Making magic: Round Lake native conjures career in show businessMINNEAPOLIS — When Mr. Magic — aka Michael Anderson or “Magical” Michael McKay — takes to the stage to do a show, he’s always dressed in a vividly colored suit — hot pink, fluorescent yellow, neon green, blaze orange, brilliant blue. And his personality is every bit as vibrant as his apparel.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
MINNEAPOLIS — When Mr. Magic — aka Michael Anderson or “Magical” Michael McKay — takes to the stage to do a show, he’s always dressed in a vividly colored suit — hot pink, fluorescent yellow, neon green, blaze orange, brilliant blue.
And his personality is every bit as vibrant as his apparel.
“I have 35 different outfits with matching glasses and shoes and belts,” he related during a phone interview from his home in the Twin Cities. “All the magicians try to look like David Copperfield, and I’m at the other end of the spectrum.”
Michael doesn’t try to look like Copperfield, who generally dresses in the classic magician mode of black and white, but he sure likes rubbing elbows with this generation’s most well-known magician. He was privileged to do a private show for Copperfield earlier this year.
“When we went to Vegas at the end of April, he asked us to perform a private show for his crew and friends, right at his theater at the MGM Grand,” Michael explained. “David is bigger than Houdini. He’s the biggest magician ever, with a billion dollars in sales. … He’s just a great guy.”
A star is born
Michael grew up in Round Lake, the son of Emory and Esther Anderson, and graduated from Round Lake High School. His first encounter with the world of illusions came at an unlikely venue — church.
“It all started at Indian Lake Baptist Church, when I was 7 years old,” he recalled. “I saw Pastor Miller take a black silk full of sin and change it into a white silk for forgiveness. That caught my eye. It’s pretty much what got me interested.
“When I was a kid, I said to my parents, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a magician.’ They said, ‘You can’t do both. You can’t grow up and be a magician.’”
Many kids dabble in magic tricks, but few stick with it. Initially, Michael was no different. He continued to “fool around” with magic during his high school years, but then decided to “grow up” and become a radio disc jockey. He studied at the Brown Institute in Minneapolis and worked at radio stations in Iowa City, Iowa, Las Vegas and Sioux Falls, S.D., assuming the persona of Michael McKay.
“Then I was on the Jerry Lewis telethon, presenting a check, and thought I’d do a magic trick,” he explained. “The next day, I had five calls asking if I would do a show. So I became ‘Magical’ Michael McKay. I did magic, really, full-time as well as the radio thing.”
For many years, “Magical” Michael was a solo act. Then he met Mrs. Magic.
“We met through some mutual friends,” he explained about his wife, “Terrific” Terri. “I do everything in my life in sevens: I always set up my shows and meetings with a seven in it. We met Aug. 15 of 2002 — which is 77 days until Halloween, magic day. I decided I was going to propose on Halloween, 77 days after meeting her, so I carved up a pumpkin and the ring was in the pumpkin. We still have the pumpkin in the freezer. It gets moldier every year — and smaller, too.”
In Terri, Michael found not only the love of his life, but his magician’s assistant. They now perform as Mr. and Mrs. Magic.
“When Mrs. Magic and I got married, she fired the show girls, and now she thinks she’s the star of the show,” quipped Michael. “She knew nothing about magic before, but it’s just so much fun having her in the show. It’s different than having an assistant. We have all kinds of time to come up with unique ideas.”
“What we try to do is ‘We add life to life’ — that’s our slogan — with our personality and showmanship,” described Michael.
Today, show business is a full-time gig for the Magics, and Michael wears “a lot of hats” — as well as outrageous suits — when it comes to promoting the act.
“I’m not only the entertainer, the performer on stage, but I’m also the agent, which takes a lot of time,” he said. “I’m on the phone all day, selling the show, and coming up with the ideas, putting together all the music. … but what I love the most is being on stage.”
Michael doesn’t limit his performances to the stage, however.
“When I’m standing in line at a Wal-Mart or at the post office, to the people behind me, I’ll say, ‘While we’re waiting, here’s a little entertainment,’ and do a trick for them. I get a great response almost all the time. It’s a chance to give out my business card, and I do get calls from people who say, ‘I met you while I was getting a haircut.’
“Magic just has such mass appeal, and I rarely meet anyone who says, ‘No, I don’t want to see that.’ Everybody likes it, and the way we present it is in a fun, clean, wacky way.”
Last year, Mr. and Mrs. Magic did 142 shows. They do a lot of corporate events, and most of their bookings are within the vicinity of the Twin Cities, although occasionally one will bring them down to southwest Minnesota. They recently performed at Parks Marina in Okoboji, Iowa, and will return this way for the Worthington Fire Department fundraiser in August. They also travel to Vegas, where they have performed in some well-known theaters.
“The MGM in Vegas is the best, or the Tropicana or Stratosphere,” said Michael about his favorite locales. “The showrooms are so nice — the backdrops, the background, the lighting. But in Okoboji, we were performing in the showroom of the boat dealership before we moved out to the bar area, so you never know where you might be performing.”
Wherever they go, Michael and Terri are always trying to figure out how to make the show better — thinking up new tricks, coming up with more corny jokes, finding brighter costumes. In addition to his rainbow-colored suits and accessories, Michael always wears taxi socks — he claims to own 50 pairs — that he buys at a specialty store in the Mall of America.
“They’re black and white and say ‘Taxi’ on them,” he described. “During the show, I pull up my pants, show my socks all the way to the knee and say, ‘I’m going places.’ I get a quick laugh in there.
“Making them laugh is really a big part to our show,” he continued. “It’s much more than just magic. We do some mental telepathy, go out into the crowd … That takes a lot of practice. We continue rehearsing all the time. We video every show and watch every show back at least once, not to see if we’re doing anything wrong, necessarily, but to see if we’re doing anything right.”
In the world of magic, occasionally an illusion doesn’t go exactly as planned. Michael’s most memorable mishap was “when I started a lady’s hair on fire one night. I had to think really quick. She had on a bunch of hairspray, and it started on fire, and I was patting her head out. Things do go wrong. That’s probably the scariest and the funniest, since she didn’t get hurt.”
Mr. Magic caught Copperfield’s attention when he made the 35-foot, 3½-ton statue of David in Sioux Falls disappear for the South Dakota centennial.
“I made it vanish in front of 10,000 people,” recalled Michael. “Somebody on his crew happened to see that on a TV station out in Montana, and he called and wanted to know more about it. He watched a 12-minute version of it; he wasn’t so interested in the magic as the music I used. I’m the music king. I told him, ‘If you need musical ideas, let me know,’ and I’ve given him a lot of musical ideas over the years. You’ve got to keep the show fresh, especially when you do 500 shows a year like he does.”
A few weeks after Michael and Terri performed the private show for Copperfield and crew in Vegas, they had front-row seats at Copperfield’s performance at the State Theatre in Minneapolis. Their professional relationship has evolved into a friendship that includes a lot of joking, banter and one-upmanship between the magicians. Michael is hopeful that it will lead to another exclusive invitation.
“The next project we’re working on is going to David Copperfield’s private island,” Michael noted. “Musha Cay is a private resort located about 90 miles south of Nassau (Bahamas). It’s a ritzy, ritzy little resort; to stay there is $37,500 a night for up to eight people. We’re working on that, performing there. It’d be fun just to go there and stay, but to say for free and get paid, too!”
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