Magical Inspiration & One MI Teacher’s Amazing Journey!
Blog Post Part 2
I'm very excited to have an incredible Michigan magician, Jeff Boyer, consult on my novel-in-progress, Middle School is No Place for Magic! A few months back, Jeff and I sat down to talk about magic and his long, interesting career. Here are a few things I’ve learned…
Like any art form, magicians create their own tricks and build other artists’ work into their acts. One of Jeff’s most difficult tricks is an embellishment of a newspaper trick created by another well-known Michigan magician, Gene Anderson of Midland. In fact, most magicians in Michigan know one another and enjoy venerating each other’s work in their shows.
I also learned that “large stage illusions are relatively easy because it’s mainly the assistants doing the work while the magician orchestrates,” Jeff said. However, the dexterity it takes to perform sleight of hand tricks is extremely complicated and requires years of practice. That has become Jeff’s specialty, whether he uses ropes, rubber bands or paper that he can turn into origami pieces.
In addition, some tricks magicians create have a special, secret meaning behind them. Another of Jeff’s tricks is based on a poem he wrote about his dad. In the trick, set to rhyming narrative, the audience is asked to “Follow the Ace” - a nod to his father’s love of cards and undying belief in his son’s talent.
Jeff’s dad encouraged him early on to start booking shows and even arranged for Jeff to perform at his office parties as well as local elementary schools. In his eighth grade year, as luck would have it, Jeff met another talented student magician, Jim Fitzsimmons. They joined forces to become a magic duo. It was Jim who proposed performing during their junior year, at the high school talent show.
“I was really scared because these were my peers,” said Jeff. “I didn’t want to be booed off the stage. But Jim kept persisting and I finally decided that if you’re compelled to perform, you have to take risks.”
By that time, Jeff and Jim had mastered Houdini’s Metamorphosis , an illusion where one person (Jeff) is chained inside a crate and another (Jim) stands on top of the crate. Then, Jim would throw a curtain up and let it drop. In that split second, they switched places.
“It’s one of the most difficult tricks magicians can do and we worked on that for a long time. There was a lot to choreograph AND lot of bruises. Once in a while, I’d have some gas,” he laughed.
After that trick went off without a hitch, Jeff felt encouraged. “For the finale, we brought the principal up on stage, took out a pair of scissors and cut his tie in half and then the tie appeared untouched. The principal played it up so well. It worked out great. Everyone flipped out and we won the audience over!”
After high school, being good with numbers, Jeff took some college courses and started working as an accountant. “I felt I needed to get a stable, well-paying job, and become an adult,” he said, remembering how miserable he was sitting behind a desk 40 hours a week. “It was my dad really encouraged me to stick with my dreams.” So Jeff quit his job, reunited with Jim, and they continued to hone their craft.
In the early 1980s, Jeff and Jim met The Amazing Conklins. Jerry and Shirley Conklin had a traveling illusion show and “that is how Fitzsimmons and I were able to travel with the circus,” Jeff said. “We worked for their illusion show, did clowning for the circus, and eventually performed our own magic act.”
In 1983, he and Jim were asked to travel with the James Hetzer Intercontinental Circus. For two years, he lived with a circus family, which included a young Nik Wallenda, now known as the King of the High Wire. Jeff had so many adventures, including having to work with an elephant to pull a semi out of the mud. He added that the animals were all treated very well. (They used cotton candy as a treat during training!) At that time, there was a Lady and the Lion act, only they used a St. Bernard, plus aerial ballet, sword balancing, juggling and more. He and Jim were clowns in the show and performed magic tricks.
“The circus taught me that you don’t need to make a lot of money to be happy. I saw this whole circus family doing what they loved, living on nearly nothing, and they were the happiest group you ever saw!” he said. “I also learned that there are a lot of good people out in the world with lots of different way to look at life. When you go out there, you see how other people live.”
But all that traveling took a toll on him. After two years, Jeff came back to Michigan and, he explained, it was pretty simple to market his show. “I’d walk into a school and ask to speak to the principal, show him a few tricks and he’d hire me.” He even once performed for Governor Blanchard.
“Being in the circus also made me realize I wanted to be a teacher,” Jeff explained. “I helped the Wallenda kids with their math homework and I got a lot of enjoyment out of that. It dawned on me that I could entertain and teach at the same time.”
Now Jeff is in his 31st year of teaching, mainly in elementary schools. He incorporates a lot of magic and humor into his lessons. Jeff has continued his magic business for 35-plus years and founded youth theater groups in Stockbridge.
To view some of Boyer The Magic Guy's work online or to connect with Jeff, please click here:
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/boyerthemagicguy/ Boyer the Teacher Guy - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCePNm4w-WuWxjAPVVnnCoHg
YouTube Show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pWFJf7jFMI