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VOL. 36 | NO. 45 | Friday, November 09, 2012

Tricks a treat for disappointed boy

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Joel Brown, 9, a fourth-grader at Moody Elementary in White Hall, Ark., and his dad, Chris, a Jefferson County deputy clerk, arrived at Little Rock’s Sturgis Hall at 4:20 a.m. on a recent Friday. Busy with her nursing school studies, mom Stacy couldn’t come.

The Browns had seen David Kwong on early-morning TV promoting the Clinton School Puzzle Festival. David, a magician, was the featured performer. The Browns came early for a good seat. What they’d misunderstood, though, is that the puzzle competition preceded David’s program. Not having enough time allotted, they headed for the exit, disappointed.

Kwong’s an unusual guy. Born in Rochester, N.Y., to a history professor and a biochemist, he started life amid brightness. After graduating Harvard with a B.A. in history, he went west and got a job as a magician’s assistant. (He’d been practicing magic since childhood and wanted to see if he was as good as everyone said he was.)

Before long, Kwong sensed his future lay in movies. Landing a job with DreamWorks, he established himself as a consultant in magic and cruciverbalism.

He consulted on 2009’s All About Steve, in which Sandra Bullock played a crossword constructor. He’s credited as chief magic consultant in Now You See Me, with Morgan Freeman and Woody Harrelson, set for release in 2013. He’s the founder of the Misdirectors Guild (misdirectorsguild.com), “an elite group of magicians who specialize in illusions for film and television.”

Before I forget, congrats to Robin Morrissey of Little Rock, who won the Arkansas Puzzle Day crossword title for the second consecutive year. And to Randy Bass of Sardis, Ark., who won the Sudoku crown. And mega-kudos to David, whose performance following the competition was stellar! I’ll tell a little of what he did.

A dollar bill loaned to the magician at the outset – after someone had drawn a dinosaur on it – turned into a clean $100 bill, before our very eyes!

Later, after several other tricks, David took a group of Scrabble tiles, drawn randomly by audience members, announcing he’d interlock them all in four minutes, Scrabble-style. Also, he’d “try to make” three 8-letter words in the mix. When time was called, he’d not employed two tiles: J and L. He’d made his three eight-letter words, though: HORRIFIC, UPCHUCKS and HAYMAKER. Apologizing for the two leftover tiles, he pleaded, “It wasn’t that bad, was it?”

Disappointment set in – briefly. David wrote his eight-letter words on a whiteboard with the Scrabble point-value of each letter next to it. The bill with the dinosaur on it then emerged from a kiwi fruit that had been held by audience members throughout the show. David then added the Scrabble scores of the respective first through eighth letters. The sums, preceded by J and followed by L, were the bill’s serial number! And that wasn’t his best trick!

Back to Chris and Joel Brown, who were leaving well before the show was to start. Learning of their situation, David had someone bring them to the conference room, where he gave Joel a private 10-minute show. Chris later sent David a note, thanking him for “making my son’s day” and saying that Joel now “wants to be a magician when he grows up.”

So do I.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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