Photo by Kumar Sriskandan
In a place where names such as Criss Angel, Penn & Teller or David Copperfield have achieved worldwide fame, someone whose skill with cards has earned him more than a living wage is magician Jeff McBride.
McBride’s Magic & Mystery School is a cavernous hangar-like building tucked away in the Las Vegas suburb of Paradise, east of the airport. It’s where he keeps much of the equipment used in the illusions for his stage show but there is no flashy entrance or no huge sign and it takes me some time to find it.
I knock and wait in the sun – uncertain if I’ve even got the right address. After a few moments, the door opens and he leads me inside the dark building. Adding to the atmosphere is the gown-cum-cape he is wearing: McBride is big in the Vegas neo-pagan movement and includes shamanistic elements to his stage show.
We walk past some of the props and into a room with red velvet curtains, oriental-style carpets, scatter cushions and chairs where we sit down. His school offers budding magicians a range of three- and seven-day master classes, lectures and online seminars. “We have master classes every couple of months – they’re small classes with maybe half a dozen people,” he says.
Those who attend include everyone from experienced magicians looking to hone their act to complete novices or even those who just want an insight into the philosophy of the profession. “Magic reminds us that reality is subject to change without notice,” says McBride. Mysteriously.
There’s an air of belief around McBride, almost as though he knows he was destined to perform. A native New Yorker, he started to learn how to perform illusions at the age of 16 and was hooked. “It was then I knew that I wanted to come to Las Vegas,” he says. “If you want to be a magician, where else would you want to base yourself?”
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