Category Archives: Magical Adventures

Levitating with Yogi Bhajan 

I had the great honor of entertaining Yogi Bhajan on his 70th birthday!

Harbhajan Singh Khalsa, born as Harbhajan Singh Puri and also known as Yogi Bhajan and Siri Singh Sahib to his followers, was a Yogi, spiritual teacher, and entrepreneur. He introduced his version of Kundalini Yoga to the United States. He was the spiritual director of the 3HO (Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization) Foundation https://www.3ho.org/ with over 300 centers in 35 countries.

A Rising Card

Yogi Bhajan’s birthday celebration was at the end of a seminar he held near Orlando, Florida.

One of the highlights of the evening was when I performed the Rising Card with him. It is fitting that Yogi Bhajan introduced Kundalini Yoga to the U.S. and that my version of the Rising Card is distilled from Jeff McBride’s original, called “Kundalini Rising“!

Even though I knew of the Rising Card effect before meeting Jeff, it was his innovation to take the deck out of the hands of the Magi and to put it into the spectators’. Jeff generously shared that with me and I’ve been performing it that way ever since https://www.magicbymio.com/videos/ (2nd to last video).

In the ancient Kundalini practice, the rising serpent energy is the culmination of the alignment of the chakras and reveals the latent power within oneself. When I perform the Rising Card effect, I encourage my volunteer to unleash their own inner power and I give them full credit for the ensuing levitation!

So, Getting Back To Yogi Bhajan’s Birthday Celebration…

I asked Yogi Bhajan to select any card and to show it to the crowd, then put it back into the center of the deck. I put the deck into an empty box (that had been verified to be empty by another audience member) and handed it to Yogi Bhajan, smiling, and asked,

“Yogi Bhajan, have you ever levitated?”

Laughter drowned out his response! I asked again and Yogi Bhajan answered, “Of course“  which was followed by more laughter!

In a few moments, when the card did actually rise out of Yogi Bhajan’s hand as he sat there upon his pillows, the ensuing pandemonium was electric!

I continued my performance with my Signed Card routine, impossibly pulling Yogi Bhajan’s signed card from a sealed envelope in a zippered compartment of my wallet, only to have it fly up and stick to the rafters high above the crowd!

The picture I’m holding is a Polaroid of Yogi Bhajan with the card he selected which first disappeared, then subsequently appeared when the photo developed right before everyone’s eyes!

Mio’s Mind Melding Mirror

Today, 19 years later, my new TV Program, Life Is Magic, aired on PBS on January 5th, 2019. https://www.magicbymio.com/mio-hosts-tv-show-30-second-promo/ One of my favorite Extraordinary Moments was performing a variation of this effect in a Close-Up Magic set. Using a volunteer’s cell phone, I take their picture, and a card that they simply thought of instantly appears on a Mind Melding Mirror that they are holding! It’s an image captured forever by their own cell phone camera!

 

Magic’s Delightful Dozen

Flashback

On May 5th in 2000, I gathered twelve South Florida Magicians for a very cool corporate gig! To help describe it, here is an excerpt from Debra Liebowitz’ column, ‘Beach Buzz’ from the Miami Herald https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/miami-beach/article70499447.html :

“A group of Boca Raton convention goers recently enjoyed a magical bus ride to Miami Beach for a night out on the town. The employees and guests of Houston-based BMC Software https://www.bmc.com boarded buses at the Boca Raton Resort and Country Club https://www.bocaresort.com/ . They had reservations at a slew of South Beach restaurants, including The Strand http://www.thestrandmiami.com/ and Smith & Wollensky https://www.smithandwollensky.com/our-restaurants/miami-beach/ .

“Hired to entertain the group during the long bus ride: a dozen South Florida Magicians. The bus audience included folks from around the world. Helping to coordinate the traveling magicians: Mio, a Beach resident who specializes in extraordinary close-up magic https://www.magicbymio.com/ using cards, coins, levitation and mind reading. Mio has lived in South Beach for 11 years, he said all 12 magicians performing for the bus caravan belong to IBM. https://www.magician.org/ No, not Big Blue. The International Brotherhood of Magicians.” https://www.facebook.com/IBMMAGIC/photos/a.933309150176196/936914859815625/?type=3&theater

A Unique Experience 

In traffic, stopping and starting, it became instantly apparent that the best time for Magic was going to be when we got on the highway; at one point we had some unexpected extra viewers when a city bus passed and several of its passengers watched as a card rose from the hand of one my volunteers!

