF ILLUSION. Lance Burton keeps a busy schedule jetting to film festivals to pick up awards for his new family film BILLY TOP-IT: MASTER MAGICIAN.

Tommy Wind caught a Merlin Award for Best Family Magic Show. Escape artist Dixie Dooley is recovering from an accident and will return soon to Royal Resort. The Amazing Johnathan was seen holding court at the recent Las Vegas Wonderground.

SO YOU WANT TO BE A MAGICIAN?

Magic is a fun hobby for many and for a select few a lucrative profession. If you want to learn the tricks of the trade, the following are a few places to start. The Magic & Mystery School serves up magic lessons and private classes for amateurs and professionals. More: MagicalWisdom.com.

Las Vegas Magic Luncheon: Every Friday at noon, magicians meet for a round table to discuss the state of the art and share tricks of the trade and news. Elliott Hitchcock is the kingpin of the group, and his current location is Gordon Biersch on Paradise. More info on Facebook; search for “Las Vegas Magic Luncheon.”

If you need to make a person disappear, you can find the building plans at Las Vegas Pro Magic at The Denny & Lee Shop on Dean Martin Drive. Scott Brown and Scott Steelfyre hold court each day to help train local and visiting wonder workers. You can browse the latest books, DVDs, inventions and illusions. Drop over for a spell! Facebook.com/LasVegasProMagic.

And more on yours truly: jeff@mcbridemagic.com, McBrideMagic.com and Facebook.com/jeff.mcbride.37.

Be sure to check out our other guest magic columnist today, Dan Sperry, who believes that he’s found the perfect secret society in Las Vegas that has nothing to do with magic. Robin also shines the celebrity spotlight on AMERICA’S GOT TALENT dangerous duo Ryan Stock and Amber Lynn opening at Hooters Casino with their flaming arrow stunt.

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