“Flabbergast, Wizard” has a Facebook page. He has been invited to fan conventions as a guest and to renaissance fairs as an entertainer. He has a YouTube channel. “Flabbergast” has his own merchandise! His name and image are now on the box of a children’s magic kit for sale at various events where he appears. His car has personalized license plates that read, “FLBRGST”. It’s more than a costumed character portrayed by a semi-professional kid show magician, it’s become a brand name, a mascot, an alias. I created this character above all other characters I represent to be my alter-ego. Why?
Is it because I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, or a Tolkien fan? Not really. I love these stories and the wizard characters in them, but it’s not such a specific fandom that led me to become this character. In fact, I was dressing up as a wizard before JK Rowling published her first book, which was before Peter Jackson created the first film to present Tolkien’s work respectably. My fascination with wizard imagery probably goes as far back as my interest in magic in general. I could never walk past a collection of pewter figurines in a gift shop if there were wizards among them! They’re just cool! All old and wise and mysterious, and majestically powerful with flashy bursts of energy emitting from their hands, or wand, or staff, etc.
Ever since I was a very young child, I was enthralled by illusions of all kinds. Whether it was the ability of a disguise to transform someone’s appearance, or the puppeteer’s ability to make a cloth figure appear to come to life, I was mesmerized. Watching a magician on TV make a silver sphere seem to float in the air of its own accord, or produce a live dove from a handkerchief, made me want to learn to do such things myself. I wanted to do things that would surprise and dazzle people! I was never much of an athlete, and I lacked the patience to practice a musical instrument to the proficiency level that would really impress anyone. When I finally began to discover that the “secrets of magic” were really much simpler than they appear, that clever devices and theatricality were the forces making these miracles occur, I wasn’t disappointed. I was even more attracted! So magic became a hobby for me. I asked my parents for magic kits for birthdays and Christmas. I checked out old magic books from the library and practiced sleights and card tricks that I could learn from them. Usually, my family was my only audience, but since one of the three cardinal rules of magic is not to repeat a trick for the same spectator, my family shows were always a one-shot performance. Once in a while, I’d get a chance to do a little show at school, usually for preschoolers or kindergartners.
As I came into my adolescence, word got around the neighborhood that I was an amateur magician, and I would get asked to entertain at birthday parties. This led to getting my first taxable income, when I got hired as a magician entertaining for a local franchise of a well-known fast food chain! (No, I was never Ronald McDonald. Much more recently, I actually did audition for that role, but that’s a story for another time!) When I did these shows, I would usually dress in my church suit and bow tie. At the request of a birthday child’s parent, I would throw a clown costume together from the closets of family members. I had no real “act”, just a collection of tricks. I had yet to develop a performing style.
Like many teenage boys in the suburbs, I dreamed of being a rockstar. For Halloween, I dressed as Elton John (in his glitter rock days), or Alice Cooper, or Ace Frehley from KISS. On television, I was seeing magicians go from the Vegas lounge tuxedo look to Doug Henning’s refugee-from-Godspell look, so I figured I could be a flashy rockstar magician! For a while, I performed in a long orange coat that my mom was getting ready to throw out because it was about a decade out of style. I dressed it up in ribbons and buttons and made it look like the fifth Beatle for Sergeant Pepper’s LHCB. That became my magician look, but my act was still unformed. When I went off to college, magic shows became a part of my youth, for which I no longer had time. Then after graduation, my knowledge of magic tricks became lucrative again, as I found work as a magic clown. (See my previous blog for more on that chapter.)
You can probably see where this is leading. I have always wanted to perform magic shows as a character. There was a time when I wanted it to be dark and ominous, using lots of fire effects and seance gimmicks. However, the clown period of my life convinced me that comedy was more profitable. Plus, I seem to have a gift for it. I always got better reviews for my comedy roles in school and community theatre plays than the dramatic ones. So the question became, what kind of comedy magician character can I be who would make kids laugh without being embarrassingly childish? A kind-hearted, absent-minded wizard just encompassed all the things I wanted to be in a one-man show. A little mysterious, a little flashy, theatrical, but with potential for a lot of silliness. I think I’ve achieved that, don’t you?