Putting together 12 Magicians and having everything run smoothly was something I wasn’t often asked to do. To have pulled it off so successfully; well, I was proud of that! The professionalism of all the Magicians I hired shone through as each one of them got rave reviews when the buses completed their journeys and the passengers emerged smiling.

Performing Magic on a moving bus, although unique, was not the only transport vehicle I’ve performed in…

Magic in the Air

I was hired by Carnival Airlines https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnival_Air_Lines (yes, there was a Carnival Airlines!) to do “Magic in the Air” as part of a publicity campaign on flights from Florida to NYC and back, during the Christmas holidays.

Once the airplane had leveled out, I slowly walked down the aisle, performing Strolling Close-Up Magic for three or four rows at a time, lingering at more receptive areas. I would make a second pass through the plane later on, and invariably the passengers who missed me the first time would stop me this time, wanting to see what so many others were laughing and applauding at!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles 

I’m pleased to have a roster of “Transportation Performances” performing aboard cruise ships of all sizes, on private yachts, on the Tri Rail, in private limousines, from within the Todd Tongen Taxi, and I’m proud to include the Delightful Dozen bus excursion and holiday airplane performances too.

I’m always glad when my clients just can’t get enough Close-Up Magic & Mentalism and ask me to work in unusual conditions!

Becoming a Mentalist in Miami

Richiardi The Great

As a Close-Up Magician, https://www.magicbymio.com/videos/ I never imagined myself performing Stage Magic. As a kid, a Stage Magician was someone who cut ladies in half and restored them, or had dancing ladies that turned into tigers that disappeared in a huge cage, or like Richiardi The Great, https://geniimagazine.com/wiki/index.php?title=Richiardi_Jr. who, in his grand finale’, would have a woman’s bloody entrails spilling out onto the stage as he invited spectators to file past and witness the carnage that his buzz saw had wrecked upon his lovely assistant who lay motionless and eviscerated before them; a spectacle that few who witnessed ever forgot!

That was something I never thought I’d be.

When I realized that Stage Magic wasn’t the only option and discovered Close-Up Magic as a legitimate, although highly difficult, way to make a living as a Magician, I devoted myself to becoming a full time Close-Up Magician!

Stephen Bargatze & Mac King

One day, after 12 years of making a living exclusively at my art, I found myself on a flight to Phoenix to entertain Mario Andretti and other celebrities at a charity golf tournament. I noticed that the passenger right next to me was reading Magic Magazine, which at the time was a top trade publication for Magicians. I started a conversation:

“I noticed you’re reading Magic Magazine. Are you a Magician?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“Are you a Close-Up Magician or a Stage Magician?” I asked.

“It’s almost impossible to make a living as a Close-Up Magician. I do Stage Magic. What do you do for a living?“, he asked.

“Close-Up Magic!” I revealed and we hit it off tremendously!

His name was Stephen Bargatze. https://www.magicofstephen.com/  When our mutual gigs in Phoenix were done that day, Stephen invited me to take a quick side trip to Las Vegas to see his friend Mac King https://www.mackingshow.com/ perform and Stephen brought me backstage to meet Mac. Watching Stephen and Mac perform – two of the funniest stage performers in any genre – was a complete pleasure as well as a fantastic example of what was possible and what to strive for!

The entire experience was amazing and I was proud that I was a full time Close-Up Magician!

Roses’ Bar

It was with trepidation, albeit with lots of excitement, that after several years of Close-Up, I took my first stab at a Stage performance; the picture is of me floating a crumpled paper ball before it became a rose, in a flash, at Roses Bar on South Beach. My Show went well and I started getting more requests to do something for everyone after my Close-Up set, so I decided it was time to expand and include the Stage Show aspect of my craft.

Since I had always incorporated Mentalism in my Close-Up, it was natural that Mentalism was the direction I chose when I began performing a short Show, usually at the end of the evening, during my Corporate and Private events.

