There was a moment during Mike “Mickey Magic” Gomez’s Feb. 17 presentation to students at the Washington Elementary School that would’ve sent any Big Tobacco spokesperson running.
The Union City-based magician motioned to his box of “Newfarts,” labeled with “Danger” and “Menfoul Cigarettes.”
“This [Newport] is the number one cigarette that’s smoked in urban areas,” Gomez said.
Gomez, who just signed a contract with the Union City Board of Education for shows at local schools, finds ways to help students make the “best life choices” – in between his actual magic tricks, of course.
“I know your teachers talk about veggies and fruits; I talk about water – H20, God’s champagne.” – Mickey Magic
“I always tell my children, and everybody that I talk to, you must eat well,” Magic told the kids. “You must eat well, because if all you eat is junk, what happens? Your body turns into junk.”
Appropriately, a nutrition chart was in the background.
“I know your teachers talk about veggies and fruits; I talk about water – H20, God’s Champagne.”
It was a clever segue to his next trick.
After he discussed a bodega visit in which he asked for some of “God’s Champagne,” but instead got a Coca-Cola bottle, he pulled that bottle from a brown paper bag.
“One, two, three,” he began, while waving his fingers over the bag. “Say, ‘Make it disappear.’”
The kids repeated. Seconds later, he turned over the bag. Nothing fell out.
“It’s gone,” Gomez said.
“Wait a minute!” he reassured. “I can make it reappear. One, two, three,” and he pulled out the bottle again. But immediately again, he made the bottle disappear.
Then he pulled out a wine glass with water inside.
“I made a decision years ago that if I’m going to entertain, and I have this large audience, from children to adults, I might as well do something useful,” Gomez said after the show. “I have their ears and their eyes. Why not take them and enlighten them?”
“I’m never indifferent,” he added. “When I’m walking down the street, and a kid comes up to me, I swear to God, this happened yesterday: I’m at a supermarket. And then I stopped and went to the Rite-Aid. And always some child, they’re looking at me strange, because I have this hat on and I take my hat off and I have on regular clothes, and he said, ‘Aren’t you Mickey Magic?’ It’s always very flattering.”
Gomez first got into magic growing up in the Bronx. “I got the bug then,” he said. “So I was experimenting, going to magic clubs and magic shops. And then, one day in my 30s I got sick and tired of being sick and tired and I decided, ‘I’m going to make this a living.’” He eventually began a company, “Family Night Entertainment.”
Gomez performs at family nights at local restaurants, and works with other performers who he sends to client restaurants, many of them McDonald’s locations in New York City, with one in Jersey City.
“I assign these performers, and they do balloon animals,” he explained. “They do magic. Of course, face painting. And then the restaurants give a discount to the revelers that come in.”
Gomez acknowledges the slight contradiction in promoting healthy eating with his shows, but having events at the Golden Arches. “McDonald’s is giving you a choice today,” he said. “They went from those big old French fries; they got these little, tiny French fries in the Happy Meals. And now they include a fruit. They’re making a change.”
Gomez works as a magician full-time, something he said is rare. “Ninety-eight percent of the people in this business are not full-timers,” he said.
His career has been of great help through trying times. “[During] my first marriage, my two children died,” he admitted. “The first one, he had issues when he was born; he only lasted a few months; he was an infant. My oldest, Sebastian, died in a tragic auto accident. Then my first wife right after that. People say she died of a brain aneurysm; I say she died of a broken heart. Can’t have your two children dying, and not be the same person.”
But things eventually looked up. He remarried and had two boys. The marriage didn’t last and he has been raising the boys himself.
He said he likes to perform in the inner city. “I’m from the inner city. It’s not that I don’t like doing affluent, upscale communities. But they have all the resources on the planet.”
Likes Union City
Gomez said he works well with Union City Mayor Brian Stack. “I remember when he was walking down the streets years ago, before he ran for mayor. His ambition and everything, he knocks on my door. He impressed the living daylights out of me.”
During a big fire a few years ago in a tenement building, Gomez called the city and offered a free show for the affected children. He made contacts who booked him for Earth Day events at the Eugenio Maria de Hostos Center for Early Childhood in Jersey City.
“What the mayor is attempting to do is just empower the children of Union City,” Gomez said. “There have been some studies that have been done. The culmination of these studies was that when you combine magic with education, there’s a much larger retention experience than just lectures. If magic is presented with message, it’s win-win for all.”
Hannington Dia can be reached at email@example.com