Wilson believes it's essential to have a positive attitude and puts his affable personality to good use when presenting an illusion. "It's about getting people involved and getting people to like you," he says. Magic is as much about entertainment as it is about illusion.
Of course, mastery of the illusion is critical. "The success [of an illusion] is predicated on one sleight," Wilson says. "I practice until my fingers hurt and take cards everywhere I go." He says he can tell if one card is missing from a deck just by testing its weight in his hand.
What he does: Wilson performs close-up magic, a style of magic that was popular in the 1940s and '50s, before "smoke-and-mirrors" stage magic became the rage. Wilson usually performs for small groups of people while walking around a room, creating illusions with cards, small foam balls, rubber bands and money. "I pack small and play big," he says.
"I like close-up because there is no question about it, it is going on right in front of you. I like things that happen in your hands. I want people to lose sleep thinking about what they saw me do."
He demonstrates his own version of three-card Monty, using only two cards that change their faces in his observer's hand. He does the "ambitious card" trick in which no matter how he shuffles the deck, the card his observer has chosen always finds it way to the top. He turns a one-dollar bill into a fiver, and bites a quarter in half, then spits the top back on. His most popular trick is called "card on the ceiling," in which he asks an observer to write her name on the face of a card she has chosen. He then shuffles it into the deck, puts a rubber band around the deck, throws it into the air, and the chosen card, with the person's signature, sticks to the ceiling
How he does it: He will never tell. "The first rule of magic is never give away your secrets," he says. "The second rule is never do the same trick twice [for the same person]. The first time it is a trick, the second time it is a lesson, and I don't give lessons for free."
For those who want to learn, Wilson recommends books, videos and hanging out with other magicians.
How he got interested in magic: Wilson, a former amateur kick boxer, used to work as a nightclub bouncer in Colorado Springs. When he got home from work late at night he would watch television to unwind. One night, he saw an infomercial for a video called "Icebreakers," hosted by world-class close-up magician Michael Ammar. "The video taught you how to do tricks, how to be the life of the party," Wilson recalls. Instead of ordering the video, he visited a local magic shop and bought a few commercial magic tricks. The shop's owner, card magician Ken Simmons, showed him a few card tricks, and Wilson started reading about sleight-of-hand techniques. Eventually, he began working in the shop. He was hooked on magic and the effect it had on people.
"I was always a shy kid," Wilson says, "I was a military kid so I moved around a lot and was never the most popular kid at school. Fighting helped to bring me out of my shell, but magic really did it."
How people react to his magic: "Usually by using some expletive," Wilson says, laughing. "Or they say, 'Oh my God,' or 'What the bleep was that?'
"Some people are speechless. They are stunned. I can't even tell if they like it. Then they shake their heads and you know you got them." A few people even get mad when they can't figure out how Wilson does his magic, he says.
Why he's a magician: "I like the way that it changes people," he says. "I'm a very happy person ... I love taking somebody who is skeptical, who is sitting there with folded arms, who thinks it is stupid. I love showing them a trick and having them say, 'Let me buy you a drink.' I love turning people around and making friends."
Style Weekly's mission is to provide smart, witty and tenacious coverage of Richmond. Our editorial team strives to reveal Richmond's true identity through unflinching journalism, incisive writing, thoughtful criticism, arresting photography and sophisticated presentation.
We make sense of the news; pursue those in power; explore the city's arts and culture; open windows on provocative ideas; and help readers know Richmond through its people. We give readers the information to make intelligent decisions.