life imitates his art
By Scott Baradell, Staff writer
Meir Yedids story is so cruelly ironic, you dont know whether to
laugh or cry. So when hes telling it you just sit there, mesmerized, as if under a
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 Womans College Friday night.
Mostly what he does, besides the card tricks, is make his fingers disappear.
Hell 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 hell turn the
hand around and still therell be no finger.
Its called "Finger Fantansies," and its a literal sleight of
hand that was invented by the Israeli-born Yedid years ago. As the magicians
trademark routine, and until recently his "closer," its fascinating. But
after you hear his story, its 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 Fridays
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 hes 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 doesnt kid around as much as he used to.
"Before I went for a lot of laughter in the act. Now Im a lot more
serious about it," he said.
Still, youre 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 theres 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.
"Hes a charming man. Hes 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 doesnt come easy anymore. To do the card tricks, he must squeeze
"therapy putty" in his right hand for hours before a show.
Its a nuisance, but after nine operations on the hand and a year and a half
of therapy, he doesnt seem to mind much. Hes just happy to be performing again
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