Entertainment

Who’s cool now?

A local magician exorcises the demons of senior prom with his own Showgirls & Magicians Ball

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The Showgirls & Magicians Ball combined beauty and … uh … card tricks.
Photo: Rick Lax
Rick Lax

Most girls in my high school knew me only as “magic boy.” I never dated any of them, and I took my friend Lauren to the senior prom. She spent half the night making out with some sophomore.

In the book How To Play in Traffic, Penn & Teller write, “Magic is for boys who are not popular. Magicians are either asexual or desperate. They pick people from the audience so they can flirt with them in public.”

I wish I could say I’m above doing that, but my 8th grade talent show performance begs to differ. I “randomly” called on future pom-pom team captain Karen to tie me up for a rope escape—one that I specifically created as an excuse to flirt with Karen in front of the entire graduating class.

That was 12 years ago, back when David Copperfield was engaged to supermodel Claudia Schiffer, back when I saw magic as a surefire method for meeting and seducing beautiful women.

Gathering the Magic

On paper the plan looked golden. After all, Lance Burton married blond showgirl Melinda Saxe; David Blaine dated Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Josie Maran; Criss Angel dated Holly Madison, Miss Nevada 2008, and (depending on who you ask) Cameron Diaz.

In practice the plan was flawed. If I showed a girl too many magic tricks, I became a circus monkey. Girls like to watch circus monkeys, but they rarely date them. They give them peanuts, but not phone numbers. I realize this much now, just as I realize that Copperfield, Burton, Blaine and Angel are the exceptions; they’re famous millionaires with TV shows, book deals, private islands and Las Vegas penthouse suites.

A couple of months ago I moved to Las Vegas and got an apartment with a showgirl I met on MySpace. She’s a lovely person inside and out, but I doubt she would have given me the time of day in high school. She’d surely say otherwise, but so do the actual girls from my actual high school who actually never talked to me. I run into these girls every time I head back to Michigan to visit my parents.

“Ricky! Oh my God! How have you been? It’s been a decade!”

“A decade since what? Since the time I overheard you calling my forensics piece ‘gay’ or since the time we passed each other in the hallway and I said ‘Hi’ and you didn’t make eye contact?”

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Over the last decade—particularly since moving to Vegas—I’ve spent a lot of time with dancers, models and other girls who were popular in high school. We get along surprisingly well, and I’m left to figure out whether magic has gotten cooler, whether the girls have grown more accepting, or whether that thing they say about the meek and inheritance is actually true.

Three weeks ago I devised a plan to test out those theories. I convinced my roommate to invite her friends to a party to which I’d already invited my magician buddies. We billed the event “The Showgirls & Magicians Ball”—S&M Ball for short. We drove to Wal-Mart and Michael’s and acquired all the things you’d expect to see at a fancy ball: $3 wine, crepe paper, “Happy Easter” balloons and Bagel Bites. Then we tied the balloons to the lamppost and taped crepe paper from the balcony to the staircase.

The magicians arrived around 10 p.m. Hoping to facilitate intergroup contact, my roommate encouraged them to make name tags for themselves. She helped created stage names for all the guys, except for those who already had them (e.g., Grendel, Bizarro, Blink). For me she picked “Tricky Ricky.”

Her friends showed up around 11 p.m., and as they stepped through the front door one thing became instantly clear: Showgirls take theme parties seriously. One girl wore a silver sequined dress topped off with a red feather boa. Another wore a shimmering gold dress that she’d borrowed from a Tryst go-go dancer. A third wore pearls over lace lingerie, and a fourth wore her prom dress, which brought back unpleasant memories for only the briefest of moments.

Once the magicians and I finished gawking, we introduced ourselves. Turns out we had lots of mutual friends. Two of my roommate’s friends had even worked as magician’s assistants. It’s true what they say about the Las Vegas entertainment community: It’s smaller than you think.

 The Showgirls & Magicians Ball combined beauty and ... uh ... card tricks.

The Showgirls & Magicians Ball combined beauty and ... uh ... card tricks.

Two mimosas into the night, I formally welcomed our guests: “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the first-ever Showgirls and Magicians Ball. Now everybody please head to the dance floor.”

The girls assembled by the fireplace, but the guys didn’t budge. Either they thought I was joking, or they were terrified.

“Guys, seriously, get over here and partner up.”

I know how to play one slow song on the keyboard: “A Whole New World” from Aladdin. I learned it because my natural singing voice sounds indistinguishable from the beloved Arabian pauper. This works out well when I’m covering “One Jump Ahead” or “One Jump Ahead (Reprise),” but I’ve yet to find a karaoke bar with those options.

I switched on my 76-key Casio, rotated the knob to “Electric Piano #2” and sang. Brittany, a UNLV student who performs in a casino cover band on weekends, covered Princess Jasmine’s vocals and hand gestures. As the key changed from D to F and the laughter died down, the magicians and showgirls clasped hands and waists and began to sway.

After a little more music and a lot more cocktails, the Backyard Brawl magic competition commenced. AJ from StreetOfCards.com twisted his arm around 720 degrees; Elliott from Chicago juggled apples; Bizarro pushed a red silk through his palm and magically regurgitated Oreo-cookie filling.

The showgirls voted Bizarro Best Performer, and my roommate presented him with an industrial-size tub of neon green hair gel I’d picked up at the dollar store and then wrapped in expensive paper. He hoisted the gelatinous trophy over his head and reveled in the applause.

AJ, the guy who usually hosts the Brawls, once described a magic competition to me in this way: “It’s like a Rolling Stones show: Sometimes the guys play for the crowd, and sometimes they play for themselves.”

The fact is, performers like to perform, even in their free time. Not just magicians—showgirls, too. When my roommate celebrated her 30th birthday last month, her dancer friends took over Tryst’s backroom pole for an hour and had the time of their lives entertaining the other club patrons.

My roommate says her friends loved the S&M Ball too. Ditto for my magician buddies, who all want to know the date of my next soiree. I’m reluctant to call the ball a smashing success only because there were at least a dozen single people in attendance and no numbers were exchanged. Still, one thing’s for sure: The party sure beat senior prom.

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