Head scratching, jaw dropping and giggles marked the prestidigitator's performance.
By L. CROW
YOUNGSTOWN -- If there was one flaw with the performance of three-time world champion magician Paul Gertner at the Butler Institute of American Art, it was that the show ended way too quickly. Or maybe that was just an illusion.
Gertner's audience Friday became lost in a world of timelessness and trickery, complete with his own brand of humor. Gertner had said he wanted the adults to gape like 5-year-olds. He got his wish.
The fund-raising event, benefiting the Butler's free education programs, began with a lively social hour, with hors d'oeuvres by Thymely Events. Gertner mingled with guests, showing them tricks with marked cards, coins and little red fuzzy balls.
Gertner explained the marked-card trick as he went along. "You can see the cards are all mixed up," he said. Then he asked someone to say "stop" as he let the cards drop from one hand to the other. He handed the person the card, and explained that he would cut the deck exactly in half.
"I can tell by the weight in each hand. I am precisely controlling each card," he added, as he slipped the two halves back together, and writing began to emerge in black marker on the side of the deck, with the cards now in order by number and suit.
Continuing this way, the words, "The Butler" appeared on the side of the deck, then "Eight of Hearts," the exact card the person was holding. Gertner gleefully went on to his next group of people, leaving people scratching their heads.
Guest Donna Carbon assisted Gertner in the "disappearing ball" trick. She clasped her hand around one red ball, as Gertner held the other. After some hocus-pocus, he opened his hand and the ball was gone, appearing now in Carbon's hand.
She stared, stunned. "I felt it get bigger," she said, with amazement and laughter. "It puffed up and then there were two!"
And so the evening began, as Gertner mingled with the crowd, leaving a trail of dropped jaws and giggles. The main stage show began with an introduction by Glenn Stevens of WFMJ TV 21, and a further introduction on video by Gertner's buddy, the late Johnny Carson, on whose show he had appeared numerous times.
Gertner's style left the crowd thinking, "I'm following this," until the last moment, when the unexpected happened. He would craftily lead the audience down one path, diverting attention from what was really happening, pretending all the while that he was making mistakes.
The best trick was the card, signed and marked by an audience member, which couldn't be found, and eventually turned up inside a sealed envelope.
Many of Gertner's tricks were with cards, and he even taught the audience the "Three Card Monte." All guests received their own packet so they could do this one themselves.
Gertner stunned the crowd as he shredded a section of The Vindicator, only to have it transform back into a complete paper before their very eyes.
The grand finale brought WFMJ Today weatherman Frank Marzullo on stage. The crowd cheered as he was sawed in half. Next, he stood behind a black sheet, holding an umbrella, and grasping the sheet with his hand, as it was wrapped around him. The audience clapped enthusiastically as Marzullo disappeared, replaced by WFMJ Today co-anchor Scott Schneider.
The show ended after Gertner turned a silver rod into a rainbow.