While on a search-and-rescue mission down in Florida with the Coast Guard, our boat cut through a large school of flying fish. Dozens of silver fish with insect wings flew—flew— just above the surface of the water in every direction.
While in Las Vegas, I bought into a craps game with $100. I took the dice in my hand and rolled for :40 minutes without rolling a seven. I was surrounded by high rollers who made tens of thousands of dollars off of my good fortune. When I finally crapped out, a few of them tossed black chips to me as a tip.
But I've never seen anything more astonishing than the :90 minutes of magic performed by Steve Cohen at the Waldorf Astoria.
I've seen plenty of magicians over the years. Here in New York. Las Vegas. Atlantic City. Both big and small venues. Penn and Teller. Ricky Jay. Chris Angel. David Blaine. A whole slew of unknowns, too. You tend to see the same tricks performed with slight variations. I don't mind the repetition as long as they're executed cleanly and with some panache. I'm a bit of a magic snob, though. It's become hard to impress me in my old age.
Steve Cohen's Chamber Magic is an intimate, close-up show performed in a private suite at the Waldorf Astoria (an art deco masterpiece). It's a quintessential New York City experience that harkens back to an era when people were entertained in their parlors. The audience is small. No children are allowed. In keeping with the surroundings and spirit of the evening, cocktail attire is required.
I love close-up magic. With the audience sitting just a few feet away, only the ninja grand masters of misdirection can pull it off. All the tricks in Cohen's show, save one, were new to me, so the show was remarkably fresh. It's not padded with a lot of pedestrian, off-the-shelf tricks. There's no let-up in the pacing. I'd love nothing more than to detail what I saw—or what I thought I saw—but that would be a disservice to Mr. Cohen and any of you who might be lucky enough to see his show. I'll give you a taste and beg his pardon. If you know how this, or any of his tricks, are executed keep it to yourself. Don't bother to post it in the comments section. It'll be deleted unread. I don't want to know. I NEVER want to know! I can assure you he doesn't use audience plants because I participated and I'm not a plant.
How many times have you seen a magician take three large, silver rings, couple, and then uncouple them? It takes some dexterity but it's a fairly common trick. Cohen's version is more complex. He took my wedding ring and rings from two other audience members, dropped them into a wine glass, swirled them around and when he pulled them out they were linked together in a chain. He brought them over to me so I could confirm that it was my ring in the middle, with the other two linked to it. He then held the rings in his fist above the glass. Asked for quiet. We heard a *click* and my ring dropped out of his fist into the glass. He held up the two rings, which were now connected to one another. He held them in in fist, another click and they dropped in, separated. Amazing. And there's plenty more where that came from, brothers and sisters.
I met him after the show. He's an interesting chap. Fluent in Japanese. Lived in Japan and worked as an interpreter for the Japanese government. He obtained a degree in psychology from Cornell which, he said, helps with his magic. The magic bug bit him at age six when his beloved uncle showed him a few tricks. His audience has included titans of business, politics, entertainment, royalty and, most recently, your humble unbearableness.
Twilight on Park Avenue. The Waldorf Astoria on the left flying the South Korean flag, the Helmsley Building front and center and MetLife (née Pan Am) behind that.