What If? Tuesday, Jan 21 2014 

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My friend, Terry Evanswood, called last month to remind me that it was the 20 year anniversary of our friendship. It all  began with a story I wrote for the Chicago Tribune on his non-violent haunted house that he built in a shopping center. I followed that story with a full-length feature article on him, a 23 year-old, award-winning magician.

At that time Terry already performed across the country including at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California and on the Bozo Show. Like a much older sister, I’ve proudly watched his career continue to soar due to his perseverance, perfectionism, and incredible creativity. You can see his spellbinding, family show, the Wonders of Magic, at the WonderWorks theater in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Terry is the longest-running headline performer in that area.

I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for Terry, not only for our friendship, but also the door he opened for me. With him, the magic began. Terry gave me a list of references to contact in regards to the article I wrote on him, and one of those names was my husband, Marshall. I spoke to Marshall over the phone  and then met with him in April of 1994 to interview him for his own feature article. Marshall and I were married the following year. Ironically, Terry’s career began with a gift of a Marshall Brodien magic set when he was a child, so we are connected on several levels.

The first magic show I ever saw in person was Terry’s. Since then, I’ve seen more than I can count. I’ve also met hundreds of magicians and assistants. Marshall is greatly loved and admired in this circle because of his kindness, generosity, and assistance to so many. Upon meeting magic people, some of the respect he’s earned is initially awarded to me as his wife, but I do believe many of the friendships I’ve built in this industry stand on my own merit. I feel a part of this very diverse community and grateful for everyone I’ve come to call my friends.

Reflecting back, I can’t help but wonder, “What if?” I was a single mother of three, working full-time at an advertising agency, and freelancing with the Chicago Tribune when I wrote Terry’s article. What if I hadn’t had the time off to shop at that particular mall, stumble across and inquire about the unusual façade of Terry’s haunted house, pitch the story to the Tribune, continue with a full-page feature on him that required references, was given Marshall’s name as a reference, follow-up with a story on Marshall, and so on?

We never know where a particular decision may lead us. The magic is in trusting our instincts and a path laid out for us that is so much more than we can imagine.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Grandpa Was a Clown Thursday, May 16 2013 

John J Doyle

“I have a weak back.”

“How long have you had it?”

“About a week back.”

I was only six when my grandfather, John “Jack” Doyle, passed away, but I still smile when I remember his face and little comedy bits like this one that he would say.

Grandpa was a vaudevillian in his younger years. According to a handful of undated, poorly photocopied news clips, he was a “well-known” Chicago comedian from vaudeville and traveling shows before and after his military service. Some of the little articles are about upcoming shows and others are updates on his condition after being injured in France during World War I.

Vaudeville was a specific type of entertainment in the United States and Canada from the late 1880s until the early 1930s. It was a variety-type show that featured multiple different acts on one bill. Musicians, dancers, comedians, acrobats, jugglers, and magicians offered an evening of family amusement. It was a time when live entertainment was still king until motion pictures took over that role.

The first official vaudeville theater in Chicago opened at the West Side Museum in 1882. The Clark Street Museum, Olympic Theater, and the Chicago Opera House soon followed. Some of the largest Chicago theaters seated 2,000 such as Academy of Music, the Haymarket, McVickers, and the Majestic, which was later renamed the Shubert.

I can imagine the patrons attending these shows out for a night of fun, dressed in their finery. Men would be dashing in hats and coats while woman were particularly sassy in shorter dresses and flirty hair accessories in the 1920s style.

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A few years ago I dressed in a flapper dress for Halloween, and I have to tell you, it was so much fun. There is something about that dress that attracted men and women alike and felt festive while wearing it. It also made me feel a little closer to my grandpa, imagining how it would be to have attended one of his shows.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

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