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HIGH LIFE : Magician at 16 : Irvine Youth Turns His Passion Into a Profession

June 16, 1989|REBECCA LEUNG | Rebecca Leung is a senior at University High School in Irvine, where she is editor of the school magazine Sword and Shield. In the fall, she will attend USC, where she plans to major in journalism

It was a bold move for Eran Feigenbaum to pass out business cards to anyone and everyone he knew or saw.

Those first cards had a simple message printed on them: "Eran the Magician. I do and teach magic."

But for a 12-year-old who barely knew anything about magic and had no tricks to show anybody except for one involving a pair of Chinese linking rings, the business cards represented a desire to become a magician--and a famous one.

Just before then, Feigenbaum had purchased his first magic set for $70, never knowing that it would become such a worthwhile investment.

Now, at 16, Feigenbaum has succeeded in establishing a name for himself in the International Society of Magicians, as well as organizing a career for himself as a professional magician.

Feigenbaum, a junior at University High School in Irvine, performs three types of magic tricks for his audiences: stage magic, kid magic and mental magic.

With an excited voice and shining bright eyes, Feigenbaum described magic as a phase of his life that has yet to pass.

"Everybody loves magic," he said. "It exists, and everyone has it inside, but the problem is just how to use it. For example, there are those who are able to smell and create scents in perfumes in their dreams because they have learned how to use that skill. Magic is just like that. All of us have it--we just don't know how to use it.

"Magic is something that a normal person cannot do, but I, supposedly as an abnormal person, am able to do."

Feigenbaum became interested in magic at the age of 9, when he saw a magician performing the famous Chinese linking rings routine on stage. As a result, the youngster enrolled in a magic class, read all the books he possibly could on the subject and bought performing sets to practice tricks.

He dreamed that one day he would be skilled enough to perform the linking rings routine, which, according to Feigenbaum, is one of the hardest tricks to complete.

Living with his family in New Jersey at the time, Feigenbaum was not alone with his interest in magic. Along with a group of five friends, Feigenbaum formed the Gang of Magicians, whose members shared routines and performances with one another.

At 12, Feigenbaum returned to Israel, where he was born. Because of a lack of enthusiasm for magic and magicians there, he stopped performing. He put away his magic props into two chest drawers and began involving himself in other activities such as karate and computers.

"In the United States, kids are more fascinated with magic than in Israel because they are exposed to it at an earlier age," he said. "I didn't know of one kid in the U.S. who didn't own a magic set. But in Israel, it wasn't like that."

Although Feigenbaum tried his best to set aside his interest in magic, he was unsuccessful. He began saving up his allowance and was finally able to purchase a pair of linking rings. His first public performance--at a friend's birthday party--earned him $10 and, at the age of 14, marked the beginning of his professional career.

"I looked back at that performance as almost being a complete failure," Feigenbaum said. "To the crowd it looked great, but not to me. I put a lot more effort into my shows now."

Feigenbaum's efforts were appreciated by his friends as well as fellow professional magicians in Israel. At 14, he became the youngest member ever to join the Israeli Society of Magicians, an elite group of professional performers. By then, he was earning awards for his routines and acts.

Last summer, Feigenbaum represented the Israeli Society of Magicians and Israel at the 1988 Federation of International Society of Magicians convention in Holland, often referred to as the "Olympics of Magic," he said.

Upon returning to the United States with his family, Feigenbaum has performed at a number of national conventions, but none so prestigious as the one in Holland.

"Basically, the international convention was the highest realm that I could ever reach on the magical rings," he said. "Anything after it is a real downer."

In Irvine, Feigenbaum performs at parties and for such charity organizations as the Cancer Society and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. He also practices his skills at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles.

He said he earns between $100 and $500--"weekend money"--for each performance.

But Feigenbaum looks at his career in magic as a temporary one.

"I like magic because I'm not forced to do it," he said. "It is a lot like acting--when you are a teen-ager, you act for fun, not because you have to do it. But when you're doing it 24 hours a day, you're doing it to support yourself--to live. It would make an unstable career, but magic will always be a hobby for me."

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