The greatness of Michael Grandinetti began at the age of five when he received a magic set for Christmas. From that day forward, he dove right in and never looked back. 30 years later, his accomplishments include: Professional halftime performances at numerous sporting events. A number of television shows and appearances including: NBC’s The World’s Most Dangerous Magic II, The CW’s Masters of Illusion, Fox’s Bones, Pop TV’s Don’t Blink, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, ESPN’s SportsCenter, NBA on TNT, CNBC’s Make It, and The Conan O’Brien Show where he magically made Zack Galifianakis appear during his panel interview.
Some of his major sporting events tricks include: Making the Philadelphia Phillies mascot magically appear in center field of Citizens Bank Park. He once threw the first pitch at a Miami Marlins game—only after making the game ball magically appear. During a Chicago Bulls playoff game, he levitated at center court in front of the sold out United Center. He successfully predicted the exact score of Superbowl XXXVII, two weeks in advance, live on Los Angeles radio. And to top it all off, he has also performed at The White House.
How did you go from being the five year old who fell in love with magic, to pursuing magic professionally?
Well, because I started so young, I was lucky to have some time to figure everything out. It allowed me to start small and build. My earliest shows were for my neighbors, in my hometown of West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, for their backyard parties. I was thrilled to be able to share the magic I learned with everyone there. And, the people back home were tremendously supportive—and thankfully still are! It gave me all the confidence in what I was doing. From there, I began performing shows around the neighborhood and by the time I was 13-14 years old, I was doing corporate events and other things. I always kept pushing for bigger shows.
What was it like performing for adults as a young kid?
They always treated me like a professional, never just like a “kid doing magic”, which always gave me the confidence to keep pushing forward. After every show, my goal was to always make it better, to always do more, and to figure out how to enhance my show. My main motivation was to go beyond what people my age were doing, to always try to be ahead of the curve.
This was during the time of no internet—so no Youtube, no email, etc. What resources helped you learn and improve your craft?
Video tapes were the closest thing. I had no mentor, it was all self-driven. There was a magic store in Pittsburgh where I grew up, and I would save up money from my shows and buy new pieces of magic and books, and study everything I could. I couldn’t devour information fast enough. Also, I would find magicians through magic journals and magazines, and I would trade video tapes through the mail.
What is your favorite type of magic or favorite magician that you enjoy?
I was always attracted to magic that was REALLY creative and done well. I can always tell who put the work and care to do the magic right. Magic is very easy to do poorly. [laughs] It takes a lot of practice and care to make something that’s pretty difficult and complicated look, hopefully, very natural and easy. So, whenever I see well-done magic, no matter who it is, that’s what I love to see.
What is it like to watch other magicians perform? Do magicians try to figure out each others’ tricks?
It’s never about figuring out how the magic works. It’s more about watching from the perspective of being a magician and evaluating WHY this is good magic and WHY the audience is enjoying it, and always learning from that.
How difficult is the path of becoming a magician compared to other artistic professions?
I think all branches of entertainment and artistic professions are challenging paths. There is no set road map for any of this. And there’s no one way to do it. What worked for somebody else may not be the best path for you. Compared to a more structured career, there are so many What-If’s, so many variables, and so many different elements to it. It is NOT an easy route. You have to ABSOLUTELY be determined, passionate, and have the want to do this and just to stay on course. But there’s nothing better than doing what you love to do.
MICHAEL GRANDINETTI, THE MASTER
What is your favorite trick to perform?
Our levitation illusion, which we’ve done in stadiums surrounded by people, is one of my favorites. I always wanted to float in the air, ever since I was a kid just starting out in magic. And to do that in our show gives me a sense of fulfillment. Another favorite is an illusion where I walk through a steel wall. It took several years to perfect. We’ve even had other magicians tell me how amazed they are by it, which makes me very happy. I love to be able to give magicians that sense of amazement, which you typically lose when you become a magician.
What is your most difficult trick to perform?
One of the most challenging is definitely our Flaming Spike Escape, which we performed on an NBC special a few years ago. In this, I’m chained at my wrists, my waist, and my ankles, on a platform six feet off the ground. On both sides of me are walls of foot-long razor-sharp, steel spikes. The spikes are connected to an hourglass. When that hourglass runs out, the spikes release and fly towards me at 50mph. And, to make it even more dangerous, the spikes are set on fire—AND I’m covered in gasoline.
Yikes! I wouldn’t want to be trapped in that… [laughs]
[laughs] I’ll tell you what, the danger IS REAL. Most people think that there must be some sort of catch to it, But, no, you can really get burned, and you can really get hit with those spikes. It’s REALLY dangerous. We try and take precautions. I am not a careless person. But, to add that kind of drama and suspense to our show, I really enjoy that. It is a very challenging illusion, and probably one of the most difficult pieces we’ve done.
Where do you practice these complicated illusions? Musicians can rehearse in a garage, but with these big stunts it seems like you would need a large area to practice?
That is a big challenge for an illusionist, because you have so much equipment. We have about 15,000 pounds worth of stuff! We will typically use a rehearsal hall in Los Angeles, and it’s equipped with mirrors so we can see what we are doing as we rehearse. We also video tape every rehearsal to watch over and over again. It’s definitely a challenge.
You once performed in The White House. What was that experience like?
Amazing, and surreal. Security was obviously very high, so you had to explain EVERYTHING that you’re bringing in. And when you’re a magician, it gets a little tricky. Overall, it was great! The president and his family were maybe 20 feet away. All the history and everything there really made for a great experience. Definitely one of the highlights of my career.
Your television performances on The CW are now in their fourth season, What does it take to make each season different, while also making it better?
Every time I do a TV show, I ask myself, “How do I top what I did last time? How do I make it different and hopefully better?” I’m not in competition with other magicians, but I am very much in competition with myself.
What are some new and improved tricks for this season?
We took the famous Sawing-A-Lady-In-Half illusion, and found a way to use a 40 inch buzz saw…and we don’t put a cover over the girl. And, after she’s cut in half, we slide both her upper and lower half across the table, and then we separate the table. It’s a way of taking a classic idea and making it a bit different and fun visually.
Wow! Can we get a sneak peek into one more new illusion?
We do another piece where we use a 5-foot-diameter industrial fan, with spinning metal blades. And I walk directly through the spinning blades, which was based on the concept where I walk through the steel wall…except I wanted to add a little more danger to it.
WISDOM & ADVICE
Despite all of your many accomplishments, what motivates you to keep performing at the highest level?
Well, I still love what I do. I still feel like my five year old self who just got his magic set for Christmas. I do this because this is what I love. I wake up every day excited to get to work and to work on new things, and to figure out new ways to try to amaze audiences. I really think you can pick any direction you want in life, limited only by your determination. There are SO many more things I want to do with magic. I will probably run out of time before I run out of things that I want to do with magic. That keeps me very motivated.
What advice would you give to any aspiring magicians?
Perform as much as you can. Have fun with it, and figure out what does and doesn’t work for you. Magic is a very individual thing. And importantly, don’t know what you can’t do. Which means: Don’t put limits on yourself. If you want to be a magician, go out and be a magician! If there’s something you want to do, no matter how difficult it is, go out and give it a shot because it’s much worse not to try at all.
Interviewed & Written by: David Gavri