A friend of Johnny Carson's, this magician is known for using magic to communicate in the corporate world.
By L. CROW
Three-time World Champion Magician Paul Gertner will be appearing at The Butler Museum on Aug. 19 in a show that benefits the Butler's free education programs.
Gertner has been confounding his audiences for 30 years, giving advice to the likes of David Copperfield. He specializes in sleight of hand tricks and his trademark is his use of silver cups and steel ball bearings, hence the name of his book, "Paul Gertner's Steel & amp; Silver."
Johnny Carson wrote the introduction to the book, and Gertner talks about the man who once called himself "The Great Carsoni."
"Johnny Carson was a magician before he became a comedian," said Gertner. "He always maintained an interest in magic. I would visit him at his home when I was in L.A. to show him new tricks. When I was on his show, he would always slip in a technical term that only magicians understood, but other people wouldn't even notice. In this way, he was saying to the magicians, 'I'm one of you.'"
Gertner's interest in magic began in childhood after a magician came to his school when he was in second or third grade. "When I was about ten years old, I started reading books on magic," he said. "There were seven of us kids, so the library was where the whole family went every Sunday. I started reading magic books found in the kids section, but soon realized there were magic books in the grown-up section, too. The books were intriguing, giving the histories and secrets of doing magic. Some were easy, and some complex."
"Some required special props, too," Gertner continued. "I never knew there were companies that supplied special things for magicians, like fake, hollow eggs. I even made one out of soap once."
Gertner has come a long way since then, and is internationally known as a pro at using magic to communicate a message. He has been involved with "corporate magic" for about 20 years. This includes trade shows, where a magic trick can attract prospective clients for a company, motivational speaking at sales meetings, or numerous other ways he has found to help corporations sell their products.
The magic captures peoples' attention, making it easier to get a message across. Once, while working for Domino's Pizza, he made a missing, torn $100 bill appear in a pizza he had just ordered on a cell phone. His message was "there's money in pizza."
"Doing corporate magic actually began in the '60s," said Gertner. "I use magic to deliver a trade show message or to show people there's a more creative way to get their message across."
When Gertner performs at the Butler, his message will be to get people in touch with that childlike wonder and creativity many of us have long suppressed.
"I want everyone in the audience to react like 5-year-olds, with their mouths hanging open," Gertner said. "Adults have covered their childlike sense of wonder with business suits, but it's still there. We need creativity in our jobs and in our lives. We experience magic with our senses rather than our minds. I want people to react without thinking."
Gertner will be tying in his magic with the current exhibit at the Butler, works by Michael Hardesty which create optical illusions.
"I want to show the relationship between artists and magician," Gertner said. "Optical illusions in art make the viewer ask questions, like 'now that's funny, what am I seeing?' Some of the tricks involve interaction with the art, and there will be audience participation for the stage show."
Frank Marzullo, weatherman from WFMJ Today (TV Channel 21) will assist Gertner on stage.
His shows are not always perfect, Gertner' admitted. During a Las Vegas-style act he did in a white suit with feathers for about 1,500 magicians, one red feather boa did not appear where it was supposed to.
"I didn't realize that it was actually down the back of my coat, like a red tail," he said. "The audience wasn't sure if it was meant to be comedy and it was very embarrassing."
But he says usually when things go wrong, experience kicks in, and he can cover it without the audience having a clue. "The trick is, magicians don't tell exactly what is supposed to happen," Gertner said, adding, "That way, you have room for things not going quite right."
But being a magician can be wonderful, he said.
"People in their 80s or 90s will come up to me and say they remember seeing Harry Blackstone in Chicago," Gertner said. "They may not remember much else from that long ago, but the memory of the magic lasted 75 years."
Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres at the Butler begin at 7:30, while Gertner does one-on-one magic. The stage show begins at 8:45. Tickets are $25 or $50, and reservations must be made by Aug. 9. Call (330) 743-1107, ext. 122, 123 or 125.