Many a lad has been led astray by the turn of a friendly card. Jason Michaels was one of them. As a teenager among card-playing friends, he decided he wanted to learn the kind of card tricks his grandfather performed to impress the gang. So he went to a bookstore and picked up Scarne on Card Tricks, a revered text that lays out some of the basics of card wizardry — and decades later, he still has his well-thumbed copy within reach.
Today Michaels is a professional magician as well as president of the Nashville Magic Club, Ring No. 37, an affiliation of the International Brotherhood of Magicians that's been around since March 16, 1945. (For history buffs, that's the day fighting ended on Iwo Jima.) For this year's Best of Nashville issue, Michaels enlisted fellow Magic Club members Gary Flegal, a stress-management practitioner with a doctorate in health education, and Stephen Bargatze, an in-demand comedy magician who works frequently in Vegas, to pull off the illusions seen in this year's section-heading pages. (And if you're using the Layar app, these pages are themselves magic tricks of a sort.)
"When you learn a trick, it's the coolest thing in the world," says Michaels, who presides over the Nashville Magic Club's roster of 50 hobbyists, enthusiasts and professional prestidigitators. A fan of illusionists such as the French magician's magician Yann Frisch, as well as disillusionists such as wiseguys Penn and Teller, he draws a distinction between performances that merely trick — leaving audiences feeling conned and cheated — and those that amaze.
YouTube clips have greatly changed the ways newcomers learn magic, Michaels says, unwittingly encouraging slavish imitation and mimicry over individual exploration. But that's where magic clubs come in. "We help them understand [online clips are] are a great place to learn," Michaels explains. "But that's just the beginning." If you're curious, visit nashvillemagicclub.com or attend one of the club's monthly fourth-Thursday meetings at Andrew Price United Methodist Church, 2846 Lebanon Pike — and see what the cards have in store.
Dr. Gary Flegal
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