“Wizzo” from “The Bozo Show” spent some time in Union on Monday, reminiscing and sharing anecdotes with fellow veteran magicians.
Panelists at the last installment of this year’s Sampler Lecture Series included Fred Drehobl, Don Theobald, Marshall Brodien, and De Yip Loo (stage names Freddy Fredricks, T-bone the Clown, Wizzo the Wizard, and the No. 1 Chinese Magician, respectively).
They shared their stories at the McHenry County Historical Society museum.
Each described how he became involved in magic and the types of illusions that they perfected. The latter half of the session focused on the changes in the magic industry and how young magicians today learn the art form.
Drehobl, who is dean of the magic society the Knights of Sleights, was a full-time engineer and part-time magician, and did most of his shows at private parties throughout the Chicago suburbs.
Theobald performed at the Chicago Magic Centre and Treasure Chest.
Brodien began his shows at Riverview Park and picked up hypnosis from a professional hypnotist who was interested in magic. Loo first encountered magic from an unlikely source, while he was a busboy at a restaurant across the street from the Oriental Theatre in Chicago.
One attendee commented on the nature of exposing magicians’ tricks.
“Debunking started about 20 years ago,” Loo estimated.
“Back in the old days there was the wonder,” Loo said. “[Now], there are people out there actively working to take out [that] wonder.”
Drehobl lamented that magic and audience expectations had changed.
“[Nowadays] they expect more out of you,” he said. “We used to get by with a deck of cards.”
He said that a lot of magic societies were decreasing in membership because new magicians no longer were joining.
These particular magicians still wowed with simplistic, yet enthralling, tricks. Brodien made a small bird cage disappear, and the audience yearned for more.
The panelists agreed that contemporary magicians are often technically gifted but sometimes cannot captivate an audience, especially if they learned their tricks from the Internet rather than as an apprentice.
“We’ve never explored the magic of magic,” said Nancy Fike, the museum’s administrator and moderator of the discussion. “We all need a lot more magic in our lives.”