April 20, 2024
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April 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

An Evening of Magic With Steve Cohen

We’ve all been told that there’s no such thing as “real” magic. Of course, I’ve always readily agreed with that sentiment—that is, until this past week when I witnessed a magician who put on such a bewildering performance that I now have doubts about its certainty. The closest thing to “real” magic that I’ve ever seen took place at the luxurious Lotte New York Palace, where I saw the Steve Cohen Chamber Magic Show. The tricks, illusions and mentalist abilities displayed right up close to me and my friend David were by far the most astounding and dumbfounding magic feats I have seen.

One iron-clad rule for attendees of Chamber Magic is the need to come dressed in cocktail attire. The fancy clothes give the show a classy vibe, allowing its guests to be immersed in a sophisticated evening. As soon as David and I dressed up in our blazers and stepped inside the show’s venue at the Palace, it became quite apparent why the need for fancy garb: The hotel is one of the fanciest hotels I’ve ever been inside. Its lobby is chic with large golden handrails, chandeliers hanging on ceilings and smaller ones on the polished, white walls that are bedecked with marble columns and a carpeted stairwell designed in an elegant pattern. The front desk attendant guided us up the stairwell through the Villard Restaurant on the second floor.

Once inside the restaurant, we were caught in a swirl of waiters and waitresses carrying fancy drinks in a haste to deliver the orders to the prestigious guests. I felt like I was in a scene from “The Great Gatsby” movie as I walked through a maze of bars with ornate, wooden decorations covering the walls, and sophisticated-looking guests dressed in stylish clothes. After some wandering, we found the Madison Room entrance, welcoming us through two giant wooden door frames adorned with bronze panels of flowers. The hostess took our names, pointing us to our seats in the center of Row 2. She also asked us to write down the drinks we wanted to be served.

Inside the Madison Room, I noticed beautifully drawn paintings all around, large white marble columns and beautiful golden drapes adorning the windows. With all of the guests in their cocktail attire, I felt like I had stepped into a room fit for royalty. The room seated 80 people, which was a comfortable size for a social engagement that felt intimate and personal.

Underneath our seats was the event’s program with a drawing of Steve propelling a deck of cards on its cover. The program listed the order of the tricks that would be performed during the show. Also, we each got a blank card so that we could write down our drink orders. I took my card and wrote down “Shirley Temple,” my favorite drink. Soon after, Steve came out to thunderous applause, and he began the event’s proceedings.

During each trick, Steve would banter with the audience, often making hilarious jokes that kept everyone grinning. For the first trick, “The Illusive Silver Dollar,” he put a coin underneath a hat on the table, guaranteeing that whichever side of the coin a volunteer in the audience opted on aloud, would be the side that the coin was facing. At first, the trick appeared to go wrong a few times, so he took the coin and made it disappear, saying, “You’re probably expecting the coin to be under the hat, but I’d bet you’d be more surprised if there were a brick underneath.’’ Then somehow he pulled up the hat, and there was a full-size brick underneath the hat! He even called up an audience member to strike the brick on the table, and it was indeed a solid brick. I was blown away as I could see no way that Steve could have put the brick underneath the hat without our noticing, and he could not have pulled the brick out of his sleeve, since it was too big.

Next, he called up another volunteer, and using just his finger to trace along the pocket, he magically stitched up the volunteer’s suit pocket. Then the magician made the disappeared coin appear inside the volunteer’s sealed pocket, which had previously been shown to be empty!

The next trick, “Think-a-Drink,” might have been the coolest trick I have ever seen. All of the blank cards which we had filled out, listing our favorite drink, were collected. Steve called on a volunteer who picked out four random orders from a hat. The orders were for an espresso coffee, a shot of whiskey, a kiwi strawberry Snapple and a spritz cocktail from Milan, and he asked each person to raise their hand if their drink was selected. Using a seemingly ordinary silver teapot, he poured each order into a clear glass cup. The colors looked exactly how the drinks were supposed to be: the coffee—black, the whiskey—yellow, the Snapple—pink, and the spritz—red. When he served it to each person, they took a sip and each exclaimed that it tasted exactly as how they imagined it. The woman who ordered the spritz from Milan even choked up, remarking that it reminded her of her special trip there. I don’t understand how it was possible that out of one teapot, so many different beverages were able to emerge, yet it somehow happened.

Conjuring into the “spirit” realm, Steve did a trick entitled “Unseen Forces” involving the hotel’s original owner from the 1800s, the wealthy Henry Villard, whose birthday was that week. He had several volunteers each pick a card. Then he put each card back in the deck, randomly, and put the deck in a glass case. He handed the first volunteer Henry’s monocle heirloom, and told the volunteer to chant, “Rise.” Once they did, their card somehow levitated out of the deck, supposedly by the ghost of Henry. Steve then put more glass cases around the deck to show that he wasn’t using any strings. Unbelievably, the volunteer’s card kept rising whenever they said, “Rise.”

While studying abroad in Japan, Steve learned a trick supposedly developed by the explorer Marco Polo. Steve took three rings from participants in the audience, including my own wedding band and someone else’s skull-shaped ring. Then he put all three rings in a glass cup, twirled them around, and said, “Abracadabra.” He then shared that “Abracadabra” is an Aramaic word meaning “I create as I speak.” Miraculously, all of the rings joined together as he held them up like one long chain. He then brought the rings right up to my face and asked me if my band was the middle ring. Somehow, my ring, which was made of completely solid 24-karat gold, had locked together with the other solid rings. Then he took the rings, putting them into his hand. We heard a slight bone-cracking sound, and my wedding ring dropped below into a cup. He handed me back my ring, and it was exactly as it had been before—completely intact!

