By Felicia Dechter
I caught Al’s “exciting” (that’s how my 13-year-old daughter described it) act last weekend at the dynamite Sunday brunch at Leona’s in Rogers Park.
Al, a North Sider who has been performing his mystical act full-time for more than three decades, boggles the mind with his astonishing feats of magic, among them card, coin and rope tricks.
Al calls himself a minimalist magician, one that uses as few props as possible. “It makes it a lot more convenient to travel,” he says.
And travel he does. Al takes his show on the road all over the United States, performing magic and hypnotism shows in Las Vegas, at colleges, trade shows, etc. Al also wows them regularly in Hollywood at Hollywood’s famous Magic Castle and at Wizard’s Night Club. He has performed in the “Today Show,” “Wild Chicago,” the “Bozo Show,” and was featured in P.M. Magazine. He also has even done magic on WGN Radio! (Don’t ask me how).
Al started getting into magic when he was around 11, he says. In high school it was a hobby, and later, he gave it up for a while. Yet after a couple of brief stints as a DJ and in sales, Al decided to try and perform his wizardry as a real job.
He was hired by the former New York Lounge at Lincoln and Foster, which featured magicians. “The rest is history,” Al says. Before long he had landed gigs at the old Schulien’s on Irving Park Road, which has changed names yet Al’s still there. And going back a whole lotta years, you could once find Al at the Pickle Barrel, at Howard and Western.
Al’s a character, and he will have you laughing out loud with his continually funny, sort of off-beat line of chatter. But make no mistake about it, he’s a serious professional all the way.
So much a pro, in fact, that he was given a Citizen’s Award by the city, for hypnotizing a policeman to successfully help him remember the license plate number of a man, the “Plumber Rapist,” wanted for 12 rapes in the Chicago area in the 1980’s.
And believe me, anyone who can impress and stymie three teenagers, which Al did at our table last Sunday, has got to be good.