The End Of A Massachusetts Magic Institution
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
It's the end of an era for magicians in New England. What's believed to be the last specialty magic store in the region has closed. Well, thankfully, they can still hear the music of BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music. Craig LeMoult of member station WGBH visited the disappearing magic shop in its final days and says magic stores are a lot more than just a place to buy a top hat and a magic wand.
CRAIG LEMOULT, BYLINE: Like a magic trick, magic stores can be mysterious - hiding in plain sight. Vince DeAngelis used to spend most of his free time upstairs in a nondescript strip mall in Peabody, Mass., hanging out at a shop called Diamond's Magic. Then five years ago, he quit his software job and bought the shop.
VINCE DEANGELIS: My predecessor here never had a sign out front, didn't have the name on the glass downstairs. So you had to know there was a magic shop here.
LEMOULT: It added to the mystery. But it probably wasn't great for business. So when DeAngelis bought the shop, he added a sign. The shelves in cases all around him display coins that change in an instant, decks of cards that behave in odd ways and all kinds of other items to appeal to everyone from mentalists to escapologists. But it just wasn't profitable. And DeAngelis says he has to close Diamond's Magic.
DEANGELIS: And now I feel bad because I have no magic shop to hang out at (laughter).
DEBBIE O'CARROLL: Hey (unintelligible).
LEMOULT: As he's talking, Debbie O'Carroll walks into the shop, wearing a tiara and what looks like an Elizabethan dress with a big heart on the front. She's just come from performing at a travelling circus.
O'CARROLL: And I do magic tricks for them - card magic - with a British accent - yes - because I'm the Queen of Hearts, you see.
LEMOULT: O'Carroll says she's heartbroken that the shop is closing.
O'CARROLL: Because this is our center. This is our...
LEMOULT: This is a place where you could show up dressed as the Queen of Hearts and nobody would think twice about it.
O'CARROLL: Yeah (laughter). I'm one of them.
LEMOULT: The door opens again and several more magicians appear.
O'CARROLL: ...My darling. How are you?
LEMOULT: This is one of the other things that DeAngelis loves about his shop - experienced magicians come in, sit around a table, swap old stories, order lunch and answer questions from younger or newer magicians.
DEANGELIS: It's like a public library but with the characters in the books being there to explain them to you. I just came up with that analogy (laughter). I don't know whether that's accurate or not. But it feels like that.
LEMOULT: Mentalist John Bach says the characters here today used to gather every Saturday at a different shop in the Boston area. But it closed down. So they started coming here, to the only other magic store in the region. Now it's closing, too.
JOHN BACH: I think that's what's going to be missing now with the death of the brick-and-mortar magic shop is a place to go and see magic and see magicians and meet them and talk to them, talk shop.
LEMOULT: It's not that magic is dying. Because of shows like "America's Got Talent," DeAngelis says there's actually been a resurgence of interest. But he says younger magicians don't seem as into the personal interaction of going to a magic store.
DEANGELIS: They're happy to buy an autographed deck of cards from online or watch a downloaded lecture.
LEMOULT: Sixteen-year-old Jacob Langtry walks in and starts looking around the shop, trying to find something new to amaze people with.
DEANGELIS: Are you into sleights or you more into gimmicks?
JACOB LANGTRY: Well, I have a lot of sleight books.
LANGTRY: So I'd like to get something kind of gimmick.
LEMOULT: Langtry's visiting Boston from upstate New York and says he does get most of his magic stuff online. But to him, visiting a shop like this is something special.
DEANGELIS: Oh, wow.
LANGTRY: Yeah. Whenever we go to a city that has a magic shop, which is rare, I try to get there.
LEMOULT: He didn't even realize how close he came to visiting a city and a region that has no magic shops. Now the mystery is where New England's magicians will go to swap old stories, learn some new ones and share the secrets of the tricks behind the tricks. For NPR News, I'm Craig LeMoult.
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