Regent and Oceania Cruises

The real turning point came in 2007, after two years of performing daily as a headliner – the only headliner not on stage! – on the luxury liners of Regent and Oceania Cruises. https://www.rssc.com/ I was performing Close-Up exclusively, strolling throughout the bars, lounges and public spaces on board and receiving rave reviews from the passengers. It was then that I was asked to add a 45-minute show once per week. I told the Entertainment Director about my show; although it had no dancing ladies and tigers, it was an audience participation experience that amazed in ways that were subtle yet just as impactful. They tried my Mentalism Show https://www.magicbymio.com/mentalism/ and got great reviews!

So that combination, performing Strolling Close-Up Magic in the bars, lounges and public spaces for 5-6 days, followed by a Mentalism Show in the 500-seat theater at the end of the week, continued for the next several seasons on board! I added sound cues and lighting effects and in the beautiful, state-of-the-art theaters on the ships, my Mentalism Show took shape and grew into what is now a full evening presentation at private events as well as in public theaters around the country!

 

A Unique Career

 

The Early Days

When I first came to Florida to start my career as a professional Magician in January of 1990, I knew only one person, my dear friend Paul Fisher, with whom I shared my first apartment in Dallas and who now invited me to stay with him in his Miramar home until I got settled.

I had chosen Florida, naively thinking that I’d work on a cruise ship. During my first interview with a cruise line entertainment director, I was asked what my stage show was like. I replied that I was a Close-Up Magician and didn’t have a stage show. He had never heard of Close-Up Magic and was not interested in seeing or hearing more about it so… end of interview!

(Ironically, several years later I spent many highly-rated and successful summers performing on several different cruise lines… but that’s for another Blog!)

A Plan

How was I going to make a living as a Magician?

Remember, this was in 1990, well before David Blane, Penn & Teller, AGT, etc. Close-Up Magic was not as popular, accepted nor understood as now; convincing owners to trust you with their clients was a groundbreaking endeavor…

The first thing I did was to try to get a gig performing in a restaurant. After almost two months of calling and visiting restaurants, I finally convinced two different restaurant owners to give me a try, and I got two gigs on the same day! One was at TGIF, performing table-to-table Close-Up Magic at their Sunday brunches for $75 and the other was at Stan’s Restaurant, an iconic steakhouse on the Intracoastal where my deal was $25 plus tips, plus dinner, no lobster.

The Next Step

Once I was established at Stan’s, I called local entertainment companies, party planners and booking agents and said, “I’m a professional Magician. I work at Stan’s. Please come in for dinner on me one of the nights I’m scheduled to perform and I’ll show you some Magic. Then you can hire me for your corporate events and high-end private parties.”

It worked!

When I was on-board with several planners and agents, I called others and said, “I’m a professional Magician and I already get booked by these agencies. I’d like to see if we can work together. I’ll come into your office and show you and your booking agents what I do and then you can hire me for your high-end events.”

During this time, I would give out my business cards at my restaurant gigs, which by now included high-end South Beach establishments like Bang, Living Room, and at Balthazar’s in NYC. balthazarny.com

Perseverance

For the first year, I heard from no one… nothing! Then one day, the calls finally started coming in and soon I was getting inquiries regularly. Not every call led to a booking so I made it my business to do as many gigs as possible, realizing that the best way to get a gig was to have someone see me perform at an event that they were attending. I looked at every gig as an opportunity for more gigs!

After 4-5 years, I had to cancel my restaurant performances on a Friday here, a Saturday there, until I finally made the leap to the next level; I quit all my steady restaurant gigs and opened my schedule to be available for the private parties and corporate events that I was now booking.

That moment was almost as scary as the moment 5 years earlier, when I quit my last waiter job and looked up to the Universe, embracing the journey without hesitation – a journey that is now in its’ 30th year – a joyful career where I am not only known as a Close-Up Magician in Miami, and a Corporate Mentalist in NYC; I entertain folks across the country and around the world!

Close-Up Magic & Mentalism Today

I am proud to say I feel partly responsible, along with my contemporaries, that during those first decades, I assisted in creating a novel interest and acceptance for Close-Up Magic. So many people have enjoyed an uplifting experience with Magic that there is currently a renaissance of Magic and Mentalism, especially Close-Up Magic, with never before seen levels of exposure!

