A Dose of Magic in a Pandemic

In children’s hospitals across the country, kids have been left isolated due to COVID-19 precautions. This summer, South Florida magicians came together to produce a short film, Grand Master Grady and his Magical Friends, to provide free entertainment for the affected children.

The show opened with “Grand Master Grady,” presented by Grady Jacobs, 13-year-old boy with autism. He wore a t-shirt that read, “Pick a Card, Any Card” paired with a classic white blazer. He stated that as the audience watches they “will learn a couple of magic tricks along the way.”

The first trick presented by Jacobs began with a full deck of cards. He held up the deck and with a flick of his wrist, it vanished! He was left holding the four kings. “I have magic powers,” he exclaimed. He then made each of the kings vanish, one by one.

Photo by Sheri Hooley on Unsplash

Jacobs’ second act was juggling which he executed in such a way that anyone would think it was easy. He juggled forwards, backwards, and while crossing the balls from one side to another. “Just like that!” He exclaimed.

Working alongside Jacobs was the “Amazing Mr. A,” presented by Richard Adler, a magician from Palm Beach County with over 40 years of experience. He was named the Florida State Magic Champion four times.

During the show Adler demonstrated his comedic ventriloquism with a number puppets, all with their own characters. He began with “Dusty the Dragon” in a bit in which the two discuss which superpowers Dusty might have. “Maybe you can fly as fast as an airplane?” Adler asked. “Yeah with a plane ticket!” Dusty responded.

As Dusty’s performance came to an end, Adler made a heartfelt statement to his partner, “you’re special [to the kids] and they’re special to us.”

Adler’s second puppet is “Gill,” a shark with an appetite. “What have you been eating?” Adler asked. “Everything,” replied the shark. Adler used a lightbulb to check the shark’s throat but it was swiftly swallowed by Gill.

His final character was “Gizmo” the snarky alien who loves donuts so much that he ate all of the donuts from his old planet and now they are completely gone.

The next magician was “Eric the Magic Guy,” presented by Eric Kurit, an experienced balloon artist and stand-up comedian. He began his act by explaining how to create different balloon animals; a dog, an elephant, and an octopus. After he demonstrated the traditional way the animals might be made, he followed with a lesson that the hospitalized children would be able to follow on their own.

He pulled a hospital glove out and said, “They have them on the carts, they’re free! Just pull one out as you walk by.” He showed the step-by-step process of using a hospital glove to create balloon animals.

“The Wizard of Ahs,” presented by Bill Byron, 73 and Fort Lauderdale local, was the following act. “I want to welcome all you peasants…Huh? Patients!” Byron said as he began, adorned with a quintessential magician’s top hat and red sequin vest.

He explained that his rabbit decided to take a road trip and so would be using a deck of cards with rabbits on them instead, “Even though they’re cards, they’re still required to do some magic for you.”

Byron demonstrated several illusions, first by making the bunny cards change colors before the viewer’s very eyes. “An illusion is something that happened yesterday, but you weren’t there,” he explained. He concluded his performance by demonstrating to the audience brain teasers they could do by themselves using tongue depressors, another tool available from hospital rooms.

Hank Feinberg, 74, is a magician who spent years performing in New York and a current Boynton Beach local. He is the man who made it all happen as producer and director of the show.

Feinberg first met Richard Adler years ago, when he saw him perform at a local library, using his ventriloquism to encourage kids to read during the summer. Feinberg is also a member of the Boca Raton Assembly for the Society of American Magicians, a group that allows him to connect with other magicians across the country.

Grady Jacobs was pulled out of school three years ago and his passion for magic grew. Local magicians came together and used magic to teach Jacobs his school lessons. For Jacobs’ surprise birthday party, Feinberg got 25 magicians together on Zoom; this is how the idea for Grand Master Grady and his Magical Friends came to light!

“They couldn’t see their parents…They’re in isolation, that’s a scary thing,” said Feinberg about the children in hospitals during the current pandemic and cited this as his motivation behind the film. The film will be dispersed to 220 hospitals that are part of the Children’s Hospital Association.

Photo by Olga Kononenko on Unsplash

Grand Master Grady and his Magical Friends was produced through volunteers with a $0 production cost, but the group is looking for funds to produce a brochure to send to hospitals playing the film. The brochures will have spaces for each hospital to write the channel number for the show, which was made to be watchable while playing on a loop. The brochure will also include instructions for activities the children can participate in.

“Laughter is the best medicine,” said Feinberg as he reflected on how magicians are able to help the people in their community.

“I’m very pleased with it,” said Bill Byron about the final product. Byron is a retired television director, producer, and cameraman. He began practicing magic at age 12 and has spent his retirement traveling between children’s and veterans’ hospitals and doing his magic act for patients.

“Billy’s a master…a great man, a great heart,” said Feinberg about Byron who is a good friend.

Bryon explained, “A magician is simply a person that can take an ordinary object and do something extraordinary with it.”

Byron recalled a 6-year-old child he had performed for, 7 years later that same child recognized Byron from the hospital and expressed how grateful he was for his show. “We don’t realize the effect we have on people,” said Byron.

Feinberg disclosed that his years in South Florida have been some of his favorites. He described that magic community of one tied by friendship, charity, and kindness. He hopes that others are able to find such happiness in life, “That’s the real magic.”

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