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The News & Daily Advance

Magician's life imitates his art
By Scott Baradell, Staff writer

 

Meir Yedid
Meir Yedid
Tragic irony

Meir Yedid’s story is so cruelly ironic, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. So when he’s telling it you just sit there, mesmerized, as if under a magician’s spell.

Yedid is a magician — specifically, a "close-up magician," which means he does card tricks and other illusions geared to small audiences of 50 to 100. Like the audience in Main Hall at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College Friday night.

Mostly what he does, besides the card tricks, is make his fingers disappear. He’ll hold his right hand in front of his left and pull it away, and the pinky or ring finger or middle finger of his left hand will be missing, and he’ll turn the hand around and still there’ll be no finger.

It’s called "Finger Fantansies," and it’s a literal sleight of hand that was invented by the Israeli-born Yedid years ago. As the magician’s trademark routine, and until recently his "closer," it’s fascinating. But after you hear his story, it’s also hard to watch.

Yedid, now a resident of Queens, N.Y., was in a car accident on the Long Island Expressway in 1986. In that accident, a third of his right hand, including two fingers, was ripped off. Found 100 yards away, the severed section was put in a bucket of ice by passing campers, and doctors managed to replace it, although one finger is still missing.

The 28-year-old magician, who had until then performed his "Finger Fantasies" with his right hand, was forced to switch to his left. He was also forced to deal with the incredible, tragic irony of what had happened.

"It never hit me to get depressed," Yedid said after Friday’s performance. "I keep laughing. In the hospital I was doing finger jokes. I was practicing with my left hand after about three or four days."

Hiawatha Johnson, a R-MWC composer-in-residence and part-time magician, was in the car with Yedid when it crashed. He brought Yedid to Lynchburg as the fourth performer in the "Macon Magic" series.

"I looked over and saw the fingers missing, and I thought it was a joke," remembered Johnson. "It was just like out of the act, for real."

The accident changed both Yedid and his act, but not as much as you might think. Before, Yedid worked with coins as well as cards, but now the coin tricks are too difficult. Before, he closed his act with the finger illusion, but since he’s not as good with his left hand as he was with his right, he no longer does. And, for all his attempts to maintain his sense of humor, he doesn’t kid around as much as he used to.

"Before I went for a lot of laughter in the act. Now I’m a lot more serious about it," he said.

Still, you’re only allowed to be so serious. Yedid makes most of his living "strolling" — entertaining at corporate cocktail parties ("the last one I did was a computer company introducing this new computer, the Wizard"), in the stands at New York Mets games ("it was the year the slogan was ‘The Magic is Back’ ") and, in general, "wherever there’s a buck."

The magician, whose slight build barely filled a black suit, also performs frequently for others of his vocation, at magic conventions. He teaches them his techniques, and learns theirs. Yedid met Johnson at a convention seven years ago.

"He’s a charming man. He’s a very good man," said Johnson.

During his hospital stay, Yedid received cards or phone calls from the Amazing Kreskin, Doug Henning and others of the magic fraternity. Yedid counts magician/actor Harry Anderson ("Night Court") among his friends.

"He used some of my stuff on Carson," Yedid said.

Yedid would like to be on Carson one day, too, but acknowledges that the big money goes to stage performers like Henning, not close-up magicians. Yedid was on the verge of switching to stage work when the car wreck changed his plans. That move is now postponed until he can again master the old routine.

A lover of illusion from his childhood and a professional magician at 15, Yedid has found it doesn’t come easy anymore. To do the card tricks, he must squeeze "therapy putty" in his right hand for hours before a show.

It’s a nuisance, but after nine operations on the hand and a year and a half of therapy, he doesn’t seem to mind much. He’s just happy to be performing again —

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