Romeo and Juliet

I was born in New York City. My mother was a professional Broadway dancer (until she was expecting me). My father was a professional costume designer, working on Broadway and in Film. He was also a Magic aficionado.

One evening, my parents attended a Broadway play that a colleague was in, “Winterset” by Maxwell Anderson. The lead character was named Mio. They liked that name and gave it to me when I was born. I’m often asked if Mio is my real name or a stage name, and the truth is that both are true!

When I was six or seven, my father would sit me on his lap in the kitchen and teach me Magic with cards. He brought me to Magic conventions and Magic shows, always explaining how things were done as they were happening.  At the time I didn’t realize I was privy to classified information! Although I never thought of being a Magician when I grew up, I felt I knew some great card effects and secrets!

Growing up, I was fortunate to go backstage at Broadway plays and onto the sets of major motion pictures with my Dad. He was the costume designer on Robert De Niro’s first film, “Bang the Drum Slowly” and he brought me to Yankee Stadium for several days of filming.

Following my graduation with a BA in Theater from SUNY Binghamton in 1980, I pursued a career in acting and directing. I directed an original play for my senior thesis and directed an off-off Broadway production. Many Magicians take acting classes to improve their performance.  I come from a theatrical background and it has been invaluable to the furtherance of my career.

Having grown up in NYC all my life, I was curious about the rest of the country, so I went exploring… this photo is from Santa Fe, New Mexico where I lived for two years and played the role of Benvolio, cousin to Romeo, in a production of Romeo and Juliet.

In my late 20’s, I was living in Dallas, Texas, when an amazingly talented Close-Up Magician, Brad Cairnes, serendipitously moved in next door.  Upon meeting, Brad showed me a card effect which just happened to be one that my Dad had shown me, so I showed him my version, Brad showed me another, then another, and away we went!

We became fast friends.  Brad taught me the fundamentals of sleight-of-hand Close-Up Magic and said, “if you learn these seven moves, you could be a professional Magician,” which at the time sounded simplistic but to me was no joke! I took Brad at his word and delighted in the opportunity to perhaps shape my life into a previously unthought of direction, one that seemed super exciting in its limitless opportunities!

After a year of constant practice, I left Dallas and moved to Florida. In the beginning, I only knew a few effects… about twenty minutes of Close-Up, but I made them very entertaining! I attended seminars, purchased books and videos, had private lessons and continued to strive to improve and expand my repertoire. It was when my technical skills caught up to my presentational abilities that I was really able to put it all together and move on to the next level!

To this day I continue to attend seminars and workshops with the leaders in the fields of Magic and Mentalism to master new effects. I now have two, 50-minute Mentalism Stage Shows, and at least that in different Close-Up effects.  I often get asked back by the same clients and referred to new clients!

 

 

 

 

 

How I get my gigs.

People often ask how I get my gigs. My career has progressed with a recurring theme; the importance of word of mouth and how ones’ quality of work (an impressive performance) begets more work… which is the cornerstone of any business.

It all started when Dan Marino’s wife Claire called me.  A friend of Claire’s had recently seen me perform and recommended that she have me at Dan’s birthday party.

Dan so enjoyed my presentations that he asked me to entertain at his upcoming Foundations’ Celebrity Golf Tournament.  At the dinner that night, Mario Lemieux saw me and asked me to come to Pittsburgh for his own foundations’ Celebrity Golf Tournament, where I met and entertained Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Johnny Bench, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, John Elway, Mike Schmidt and many others.  Mr. Schmidt asked me to entertain at his Cystic Fibrosis Foundation fundraiser and at several more functions over the years, both for himself and his foundation.

All of these legendary athletes are perfect gentlemen and a true pleasure to entertain, their warm-hearted generosity is apparent in the work they do and the foundations that bear their names.

I am happy that I can, in some small way, repay them for the hours of entertainment they’ve provided me! My work brought me to them and they in turn were moved enough by my Magic & Mentalism to literally “move“ me around from place to place!

I had the honor of performing for the manager of the NY Yankees!


I was working a party in the private room in Arturos, a fine restaurant in Boca. When I was done the owner asked, “there’s a Yankee at one of my regular tables, would you like to go over there?” I asked if it was a player and she said she thought it might be a coach. She took me over to the table and it was no coach; it was the manager, Joe Girardi!

