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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday — April 2, 2004

Weekend Living

‘That’s pretty
wild, dude’

Peruvian brings magic to Wood River Valley

Express Staff Writer

It’s dinnertime at the Roosevelt Tavern and Grille, and itinerant magician Jorge Jaime, a 27-year-old Peruvian, is plying his trade. He steps up to a table where four men have just finished eating. Would they like to see some magic tricks? The men are non-committal. Two of them shrug their shoulders, as if to say, "Sure, why not? We’ve got nothing better to do."

Magician Jorge Jaime creates a paper rose from a cocktail napkin during an apres-ski performance at Apple’s Bar and Grill. In another minute, the rose will magically float in mid air. Express photo by Willy Cook

It’s clear that this bunch is going to be a tough sell. These are real men—the table is littered with the remains of steak dinners, beers and shot glasses. As Jaime goes into his routine of card tricks, the men lean forward and look intently to discover how the tricks are done. There’s no way they’re going to let this young foreigner outsmart them. When Jaime appears to fumble and the trick appears to be a failure, they grin and start—just for a moment—to tell him he’s blown it.

But the fumbling’s all part of the act. Miraculously, the sought-after card appears in a completely unexpected place.

The men lean back, laugh and shake their heads. They admit defeat, and the tension’s gone.

"Pretty wild, dude," says one.

"You should go to Vegas, man," adds another.

Jaime flashes his shy smile, collects a few bucks, thanks them and continues his rounds.

As he moves from table to table, all but the most blasé get sucked into watching. A white rose Jaime makes from a cocktail napkin suddenly floats in mid air. He passes his hands over it, under it and around it, then points to his short-sleeved T-shirt, to say, "See, nothing there!" He snatches the rose out of the air and passes it to a lady at the nearest table.

"No way!" someone says. "No way!" That becomes the refrain of the evening.

Jorge Jaime does one of his many card tricks for a group of entranced customers at Apple’s.

While making his rounds, he tells this reporter about how he got started doing his magic tricks three years ago in Lima. Now, it’s all he wants to do. Ever since he saw a documentary about a magician doing tricks on the streets of New York, he’s been hooked. He saw the documentary a second time, and recorded it. He watched the two-hour show 25 times, and figured out four card tricks. He soon met a magician, and begged the man to teach him some more tricks. The magician was impressed that Jaime had learned what he knew just from watching the video, but for four months, he refused. Finally he relented, but insisted that Jaime spend two months just learning how to handle the cards. Every day during his computer classes, Jaime held a deck of cards under his desk, and practiced shuffling them with one hand, over and over and over, until his fingers hurt too much to go on.

Bit by bit, he became proficient at numerous tricks, and decided he wanted to earn enough money to go to a professional magicians’ school in Los Angeles. About a year ago, he heard that the Sun Valley Co., in Idaho, in the United States, was hiring foreigners. By American standards, the pay was low, but by Peruvian standards…wow! Maybe he could make enough to fulfill his dream of turning pro. He came to Idaho and spent the winter working as a lift operator on Dollar Mountain.

Some days, after work, he does his magic at a local bar, most often at Apple’s near the Warm Springs base area.

Jaime says there are several types of magic, including stage magic, close-up magic and illusion. His brand is the close-up type. But it’s not just the tricks that matter.

"I can’t consider myself successful just because I know something you don’t know," he says. "The secret isn’t important—it’s movement, style, confidence and how the magician interacts with the people.

"The difference between magic and tricks is that magic has artistic merit. You need to add the theater. The magician is an actor who has to be in character. If you don’t deceive yourself, you can’t deceive the people who are watching."

Jaime’s skills allowed him to get over a natural terror of public speaking. He’s still soft spoken, but now, when he deftly fans out cards or pulls objects seemingly out of thin air, he’s cool as a cucumber. His Spanish accent and awkward grasp of English only add to the mystery.

Whenever he performs, he says, he observes the kinds of people he’s dealing with—their expressions, their reactions. They always fall into one of several categories. Some, the analytical types, just have to figure out how the tricks are done. That’s a tall order.

At the Roosevelt, one guy announces to his friend, "I’m going to figure this out before the night’s over!" After a few tricks, his friends turns and says with a groan, "This could be a long night." The first guy perks up and yells, "Bartender!"

A 10-year-old girl, too, is watching intently.

"Where’s my teacher when I need her?" she asks.

Jaime says no one’s ever guessed how a trick is done by watching only once. But if, after multiple viewings, someone does figure out a trick, it’s often a child. One of the reasons tricks work, he says, is that people’s minds deceive them into thinking they’re seeing something they are not. They expect movements to follow patterns with which they’re familiar. But to children, everything’s new, and they can sometimes see what’s really happening rather than the illusion of what’s happening.

At another table, a middle-aged woman exemplifies another type. While Jaime spends 10 or 15 minutes entertaining her friends, she stubbornly keeps her face buried in her menu. It just can’t take that long to choose dinner. No, Jaime says afterward, some people just refuse to get sucked in because they see the act as a competition to determine who’s smarter—themselves or the magician. They’re afraid they might lose, so they decide, consciously or not, that it would be better to just not get involved.

Then there’s a third type—those who don’t try to guess but just accept it all as magic. Eight-year-old Hayley Murach is one of those. Her face lights up after every trick.

"I think he has special powers that are in his head so he can make things disappear," she says.

The adults, too, who seem most entertained are the ones who just sit back and watch and view it all as something amazing.

Jaime says that sometimes after he has performed his tricks, a child will come up and ask something like, "Can you make me fly?" or "I want to be invisible!"

"That is very beautiful to me," he says. "My work is to make people believe in magic."


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