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New York Times, Andrew Basso: “Magic Opens Doors, No Tricks Required”

A version of this article appears in print on September 30, 2014, on page B7 of the New York edition with the headline: Magic Opens Doors, No Tricks Required

andrew basso venezia veniceMY perspective of traveling is probably similar to that of other business travelers, except that I’m in a nontraditional career. I’m an illusionist and an escape artist. Houdini is my hero. When I started flying to give performances I thought it was really exciting. That lasted for about 30 flights. Now, flying is so routine I don’t even think about it much. It’s like brushing my teeth.

The first really long flight I ever took was when I was 18 years old. I decided to study the craft of magic and went to Las Vegas to do that. I got interested in magic when I was a very young boy in Trento, Italy, and saw my mom, who is a serious person, break into a big smile when she saw a street magician. He was part of a small circus that came to town, and I was fascinated by the smells and colors. My mom, however, was absolutely captivated by the magician, and that’s when I thought making people smile with magic was a pretty good way to make a living. And so far, I’m loving every minute of it.

I remember dreaming about being able to sit in business class since I was always in coach. Many years ago I was sitting in the first row of economy class, just behind the business class section. I thought the comfortable seats in business class were just incredible.

To pass the time, I started practicing with cards. An elegant lady who was sitting just in front of me in business class turned her head in my direction and started to watch what I was doing. I really thought she was annoyed with the noise I was making shuffling my cards.

At some point she approached me and I absolutely thought she was going to ask me to stop. Instead, she asked me if I was a magician. When I said yes, she told me how much she enjoyed magic and asked me to give her a demonstration. She actually invited me to sit in the empty seat right next to her in that business class section.

After a while I started to catch the attention of other passengers seated around us. Not only did my dream of sitting in business class come true that day, but by the time we arrived at our destination, I had landed some private gigs and made new friends, too. And, yes, those business class seats were as comfortable as I imagined. I’ll be dreaming about those comfortable seats again next month when I start flying a lot on tiny commuter planes, twice a week or more, for “The Illusionists,” which is a traveling stage show.

The only time I almost got into some trouble was at the Singapore Changi Airport. I didn’t know that handcuffs were prohibited in Singapore and unfortunately I had decided to pack some in my luggage. When I was going through customs, the security officials took one look at the handcuffs and one look at me, and I thought I was going to be arrested or fined or thrown out.

I had to explain that I was an escape artist and that the handcuffs were part of my act. Luckily, the series of performances I was doing in Singapore were being heavily promoted with billboards and ads on buses.

The security people were quite nice once all was sorted out, but they didn’t let me keep my handcuffs. Instead, an officer came to the show each night with my handcuffs, and after I used them in the performance, he took them back for safekeeping, which was fine by me.

As told to Joan Raymond. Email:

Q. How often do you fly for business?

A. About once a week, mostly long-haul international. I’m lucky that I’m a busy performer.

Q. What’s your least favorite airport?

A. Any airport that doesn’t have good Italian espresso, because I love espresso and can’t live without it.

Q. Of all the places you’ve been, what’s the best?

A. It’s a tie between New York City and Venice, Italy. I love the energy of New York, but Venice is purely magical.

Q. What’s your secret airport vice?

A. Italian espresso, and when I find it at the airport I can’t stop drinking it. I love it.


Andrea Clemente Pancotti

Principalmente sono io Andrea Clemente Pancotti: infanzia rovinata dai fascicoli di “STUPIRE!” di Carlo “Mago Fax” Faggi. Abbandona l’Arte per poi riscoprirla alla soglia degli ‘anta.“. Ora il team si e’ allargato, siamo comunque un gruppo di amatori, seriamente innamorati della Magia…

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