Constable: Magicians try new tricks as gigs disappear
Just say the magic words, "COVID-19," and poof -- the livelihood of local magicians vanishes.
"Everything is gone," says Pete Kovacevich, 62, a full-time magician from Buffalo Grove. "Everything I had on the books canceled until the end of April."
A versatile entertainer who also does work as Parky the Clown, Kovacevich said his last gig was the Sunday before St. Patrick's Day, when he performed as a leprechaun at Peggy Kinnane's in Arlington Heights. His actual St. Patrick's Day appearance scheduled at Timothy O'Toole's in Libertyville was scrubbed as part of the mass closures in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
"I know a lot of guys who lost three months of business in a blink of an eye," says Mark Doetsch, an Island Lake magician and president of the Conjurers Corner Magic Club, which canceled its meeting on Monday because of COVID-19. Doetsch, 61, doesn't work full time now, but for the past dozen years he's performed every Friday at Gators Wing Shack in Palatine -- until last Friday and every Friday for the foreseeable future.
"I do walk-around magic," Doetsch says, explaining how he's connected with families. "I love that close-up magic. I've seen kids grow up there."
Naperville magician Tim Adams, 55, lost gigs where he performs as "The Amazing Tim Adamz," and his side business also tanked. "I have balloon artists in restaurants in three states," Adams says, unsure of when work will return.
"What really bugs me is people saying this is the new normal. I hope not. I hope this is temporary normal," he says.
He's added "virtual magic shows" and lessons in magic and ballooning at his amazingadamz.com website. His wife, an elementary school nurse, is being paid during the shutdown, "and that's saving our family right now," Adams says. He knows one magician who lost $25,000 because two trade shows were canceled and another who is unable to pay his mortgage this month.
"Even 9/11 wasn't as bad as this," Adams says. "Magicians, face-painters, balloon-artists, even actors on Broadway make our living where people gather. If there's no group, there's no need for us."
Fun Incorporated, a Wheeling manufacturer, printer and distributor of cards, tricks and everything magical since 1941, doesn't know if all the mom-and-pop shops that sell their products will survive. "It all happened kind of quickly as conventions got canceled," says owner Andrew Michals, 37, who has spent his life "making magic." He remembers being the only 13-year-old with a cellphone "because my parents would be driving me to gigs."
With her shows that incorporate magic, philosophy, theater, physics and performance art, Wheaton native Jeanette Andrews, 30, has a busy career with performances at private parties and corporate events and installations at museums. Now her automated email response notes that her reply might be delayed due to "my performances being impacted by COVID-19." But she does urge people to unite through the hashtags #WeAreInThisTogether and #FreelancersUnite, and invites people to phone (855) BY-MAGIC (296-2442) for her art piece titled, "Magic by Telephone."
COVID-19's timing couldn't be worse for magician Randy Bernstein of Glenview to launch his new businessmagic.com website, where the homepage promises "Business Magic knows how to draw crowds."
"I've lost at least four trade shows, one speaking engagement and a few sales meetings," says Bernstein, 56, who has been doing corporate magic and private shows for 33 years and recently had a performance at the Wauconda Area Library and all his Easter shows canceled. "It's devastating."
A couple of corporate events that he's worked for years let him keep their deposits, but Bernstein says he returned money for all the private parties that got canceled. It's not only money he misses.
"You have to stay connected to the community," says Bernstein says, who is launching free online magic shows on his Facebook page with Magic Monday and Wednesday Wonders. "This is to help keep my sanity."