Book Report: Chamber Magic’s Steve Cohen
Five essential reads from the ‘Millionaire’s Magician’
“How’d you do it?”
That’s a question Steve the “Millionaires’ Magician” Cohen hears on the regular. His answer: “It’s a trick.”
But not today.
After 16 years of sold out shows at the Waldorf, the doors on the lavish suite that housed his show Chamber Magic are shuttering. So we caught up with Cohen after his new show at the Lotte New York Palace to see how he really does it — via the five pivotal reads that made him an international man of mystery in the first place.
Tannen’s Magic Catalogue, Number 12
“Aspiring magicians today learn to perform basic tricks by watching YouTube tutorials. But when I was a boy in 1978, the only way to learn was by meeting a real magician face-to-face. At the age of 7, my parents took me to the biggest magic shop in the world — Tannen’s — and the demonstrator sold me the Tannen’s Magic Catalogue – a 700 page treasure trove of (literally) every trick of the trade. The illustrations showed tuxedoed nightclub magicians producing birds from empty wooden boxes, and the ad copy was embellished with superlatives: “This is the flashiest, zippiest, handkerchief production ever devised!” I spent hours reading and re-reading the Tannen’s Catalogue, wondering what kind of magician I would grow up to be.”
Page-A-Minute Memory Book by Harry Lorayne
“Harry Lorayne appeared on the Johnny Carson show 24 times, demonstrating his incredible memory stunts, including memorizing the names and faces of everyone in the audience. Sometimes he recalled up to 300 people, after having met them just once! Using Lorayne’s memory system, I learned and remembered over 2000 Japanese written characters and, as a result, passed the Japanese Language Proficiency Test with the highest possible score. I still use his techniques to remember the names of the people I meet at my shows.”
The New Elite: Inside the Minds of the Truly Wealthy by Jim Taylor, Doug Harrison, and Stephen Kraus
“I’ve had the good fortune to entertain some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world – often in their own homes. This book enlightened me as to what the ultra-rich think, and what motivates them. It also introduced me to the idea of “stealth wealth:” having money but keeping it under the radar.”
The Boy Who Loved Batman by Michael Uslan
“Since childhood I’ve been more than mildly obsessed with Batman. The author of this book is the executive producer of all the Batman movies, and he too has been a fanboy his entire life. Uslan bought the rights to the character of Batman from DC, when Batman was considered a campy superhero. No movie studio wanted to make a dark, gritty Batman film, but Uslan persisted and ultimately produced the Tim Burton movie Batman, with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. He has executive produced every Batman film since then, up until the Christopher Nolan movies. As two boys who loved Batman, Uslan and I became quick friends, and he has visited my show at the Waldorf Astoria numerous times. His book reminds me of the importance of following your childhood dream.”
The World’s Greatest Magic by Hyla M. Clark
“I found this book in the public library when I was 8 years old, and was completely mesmerized. Unlike the black and white illustrations contained in Tannen’s Catalogue (see above), this book features page after page of full-color photos of real live magicians: Slydini, Dai Vernon, Albert Goshman, Jimmy Grippo, Cardini, Kreskin, Doug Henning, and a very young David Copperfield. This book is my equivalent of collecting baseball cards. The full-page photos capture each performer in mid-trick, and I imagined myself sitting in their audiences. All of the best magicians in the world were real people who walked on this earth, and this revelation inspired me to improve my own magic. Maybe one day I’ll reach the heights of these heroes. And maybe one day a young child will similarly be inspired by me.”