April 15, 2000, the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York – the President of the Parent Assembly #1 proclaimed Devlin as its “Magician of the Year.”
Back in time, in 1958, Sicilian born Giuseppe and his Brazilian wife Pierina, migrated toBrazil, as it was then one of the countries offering big city excitement and the future promise of consistent work. Giuseppe was a floor polisher and sander and set up his own company. Their daughter Angela was only four in 1962, when her brother was born in Sao Paulo. He was named for his father Giuseppe. Fortunately for us, the family came to theUnited States lured by streets paved in gold. Their Pan Am plane set down in Kennedy airport and they found a four-room apartment in Brooklyn, and that is why little Giuseppe, who took the stage name of Devlin, kiddingly calls himself the “Brazilian, Sicilian Magician from Brooklyn.”
When Giuseppe, at the age of five and in first grade at St. Brigid’s Catholic school, was asked by Sister Catherine Marie what he wanted to do when he grew up, he replied that he wanted to “be a clown.” The class laughed at the idea, so he recanted, “No, a policeman.” Interestingly enough, the little boy performed at the same school as Jojo Marbles, a few years later. (The name Marbles came about because since English was his second language, he spoke as if he had a mouth full of marbles.) Devlin’s interest in the performing arts was unabated. At the tender age of seven a ventriloquist fascinated him. Since his parents felt that purchased the twenty-dollar Charley McCarthy doll he wanted was a bit costly for a young boy, Pierina did the best thing and bought him a “Voodini” magic kit. (It cost only three dollars). He still owns every one of the cherished props.
The family stayed in Brooklyn, and Devlin saw Doug Henning on Broadway. He watched his TV favorites, “Mark Wilson’s Magic Circus,” Bill Bixby as “The Magician” and Marshall Brodein’s “TV Magic” commercials. At the age of ten he discovered magic shops. Here’s how he remembers the experience.
“My first visit to a magic shop was in 1972. My best friend Peter and I chipped in money from our allowances and his mom organized a train trip for us to Rockville Center on Long Island to ‘Esposito’s Magic.’ Our ten dollars bought us a vanishing shot glass, a plastic pull-vanisher, a hot rod and a shrinking die. It was a great day for us and we unwrapped and practiced our magic all day. After a stickball game, I was showing my friend Danny the hot rod and he asked, ‘Did you see the magic store around the corner?’ I didn’t believe my ears. ‘How far?’ I asked. He told me it was on the same block just around the corner. It was ten pm and I made him walk with me to see this place. Colored posters were reflected through the security fence by the street lights: Kellar, Houdini, Thurston, as well as a small counter covered with little boxes of secrets. I had to get an after school job there. The owner was a man named Tony Cannalis, a retired airport security guard, with a not-so-secret passion for magic. I made lifelong friends in that dusty store. It was there that I met Joe Monti. John Bentz, Joe and I spent every Saturday at the store, which closed a year later. Tony gave me a gift of Dunninger’s Encyclopedia of Magic, and I was off to a career as a magician.”
Devlin’s first public performance at age eleven at the Ridgewood branch of the Queenspublic library. Devlin and three friends each took turns in a tag team magic show. “It was awful,” he remembers. As a teen he traveled with an Italian wedding band on the weekends. They would pick him up and drive to their gigs at seedy catering halls and introduce the nervous lad. “We have a teenage magician with us who will be happy to do a little something for you for a little tip.” (The wedding-crashing magician often earned ten or twenty dollars and always had a great Italian meal.)
During his last six months at Grover Cleveland High School he found he could earn school credits by way of their “internship program” – if he could find a job. The young magician went to visit Tannen’s magic store and asked for a job there. That was his first rejection in show business. Not to be stopped, the approached Dick Brooks at the “Magic Towne House.” Dick Brooks and Dorothy Deitrich owned the New York City magic nightspot, which also featured afternoon children’s shows and catered birthday parities, and had a small magic store up front. Devlin became a stock clerk who got to demo some magic in the shop, assist children’s magician Ray Nordini at Saturday kid shows and often performed a few tricks for them, as well. The experience was extremely valuable. Devlin was great with the “Shrinking Gloves.” Here was a place he could study the psychology of children’s magic and get to see the “professionals” at the evening performances. He remember the very valuable advice Dick Brooks gave him: “This is the most important thing you will learn in your career as a magician,” and Dick gave him a bag of balloons and a book on how to twist them into animals.
After high school Devlin got a “real job” with a Wall Street brokerage firm. He wasn’t happy in an office environment and resigned, but stayed in the area as a Street Busker. This got him other work at school shows and countless private parties. It was 1980 and Devlin was now a professional magician.
Still close with his boyhood friends, he developed a cabaret dove act aided by Gene Elmo and received guidance from another manipulation friend and teacher named Vito Lupo, who had own first place at the 1979 FISM contests. His act was developing and he appeared regularly at New York’s “Mostly Magic” nightclub. He was well received and tested new material while rubbing shoulders with other performers such as Imam, Al Goshman, George Schinder, Slydini, Jeff Sheridan, Jeff McBride, Derek Dingle, Eric DeCamps, Meir Yedid, Rocco and Professor Bobby Baxter. He credits attending Tannen’s Magic Jubilees and the Mostly Magic years for much of his success.
