MAN TO SPREAD MAGIC IN HIS LIFE WITH SHOW.
Magician Christopher DePalma is fulfilling a longtime dream by organizing and putting on a magic show in his hometown.
A Newbury Park resident since elementary school and an aspiring magician since he was 13, Christopher will be produce the Conejo Valley Magic Show - the debut of which is expected to be an annual event - April 6 at the Civic Arts Plaza. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Under One Roof Community Conscience, the Thousand Oaks human-services center.
Joining Christopher on stage will be world-class magician Johnny Ace Palmer and national award-winning magician Scott Cervine.
Christopher remembers being fascinated with magic when he was only 5.
"I would watch anything on TV that had to do with magic. When my parents took me to Disneyland, I remember we had to stop at both magic shops; it was more important than any of the rides."
Thirty years later Christopher is the No. 1 private-party magician for Disneyland. His distinctive beard keeps him from more engagements at the amusement park. "I would have to shave my beard to work during the day at Disneyland. I've had my beard about 10 years, and it's part of my persona," he explained.
When Christopher was 13 he decided to get serious about magic. He remembers being home from school with measles and watching the Johnny Grant midday movie, a film starring Tony Curtis about the life of magician Harry Houdini. An actual clip of Houdini performing was in the movie, and during a break Grant's guest was Bill Larson, who with his brother Milt founded the Magic Castle in Hollywood.
Not only did Christopher decide he had to become a member of the Magic Castle, but he paid close attention to Larson's featured illusion that day. A woman was kneeling with her head under a chopper, similar to France's infamous guillotine. Her head appeared to be severed and to fall into a basket, but then she stood up unharmed.
Humor is an important part of Christopher's magic showmanship. He tells his audience he has a special aid for them: "It combines acupuncture and acupressure and will remove all stress from the neck down."
Christopher removes a paper bag to reveal his own head chopper, which he calls "an Acu-Sever." An audience volunteer, usually a woman, kneels on stage as Christopher plans to cut two pieces of celery with his Acu-Sever, one above her head, one below. The audience sees the blade, which is real, apparently pass through the neck of the nervous participant. The celery is cut by the blade. The participant, who can watch the celery being cut without losing her head, is probably the most amazed of all, Christopher pointed out.
"All during high school I would do magic for myself and for friends and relatives. I read all the magic books in the Ventura County library system," Christopher remembered.
Christopher found his first magic teacher through an interest in martial arts. The teacher of the class, who called himself Professor Harold Broscious, turned out to be an excellent mentor for Christopher. Broscious had an encyclopedic knowledge of magic tricks, but had never performed professionally.
Music also was an early interest for Christopher - and another path to magic. At Newbury Park High School, he was a member of the ensemble choir, and after high school graduation got a job as a singing waiter at the Depot restaurant in Camarillo.
Professional magician Frank Baxter came into the restaurant one night and saw Christopher perform some tricks. Baxter was impressed enough to invite him to the Magic Castle for a meeting with Bill Larson, the owner/founder. Christopher, only 21 at the time, demonstrated his tricks for Larson and expected a second audition. He was astounded to learn that the preliminary audition was so excellent that not only was he admitted as a member, but Larson wanted to hire him to entertain customers at the Conjurers Corner.
"Normally people auditioning for the Magic Castle had the magic knowledge and expertise, but not the polish to perform," Christopher explained.
The Magic Castle not only gave him a job - "the most money I had made just performing magic" - but became a refuge for Christopher, who was going through some devastating personal problems. His father had been diagnosed with cancer, and his young wife, mother of their son who was then 4, told him she wanted a divorce. (The couple had been married at 18.)
During leaner years, magic talent was an added bonus for Christopher, enhancing his jobs as a bartender. In the past 10 years, he's turned his attention to corporate magic, successfully providing entertainment at conventions and meetings for Rockwell, Bank of America, Amgen and the American Heart Association, to name a few.
As a magician Christopher doesn't rest on his laurels: "I'm constantly challenging myself to become better by expanding and refining my magic and developing new illusions."
Photo (1) Fire rises from a book on command from professional magician Christopher DePalma of Newbury Park. (2) Cards fly quicker than the eye in Christopher DePalma's hands. Gene Blevins/Special to the Daily News