Mr. Girardi was having dinner with his wife, Kim and another couple. I asked Kim to name her favorite card and the instant she named the seven of hearts, I reached over and pulled it from Joe’s collar.

I performed “Card to Wallet”, showing my favorite Met, Tom Seaver, as Tom’s picture came out of my wallet ahead of the signed card. After I pulled Mr. Girardi’s signed card from a sealed envelope, I showed him my Game Cards collection from my website and said I’d like to add his card to my collection. Mr. Girardi said of course, so I pulled a “copy” of the signed card from my pocket for him, then another “copy” from my jacket as I said to Kim, “if Joe loses that one here’s the original”, then I pulled a third signed card out and gave it to his friend. When I turned the three cards over they were all random cards! I pulled his real, signed card from the empty envelope and said, “I’ll keep it after all!”

I performed the “Real Dice”, reading all their minds, then the “Invisible Deck”, and I borrowed a dollar from Joe and floated it. I ended the performance with his cell phone as I asked him to search for anything on Wikipedia. I said “Joe is well traveled, he wouldn’t search for a place, he’s been all over. It’s something close to his heart”. Joe smiled uneasily, and I continued, “Something dear to you”. Joe shook his head in disbelief. “Did you search for your son, Danti?“

Yes! He had searched for Danti Girardi, his son! They all blew up! His wife said everything else was great, but when I knew what Joe had searched for, it sent chills down her spine and that was the most amazing thing!

Mr. Girardi asked for my card and said his daughter would love this. Maybe the team will too!

Performing at the Mario Lemieux Foundation Celebrity Golf Tournament

I first talked about my performances for the Mario Lemieux Foundation, and how important it was to me in this post.

After the 18th hole and the days round was finished, the players would slowly gather four by four in the clubhouse. The only ones in there beside the players were the staff and me.

After entertaining for several hours, I had gathered a collection of cards that were stuck to the ceiling of the clubhouse, and the manager looked up and noticed the four signed cards : Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Recci, and Lynn Swann!

He took the cards down, framed them , and then put them back up on the ceiling in exactly the spots they had been in!

Please pardon theses these slightly blurred photos.

Framed cards - Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Recci, Lynn Swann

What is like to be a Magician on a Cruise Ship?

Working on cruise ships has afforded me the special opportunity to see and visit parts of the world I otherwise may never have!

Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Hawaii, the Caribbean, the French Riviera, the Mexican Riviera, The Amazon, Venice, Europe, and a host of other destinations have all been the sights of my performances and adventures!

I was able to swim with dolphins in Cozumel, cuddle with stingrays in the Caymans and fulfilled one of my life dreams, to catch King Salmon and Halibut in Alaska, which I did while performing on board Regents’ ship, Seven Seas Mariner, for the summer season.

On the ships I often worked close up in the lounges, and here a group of passengers is about to see my unique version of card to ceiling!

Signed Cards Collection Growing: Mario Lemieux, Johnny Bench and Michael Jordan!

It was while performing for the Mario Lemieux Foundation Celebrity Golf Tournament that I had the pleasure and honor of performing for three gentlemen whose careers represented the very pinnacle of their respective sports when they played: Mario Lemieux, in his prime, arguably the best hockey player ever; Johnny Bench, perhaps the best catcher ever to play baseball; and Michael Jordan, well there is no argument, the best basketball player ever. These three greats all signed cards that appeared unexpectedly, some said impossibly, in a sealed envelope, in a zippered compartment of my wallet!

I was honored to be asked back by Mario the next year to perform, to again be able to contribute to the success of this great cause.

The Mario Lemieux Foundation was created in 1993. In that year, Mario was enjoying the greatest season of his brilliant career and on pace to establish a new NHL scoring record. Then he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease.

For me, Mario’s story goes to show the fragility of life, and also the will to persevere, and in turn to help others; just as I love to share my magic with others, to give them a glimpse that says the impossible is possible!

Mio the Magician and Mario LemieuxMio the Magician and Johnny Bench
Mario Lemieux's iconic "66" (the number of his jersey)
Johnny Bench's signature in one of Mio's Game Cards
Michael Jordan's signature in one of Mio's Game Cards