Mark Kalin is the husband half of the Kalin & Jinger husband and wife team, and they’ve been performing reality-defying acts together for the last 15 years. These former Magicians of the Year (as voted by the prestigious Academy of Magical Arts) are famous for their unique, large-scale productions. They’ve been on network television and on stage in Vegas, including a history-making act in which the duo made an American Airlines jumbo jet disappear. For more information on Kalin & Jinger, check out their website.
Club 808: How did you start? Was there a person who influenced you, or a show you saw?
Mark: The library. I did puppets before I did magic and the puppet books are next to the magic books at the library. So I stumbled onto a book of magic. . . John Northern Hilliard’s Greater Magic. The puppets never came out again.
Club 808: Was there a specific moment of no turning back? When you knew for certain you’d always be doing this?
Mark: Yes, I grew up in Covina, California and I had big dreams of a big illusion show when I was 20. So I transformed an extra bedroom in my parents’ home into a USDA and fish and game regulations exotic animal enclosure. Got all the permits and then brought home a baby tiger.
I think at that point I knew I was in for the long haul.
Club 808: How has your style changed since you first got started?
Mark: I’ve had a pretty long career, so I’ve been through a number of incarnations, different levels of finding myself.
Early years I was the “magical pool shark” (magic with pool cues, racks and billiard balls), a very quaint magic act that took me through my teen years.
Then I went through about 10 to 15 years of “Mr. Vegas” performing in Las Vegas with glittery costumes, explosions, tigers and leopards, beautiful girls… the whole shebang.
Then I met Jinger and all sorts of new doors opened up, and over the course of the next few years, we produced our own shows and searched for a more sophisticated, theatrical approach to magic.
Through all the different roads the one constant was my desire to just do good magic.
Club 808: Who were some of your influences?
Mark: In magic I was a big fan of Doug Henning. He really believed in the magic and so the audience believed as well. Also early on I joined Magic Club. Some of the guys were just a few years older than I really looked up to them. I wanted to emulate them. Still do today.
The club was called the Long Beach mystics and it was just a bunch of kids and teenagers getting together. But it had a profound effect on me. Just last week in Las Vegas we had a reunion show, all of us got together for a huge magic convention and it was like no time had passed, we were all still the same guys… except less hair more belly.
Club 808: Do you have a favorite trick you enjoy performing?
Mark: When I opened up that first book on magic from the library there was a trick in there with balls. . . the multiplying billiard balls. It fascinated me and hooked me. I still do the trick today and I’m still trying to master it. It’s my favorite trick.
Club 808: What’s the hardest trick you ever learned?
Mark: Our show Carnival of Wonders was playing on one of the world’s largest stages, Reno Hilton in Reno, NV. A one-acre stage. As a finale to the show we vanished an American airlines jumbo jet – an 80 foot wingspan, a humongous object that vanished into thin air, twice nightly, 6 days a week. It still holds the record as the largest live disappearance in history of magic. I had a matter of weeks to figure it out and execute it, was an unbelievable undertaking and you can actually find it if you Google “world’s largest illusion”.
Club 808: What about the craziest audience reaction?
Mark: I don’t know if this is the craziest, but I did do a show once for an audience that was blind. They listened intently to the sound of everything I did as somebody explained to them exactly what trick I was doing and what was happening. They applauded and laughed and reacted to every little nuance. It was amazing.
Club 808: Why magic for a living?
Mark: It was never a grand plan just something I did it was a natural extension of myself I just did it… I never tried to make money at it… but he became a career and is led to a really rich colorful, challenging life. I met my beautiful wife Jinger through magic and we have a beautiful 12-year-old daughter. Life is good.
Club 808: Got any crazy stories?
Mark: Well there are many but one I will never forget. . . I had my big break doing shows for the summer at Knott’s Berry Farm theme park in Southern California. It was my first day of shows and all the executives were there to see the show. . . along with about 750 audience members—mostly kids.
We had a trick where one girl had to double for another. She was never seen, just inside a cabinet while the other girl slipped through a trap door. She would stick her hands out of the top of the cabinet and basically cause the audience to think that the other girl was still in there.
We didn’t really have this part of the show rehearsed well. It was very rushed between numbers. So the girl who was the double—a very pretty girl named Pam—didn’t have time to make her costume change and got loaded into the prop sans top. No big deal because she would never be seen.
Comes to the big moment with the switcheroo and I raise this curtain and go to tie it off. . . but didn’t get it tied and it dropped. Here’s one girl, Pam, facing the audience, arms raised over her head shaking a feather boa. Uh, topless. The other girl (on her way down the trap) was basically facing Pam with her head right at crotch level.
I quickly pulled the curtain back up but one look at the audience’s faces and I knew it hadn’t been fast enough. They just were staring, eyes wide open, mouths agape.
I thought my career was over. I mean, this was a family theme park. . . but fortunately the execs in the audience found it funny and gave me a pass. We did have one more show that day. I noticed that on that last show when I went out and looked at the audience, all the same kids from the first show were back. . . only now they had a friends with them, and they were saying, “Wait ‘til you see this one part, it’s awesome!”
Club 808: What do you think is the future of your craft? Specifically, do you see it growing?
Mark: I think magic is going through a very interesting and challenging time. With the advent of the Internet, magic is getting exposed to a whole new generation of young people in numbers never before experienced. But at the same time, it’s all sort of laid out in front of you, every question answered, not something you have to work for. So I do think, although there may be more young people exposed to magic, there’s been a price to pay in commitment and creativity. But that just means that when somebody special comes along they just stand out even more.
The future looks bright and I think magic will be with us for a long time and will always inspire new people to do great original things.
Club 808: Where can audiences find you? Online? Where do you perform regularly?
Mark: www.bestmagicshow.com is our website, and you can find us pretty much all over the world at any given time. We’re currently traveling with a show called The Illusionists—just about to leave on a European tour that will take us into 2014.
We are always trying to do a week at the Magic Castle in Hollywood at least once a year. Keeps us connected to our roots, reminds us of where all this started.
Club 808: What else would you like Club 808 members to know about you?
Mark: Old-style, poker-size Bicycle® red Rider Back Cards. . . that’s the only thing that feels right in my hands. I couldn’t think of using a different pack of cards. It takes a couple days to break them in and then it’s just like an old friend. It’s a beautiful thing.
Club 808: Thank you so much for your time!