In 1986, Devlin joined forces with Kim Cera, who acted as both manager of the act, assistant and booker for the myriad of private parties available in the New York City area. They took every booking, big and small, and worked to develop rapport with the agents in the city Kim had the ability to recognize Devlin’s capabilities and together they worked hard to develop and create many original concepts and ideas for their illusion show. For ten years they did the “road schlepping.” Devlin recalls, “Some gigs were better than others. One night we’re performing at Whitney Houston’s wedding and the next night we’re in a basement where you wouldn’t send your worst enemy, opening for a stripper at a Newarkbachelor party. One October afternoon we got a call for a party in Newport, Rhode Island. They had asked for the Metamorphosis. Two days before the date we received the Jim Sommers’ prop. We rehearsed day and night, for this was an “important” client. We did the show and after I picked myself off the ground, having fallen off the top, the agent said, ‘that’s a great ending, keep it in.’”
In 1996, producer Alan Valentine offered the team their own 70-minute show in Atlantic City. The show was called “Cabaret of Illusions” and was at Gatsby’s cabaret in Bally’s Grand Casino. The platform was tiny and there was no dressing room. The props were housed in the hallway next to the bar and had to be wheeled in and out during the show. But it was a great show and even had a female singer between the breaks. The original four-week engagement was held over for four months. It was here that one reviewer described him “confronting his public with the audacity and confidence of a matador using the torero’s sword and cape to weave a colorful exotic spell.” The show was a turning point in their career.
Another magic act was appearing in the large Casino at the Grand during the second week of their run. Devlin remembers, “Our little space seated 80 people, and the front row was often reserved for V.I.P. clients. I saw only silhouettes when the lights lowered and I came onto the stage. On this particular evening, when the lights came up, I recognized another magician with his small party directly in front of me. There sat Harry Blackstone Jr. and his wife Gay. I felt like the goofy teenager I was when I first met him in 1980 as a star-struck kid. ‘How am I doing?’ I blurted. The famous Blackstone voice replied, ‘Absolutely wonderful!’ I cherish that moment and the moments I spent with the two of them after the show and during that week.”
Among his many talents, Devlin also has a flair for drawing. He has illustrated tricks and books for other magicians. He drew his own designs and sketches for his Latin costumes and for the illusion builders with whom he worked. The review comparing him to a matador combined with his Latin flair prompted the title, “Matador of Magic.”
Devlin was well liked in Atlantic City, headlining his own shows that needed new illusions. The creative Devlin worked with Bill Schmeelk of Wellington Illusions and developed the “Guitar”, which is the suspension of a lady on the edge of a guitar. He created the “Corset” prop, a combination of a vertical cutting combo stretcher, in which his assistant is divided in two by a whip tied around her middle. The bottom half runs off to one side as the lady is seen at the top. With the help of builder Mark Schock, he created the “Closet,” an entertaining bell-cart costume-trunk type of effect, where the spectators choose the costume in which the assistant magically appears. His drama and artistry is exemplified in “Las Flores,” a combination of beautiful floral effects and an artistic finale.
Atlantic City was a great venue and the small show at Bally’s was enlarged and moved to a 600-seat showroom at the Palace Theater at the Claridge Casino. The name of the show was change to “Cabaret Tonight.” Devlin added three dancers and the show was extended from the original eight weeks to four months. At the end of the run, the Copa Room at the Sands Casino became available. “Hollywood Magic” was the title of the new show, which was decorated with sets that contained antique movie props. “It was a thrill to produce the actual chariot used in the movie Ben Hur! What we thought funny was that the Sands wasliterally across the street from the Claridge and we hold the distinction of being the only show ever wheeled by hand across the street. it was in a great showroom that seated 800 people.” During the run, the team auditioned for and got to play themselves on the “Crystal Ball” segment of the “All of My Children” soap opera. The eight-minute TV exposure got them several good corporate dates for companies such as Phillip Morris, Mobil Oil, Coca-Cola, IBM and others.
Although Kim left the act in 1999, she played a very large part in the growth, development and success of their shows. Work is in progress for Devlin’s new full-evening show with a few new illusions on the drawing board. Stay tuned!
At this writing, Devlin is appearing on the “Westerdam,” a luxury ship owned by the Holland American Lines. Devlin has performed on cruise ships in between the full-evening show dates for more than sixteen years. His first experience was in 1984, when Steve Rodman arranged a booking for him on the “Oceanic,” going from New York to Bermuda. To date Devlin has appeared on more than 30 ships for eight different cruise lines and on hundreds of trips, which have taken him around the world. He is always ready to correct common misconceptions about what he calls “nautical magic.”
“If you do well, they will keep you working. No, your equipment is not loaded in cargo nets – the modern ships have forklifts, walkways and elevators. N, you don't have to double calling ‘Bingo Numbers.’ The ships have modern stages, great lighting and sound systems, with good dressing rooms and stage technicians. The smaller ships have relaxed floor show venues. Many of the big names in magic perform on cruise ships. You are well paid, live like a millionaire, eat five star cuisines and travel to exotic lands. While you are not asked to socialize, remember that you are living with your audience and you need to be sociable. There is always the danger of your being ‘lost at sea,’ and if you stay on the ships too long some of the land-based agents may forget you. So always keep in touch.”
In our interviews with Devlin, he asked that we mention the in-between times and the many shows he performed in venues ranging from McDonald’s to the homes of Mafia Dons. He respects the advice he received from people like Bobby Baxter, who told him, “Listen to your audience, they will tell you how good you are.”