[Photo: Steve Spill]
Those who I've worked with or admired most possess tremendous enthusiasm, great energy, and enormous self-awareness. My ambitions is to continually strengthen those qualities in myself and communicate with audiences while being the funniest and most amazing I can be.
2. What was it that attracted you first to magic and has this fascination sustained you throughout your career?
I was 5 and my dad was bedridden for a couple of weeks with an ulcer. That's when he lit the flame of magic in me, which, to this day, had never gone out. He sat up in bed -- his jaws sagging at first, his face pale, stubbled with beard hairs -- and taught me the simple trick with two strings that his father, my grandfather, had taught him. What I witnessed that day was one of the great thrills of my life.
The instant he started teaching me, a transformation came over him or from within him, he was no longer a slumped man in bed suffering from ulcer, suddenly vital and strong as if nothing was the matter with him... a regal master mentor, majestically passing the baton, the magic wand, to his son. Nowadays the same sort of thing happens to me. If I'm ill and have a show to do, another set of reflexes take charge and the ailments seem to vanish while I'm on stage. After that day, instead of Legos or little green army men, the only toys I played with were magic tricks.
One of the tricks of our trade that I love is the lying. Dyslexic displays of honesty that range from tiny little manipulative untruths, to big, fat in-your-face lies. To be a professional magician is to be an expert at dispensing disinformation, duplicity, hypocrisy, distortion, deception and fakery without any of the guilt or unpleasant consequences. And we magicians enjoy the thrill of getting away with it.
3. You explain and mention many original tricks you perfected throughout the years. Which one is your favorite and why?
My favorite is whatever new thing I happen to be working on at any given moment.
4. Your book includes a chapter on all of your failed ideas. Why did you include it?
Not ALL my failed ideas... that would fill many books. These are cherry-picked stories in the continuing saga where I had an idea, worked up a method to do the trick, got the props together, scripted the routine, and rehearsed it. But on stage, in front of real, breathing strangers, for one reason or another, it wasn't a keeper. In other words, these were routines that turned out to be useless and insignificant. I've included them in the book because in one way or another I found them to be poetic.
5. You are an artist, but you also run a business together with your wife, who is also an artist. How do these various identities mesh?
To write, produce, and perform a show in a theater that you designed, built, own, and operate, you have to be equal parts dictator and diplomat. You must be both the astonishing magician and visionary storyteller on stage and the guy shoveling raw sewage in the middle of the night because no one else would and everything would be lost if it didn't get done. You must be both an extravagant artist and a penny-pinching jerk. It isn't easy, and it isn't always fun. It isn't about money or fame. It's about what it takes to share you vision with those who want to see it.
6. What advice would you give aspiring magicians?
Nobody makes a living as a magician by accident. You have to want it pretty bad. Success is enjoying the journey. The stamina of a marathon runner is more important than talent. Hard work helps you improve, and when you're obsessed, you make your luck.
I'm not big on giving advice, and I hate to give anyone false hope because luck has played a part in whatever success I've had, but I'll say this: By utilizing your skills and by being true to yourself and working hard it is possible to create an act or show that will -- if not rake in millions -- at least not find you on welfare at the end of the day.
Steve Spill signs and discusses I Lie for Money: Candid, Outrageous Stories from a Magician's Misadventures on Tuesday, May 19 at 7pm.