Twelve-year-old Erik Seidenglanz doesn't go anywhere without a deck of cards.
At the dinner table, the 78-pound magician eats with a card palmed in one hand. His bedroom is full of magic trunks, jackets with hidden pockets and ketchup bottles that he can make disappear.
On Aug. 24, Erik is scheduled to perform at a White House luncheon to be attended by Vice President Al Gore.
"I am a bit nervous," he said of the performance in the nation's capital. "I hope I do a really good job at it."
Even if he flubs a trick, Erik added, he still gets a private tour of the White House and FBI headquarters.
"Not many people get to do that," he said.
After seeing Harry Blackstone Jr. perform about three years ago, Erik said, he bought magic books and taught himself enough simple tricks to venture into public. He started on a street corner near his house in Corona del Mar.
"Nobody would look at me at first," he said of those early days. "But then I started asking people if they wanted to see a magic trick. They would stop, and a crowd would watch."
Erik made $200 in his first two nights on the street corner.
With that, he invested in more magic books and props and business cards. Last year, Erik auditioned at the exclusive Magic Castle in Hollywood, a club for working magicians, which lowered its minimum age from 14 to 12 so he could become a member.
Since then, he has attended magic camps for youths while making money performing at birthday parties, grand openings and the like. He has managed to invent new tricks, hire a publicist and bank much of his earnings.
"He is about halfway to a new car at the moment," said his mother, Cheryl Miller. "And he is not even 13 yet."
Last Wednesday, Erik tuned up his act before about 100 people at the Oakwood Apartments in Anaheim. His specialty is close-up magic, partly because he cannot project his voice to a roomful of people.
Wearing a blue sports coat with deep interior pockets, he roamed through the audience doing a series of card tricks.
In one trick, he held out three playing cards, two blank and one three of diamonds, to which he fastened a paper clip. Erik put one card in a box, the paper-clipped three of diamonds under someone's hand and the third car face down on the table.
When the cards were flipped, the paper-clipped card had become blank and the three of diamonds appeared in the box.
Erik's mother, who drives him from performance to performance, usually stays out of sight when he works a room.
"This is the time to go from boy to man without Mommy around," Miller said. "Every kid wants to be good at something, find their niche. This is his niche."
Erik starts seventh grade in the fall and has already begun saving for the day he hopes to enroll at Harvard University. His ultimate goal is to be "the best magician in the world."
"I know I set that goal high," he said, "but that is what I want to do."
Miller says that kind of determination keeps Erik up at night. "I have to go up and tell him to put down the magic books and turn out his lights," she said.