It’s not the spectacle of pulling a rabbit out of a hat that makes Dave Taylor a successful magician, it’s the story of how the rabbit got into the hat in the first place.
Taylor, 68, has been a magician most of his life. Like many, he was captivated by magic at an early age. After a sabbatical early in his adult life, he dusted off his magic tricks and rekindled his love of prestidigitation, a love that is driven by the art of storytelling and the personal connections he creates through his stories.
The longtime Bloomington resident got his start in Battle Creek, Mich., where he grew up. “Most boys between the age of 10 and 12 experiment with magic,” he said. “I stuck with it long enough to get good at it.”
Perhaps it was no accident that Taylor stuck with it. Growing up in Battle Creek, it might have been difficult for his interest to vanish into thin air. Twenty miles up the road was the town of Colon, once regarded as the magic capitol of the world, and home to Abbott’s Magic, once the largest magic manufacturing business in the country, Taylor recalled.
The company had a huge showroom and catalogs detailing the varied tricks magicians young and old could purchase. The Abbott’s Magic showroom became a regular destination for Taylor in his teen years, enough so that he developed an act and began performing for local groups and organizations, he said.
Classmates dubbed Taylor “Mr. Magic” because he’d perform his magic show each year in his high school’s variety show, he noted.
His magic career came to a halt during his sophomore year in college, however, as college life no longer allowed him the time to perfect or perform his routine. His props and magic books were packed away and sat dormant for more than a decade. “You can always come back to it,” he said.
Taylor moved to Bloomington, worked as a traveling salesman and joined the local Jaycees club. His abandoned hobby came up during a conversation, leading to the suggestion that he should dig out his old magic tricks and perform for the club’s holiday party. That launched the second act of his magic career, an act he hasn’t stopped performing.
Most tricks performed by magicians aren’t unique, according to Taylor. Some tricks have been around for centuries, he noted.
What makes a trick distinct is the personal touches given to it by a magician, according to Taylor. He hasn’t invented a trick, but he performs a major modification of the standard trick where the magician cuts a rope into several pieces, only to return the rope to one long, continuous piece.
More than modifying the visual presentation of the trick, however, Taylor emphasizes telling a story. Rather than give a clinical explanation of what he is doing as he performs the trick, Taylor creates narratives based around the steps of a trick.
“One of the tricks to making magic good is to help people relate to it,” he said. “The story makes it a lot more interesting.
“You’ve got to make people care.”
Part of making the audience care is to involve the audience in the performance, something Taylor enjoys doing, particularly when performing for children. “Kids don’t want to watch stuff, they want to be a part of it,” he noted.
Taylor works part-time as a school bus driver these days, and performs his magic show periodically. Occasionally he donates his time to an organization that is looking for an entertainer during an event. Otherwise he is performing for birthday parties or other such events. He relies upon word of mouth from those who have seen him perform to keep the calls coming. One birthday party could spawn several additional bookings. Sometimes he’ll go weeks between performances, he noted.
In addition to performing, Taylor gathers with other local magicians most months, during meetings of the Society of American Magicians, a club that meets at Eagle Magic in Burnsville. Local clubs are common amongst members of the magician’s fraternity.
“I can go to any city in the United States and find a magic club,” he said. “Probably any city in the world.
“It crosses language and cultural barriers,” he added.
“It’s a fun pastime.”
Do you know of an interesting or unique story that’s too good not to share? Nominate it for a “Moment in the Sun” by emailing [email protected]