Calling All Conjurers, Wizards, and Wannabe's
Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: Photography by Anne
The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker…the doctor, the professor, the salesman, the student. On the first Monday of every month, assorted characters are found at the Sea Pines Community Center practicing all manner of bamboozlement—entirely legal, of course.
“It’s a diverse group—none of them normal,” quipped Keith Bogart, retired neurologist and founder of the Dr. Keith Bogart Ring 349, Society of Lowcountry Magicians. Established in 1999, the ring is one of seven in South Carolina affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Magicians (I.B.M.), the world’s largest organization dedicated to the art of magic. The purpose of the local organization is to enhance and perpetuate magic. While several club members perform for pay, most are hobbyists. All enjoy the camaraderie and can benefit from the association.
“We can all learn new things, improve our acts and bring more visibility to magic,” said Gary Maurer, former school teacher turned professional magician. Named South Carolina Magician of the year in 2010, he is one of two members currently earning a living performing magic. He got his start in Allentown, Pa., where he first joined an I.B.M. ring as well as the Society of American Magicians and has been entertaining full-time since 1986. “If I had not joined the club, I’m not sure I would have ever gotten where I am now,” he said.
Club member and full-time professional entertainer Mick Ayres is the official magician at the exclusive Disney Vacation Club resort on Hilton Head Island and is a prolific writer and creator of magic and mentalism. He was named S.C. Magician of the Year in 2001.
Dr. Fred Reisz, former president of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, serves as president of the local ring. Performing for over 50 years in half of the states of the USA as “Fred the Fantastique,” he is an award-winning magician and inspirational speaker with numerous published effects.
Other distinguished members include Brad Jacobs, past national president of the Society of American Magicians and Obie Obrien, past international president of the I.B.M.
A friendly fascination
People who perform magic are drawn to it for various reasons. Bogart’s first introduction to it, at a county fair in Fremont, Ohio at age nine, led to a lifelong fascination, diverted briefly by an interest in football and girls, “not necessarily in that order,” he said. “Around 14, I thought magic would be a good way to pick up chicks. You’ll have to see how that worked out in our upcoming show.”
For Bogart, the fun is in figuring out how it’s done. “Even if I didn’t perform for people, I could still be interested,” he said. “I got into it because this stuff is ingenious.”
“For me, it was never about wanting to know how it was done,” Maurer said. “Seeing how people reacted—the amazement and wonderment on their faces—was always the motivating factor for me. I still do tricks I did 15 years ago, and it gives me the same thrill.”
Captivated by magic as a young child, Reisz said the hobby became life affirming when he contracted rheumatic fever in junior high. While confined to bed for a year and a half, he says his ability to perform magic provided “a sense of worth and value.”
Retired elementary school teacher, Pam Schofield, and her husband David caught the magic bug while taking a continuing education class taught by Bogart. Pam has since served as president of the local ring and enjoys entertaining her grandchildren and friends.
The ring’s first female member, past president, Sandy Fearns, a former clown from New Jersey, discovered magic when she met Maurer at a church picnic where he was performing. Active in the club since 2004, she enjoys the expressions on people’s faces when they witness the seemingly impossible. “The hand really is quicker than the eye,” she said.
One of the club’s newer members, business executive, engineer and local water commissioner, Tom Hopkins attests to the club’s affability. As a beginner, he says he felt immediately welcomed. “It’s a privilege to get to know the more seasoned magicians and learn from them,” he said. Hopkins enjoys adding his own creative spin to classic tricks. He performs for family, friends, coworkers—“basically anyone who will watch.” With the encouragement of his fellow ring members, he will make his public debut at the upcoming club show this month.
Learn the secrets/join the fun
The first rule of magic is never to tell how the trick is done. Some effects work themselves when you know how. Others require specific knowledge, skills and dexterity. Whether you aspire to become a full-time magician, entertain at parties or simply amaze your family and friends, joining the Lowcountry Society of Magicians is your key to the inner sanctum. I.B.M. membership (the prerequisite to joining the local club) is open to anyone age 18 and over who has an interest in magic. Youth memberships are also available for those ages 7-17.
The monthly meeting includes a brief business discussion, followed by members sharing, practicing and discussing the latest effects in magic. In addition, the club frequently hosts lectures and demonstrations by professional magicians who travel the magic circuit.
For information on membership or to be a guest at the next monthly meeting of the Society of Lowcountry Magicians, call Fred Reisz at (843) 705-4742.