I’m here three hours a day, working,” says Rick Lax, settling into a chair in the coffee area of the Borders Books and Music in Town Square. He immediately spots a couple of people he knows; magicians. In a few minutes he will dazzle me with a couple of slick card tricks, but first we talk a little about magic and writing and the law.
Lax is the author of the new book Lawyer Boy: A Case Study in Growing Up (St. Martin’s Press, $25). It’s his comic memoir of growing up in a family of attorneys, rejecting the law to pursue his dream of being a professional magician and, finally, going to law school. On December 18 at 7 p.m., he’ll give a combination book reading and magic show in this same bookstore.
When you say you’re here three hours a day working, are you writing, lawyering or doing magic stuff?
A combination of writing and magicking; no lawyering. I recently passed the bar in Illinois; I got the results as I was moving to Las Vegas. So if you’re planning on getting injured or killing someone, go to Illinois and do it.
Here, I’m writing a book about deception and Las Vegas. But sometimes I do a little magic, too. Sometimes I play with cards as I write, and people say, “Are you a magician?” and I say, “Yeah,” and show them a trick.
That was my plan, for a lot of my life, to be a professional magician. Because my dad, he was an attorney and he liked it, but I wanted to be my own person, have my own life, so I pushed that away and thought magic was the gig for me.
How did you get into magic?
The biggest step was going to my dad’s parents’ house; they had an amazing collection of David Copperfield VHS tapes. Every time we’d go over there I’d watch one. I wanted to impress people the way David Copperfield impressed my grandparents.
How old were you?
These are my first memories. Two, 3, 4?
One of my first lawyering memories, which ties into magic, was I wanted to get some doves for my act. My parents were completely against it. So we worked up this contract, and my dad helped me with all this formal contract language, that essentially said, if I get these grades, or at least work with a tutor consistently, then I could get the doves. Only a few years ago did I learn what those terms actually mean.
What magicians do you admire?
Let me say something good about Criss Angel. I’ve read all the local reviews of his show, and aside from all that, here’s something good about him. He’s truly brought magic to a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in it. So I respect him for that.
Otherwise, I like a lot of the magicians on the Strip. Penn & Teller; they have the illusions that are the hardest to figure out. Copperfield, because he stays on the cutting edge. I saw Lance Burton’s show; that was great. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of people around the world trying to duplicate Lance Burton’s dove act, and no one does it like him.
Will the book you’re working on now deal with magic?
Magic has a much bigger element in this book. I’ve been seeing a lot of shows, talking with a lot of magicians. I’ve been asking them whether they, like me, see deception in other parts of life, whether some people are easier to fool. We’ve been talking about the psychology of deception.
One of the big problems is, when you tell people you’re working on a book about deception and lying, they’re understandably skeptical. Why should I believe you? That’s a good question. I’d be skeptical, too. But usually they figure out I’m for real.