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Magic Masters

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The following magic trick has been performed in front of live audiences. No mirrors or smoke are used. No animals are harmed. Imagine a drum roll ...

A $100 dollar is obtained. A trusting audience member signs the bill. The bill is handed to a magician who destroys the bill in plain sight. Elsewhere in the audience, another trusting person is holding a double-bag, stapled shut, containing a lemon. This audience member is asked to hand over the bag. The magician removes the staples, opens both bags and takes out the lemon. The lemon is sliced open to reveal a $100 bill--the bill that was seemingly destroyed earlier, with signature intact!

Applause.

This "Bill in Lemon" trick is a popular slice of Norm Marini's magic. Marini, owner of Tucson's La Baguette Parisienne Bakery, has been performing magic for the last 15 years. His interest started as a child.

"I've been into magic since I was 11 years old," says Marini. "I used to take the bus to Johnny Alexander's Magic Shop on Grant and Country Club. I started to hang out there and bought a few tricks. I fell in love with it. I tinkered with magic in high school and then joined the Society of American Magicians at 21."

Marini says the local chapter of the society started in 1977. "Most of the magicians who are performing belong. We are 70 members strong. It's a nonprofit club, a place where magicians can hang out and exchange ideas. There's a wealth of knowledge in the club."

Marini performs a two-hour show with partner Gene Collins at local venues. He produces and performs six times a year at the Gaslight Theater. Other work includes banquets, anniversaries, birthdays, business functions and parties. The show includes "illusions, doves, animals, special lighting, fog ... ." But Marini's favorite type of music to perform is comedy magic.

In comedy magic, Marini brings audience members on stage to help with the tricks. He says there are three other major types of magic: kids' magic, stage magic and close-up magic. "In stage magic, there are manipulations and big illusions. In close-up magic, there is slight-of-hand."

Each year, the Society of American Magicians puts on a show that includes all types of magic. The 2005 Stars of Magic Annual Magic Extravaganza takes place at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children, available at Williams Magic and Novelties, 6528 E. 22nd St. (790-4060) and www.williamsmagic.com.

Marini will serve as master of ceremonies and says it will be a Las Vegas-style performance, with "a huge variety of magic, music, special effects, lighting and fog. It's showy and professionally done. Jay Gorham, former president of the National Society of Magicians, said it was the most professionally done show he has seen. That shows the caliber of the show."

There will be nine performers in addition to Marini, who will perform his magic in between other acts. Opening is Matt McArther, the youngest Arizona State and Parlor Magician of the Year. His specialties are manipulations and a dove act. Next is the husband-and-wife team of Bruce and Jan Spell. Bruce has been performing for 20 years and will do a comedy mind-reading act and illusions. The third performer is Jayson Schultz, who won a Tucson State Magician of the Year award. He will do a classical linking ring routine and card manipulation. Aaron Posey takes the stage next with an escape routine.

Another comedic magician, Tim Mansfield, will perform The Great Zamboni--described by Marini as a mixture of Austin Powers, magician Lance Burton and Liberace. Another husband-and-wife team follows with Mike and Billie DeSchalit. The multi-award winning couple will perform various illusions. Next, Gene Collins, partner to Marini, joins his wife, Charlene, to perform classical dove magic and illusions. Brian Moore takes the stage after the couple to perform with Jeremy, a marionette. John Shyrock, the only full-time magician in the show, will close the show and "will do a little bit of everything."

With so much variety, Marini says the show is for the entire family. "Out of all the entertainment you can go to, this is by far the most satisfying night out. You can't beat the price, and the entertainment value for your buck can't be beat. It's way too fun."

Part of the fun for Marini is working with the audience and experiencing the various reactions. "It's part of the beauty of doing magic. The reactions vary from show to show. There's a lot of funny stuff that happens off the cuff. The real, genuine reactions of people on stage make the show. The crowd plays off that, and they love it.

"The magic is amazing, entertaining and puzzling, because it happens right in front of you. It's real. There's no way of saying it was edited or there were camera tricks (like on television)."

In this age of special effects and computer graphics, Marini says Stars of Magic gives us the opportunity to "take a step away from reality." We can be like children again, with eyes of wonder and smiles of amazement. Perhaps that's the biggest magic trick of all.

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