Keeping to the theme of exploring, Steve pulled out a giant map of the United States. He called up a volunteer to think of any city. After the guest thought of a city, without even looking at the map, Steve began tearing the map to shreds, piece by piece. Eventually, all he had left in his hand was a tiny scrap of paper, and still not looking, he put a pin in the map. He then showed the scrap with the pin to the volunteer, and right in the black dot of the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was the pin. The volunteer gasped in shock, exclaiming that it was the city she was thinking of!

Following that unique display of mentalism, Steve made sure to leave no audience member unaccounted for. He gave everyone a blank piece of paper and told them to write down three facts that no one could possibly know or that he would be able to guess. After giving us a minute to think and write, he collected all of the pieces of paper. At first, Steve handed out several pieces of paper to audience members who hadn’t been involved in the show yet, asking them to read the facts to themselves. He then was able to guess exactly what each fact was. One fact he got correct was guessing a woman’s pet cat’s name, Snowball, and its color, black. He also guessed correctly that another man’s pet dog’s name was Jazz Man. He even guessed embarrassing stories, like the tale of one guy who drank a gross liquid, another one who got a speeding ticket but got out of it by singing “Happy Birthday,” and a lady who forged a Taylor Swift signature and gave it to her friend as a gift, passing it off as the real thing.

I noticed that very, very subtly in between guessing some facts, Steve had said, “Hi” by name to a girl in the audience who looked completely baffled that he knew her name without having spoken a word to her. At one point, the showman asked for a member’s cell phone and called on four members of the audience, including my friend David, asking each to say a number between 0-9. David went first, guessing 9; another person said 3; another 3; and another 1. Steve typed in each number into the phone, and somehow the phone unlocked!

Just when it couldn’t get any crazier, Steve called on everyone who hadn’t been involved in a trick, to help with the final trick. Using two different decks of cards, he had different members shuffle the decks as many times as they wanted in whatever fashion they chose. He then put the decks inside a box, into two different gentlemen’s jackets. Taking out another two decks, he asked volunteers to shuffle them. Somehow, when Steve flipped over both decks, each of the decks was randomly shuffled in the exact same order! Then he told the two gentlemen to pull out their decks from their pockets, and when those decks were flipped over, they were also in the exact same order! All four decks, which were shuffled right before our eyes, somehow ended up in the exact same order. It made no sense. The entire audience lost it, starting to clap and holler, giving Steve a grand ovation for delivering a mind-boggling and hilarious evening.

After the show, Steve was nice enough to stick around for photographs and autographs. David and I made sure to get a picture, and the magician graciously invited us to stay for a quick meet-and-greet and a few more tricks. He shared his background story. He was born in Yonkers and raised in Westchester. When he was only 6 years old, his uncle showed him his first magic tricks. From that moment, he was completely spellbound. He attended Tannen’s Magic Camp in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania for a few years, where he became friends with the world-famous magician David Blaine. At age 10, Steve was hired for his first paid show. As he got older, he visited more and more magic shops, read dozens of magic books, and attended shows throughout the country, drawing inspiration from each act and incorporating them into his own, to make his even grander.

Steve is nearing his 6,000th show in New York. Luminaries who have seen his show include actors Bradley Cooper, Scarlett Johansson and John Malkovich, investor/philanthropist Warren Buffet and composer John Williams. Award-winning director Guillermo del Toro was so impressed by what he saw that he gave Steve a part in his 2021 film “Nightmare Alley.”

On a personal note, Steve told us that his favorite trick was “Think-a-Drink” because he feels like a wizard from “Harry Potter” when he performs it. He also said that for each show, he gives himself leeway to make five mistakes. Recognizing that he is not perfect, he uses his mistakes to bring himself back to the moment, refocus and continue with the show. Besides performing in New York, Steve has performed on “CBS Sunday Morning,” at resorts and at private parties for the likes of Michael Bloomberg and Martha Stewart. It is for that reason he has been dubbed “The Millionaire’s Magician,” also the title of his latest book.

Overall, I would have to give the show a 10 out of 10. I have always been a fan of magic shows, but Steve far exceeded any performance I have ever seen. He performed the most ludicrous stunts and has the greatest ability as an illusionist that I have ever seen.

But beyond that, I very much appreciated the fact that he got every single person in the audience involved with the show. Steve has a fantastic memory and was able to know which members hadn’t been called on, remembering everyone’s names of those he asked for, as I witnessed during the final photo opportunity. Additionally, his light banter and witty responses made the time fly, even when he wasn’t performing insane magic tricks. I absolutely loved the vibe of everyone wearing fancy outfits, complimenting the hotel’s distinguished and historic atmosphere.

Even though the tricks are often the same, no two shows are alike as the audience really makes the tricks come to life. I highly recommend you check out Steve’s show; you are guaranteed to be enchanted!

Admission: $125 per ticket or $175 per ticket for first row

Hours: Saturday nights at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Address: Lotte New York Palace, 455 Madison Avenue (50th Street), New York, NY 10022

Website: www.chambermagic.com

Zachary Greenberg is a consultant at Semler Brossy and the TABC track coach. He came in third place overall in the Rubin Run 8k trail race in 2018. Additionally, he recently watched “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” in theaters. If you have any recommendations of fun places for Zachary to cover, email him at [email protected].

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