Jim Ott's Blog

This blog is a collection of columns I've written for Bay Area News Group newspapers serving the East San Francisco Bay region.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

When Magic Happens

Even as a boy growing up in Oakland, Leo Luna had a passion for the stage. In 1951 when he was nine, his mother took him to see nationally-known magician Harry Blackstone, Sr. at the Paramount Theater. Luna sat transfixed among the crowd, amazed at the power the performer had over the audience.

At Castlemont High School, Luna auditioned for the school play and was thrilled to get a part--even though the role had only one line. Still, he practiced repeatedly for the performance. Then, on opening night, with hundreds of eyes upon him, Luna accidentally changed the tone and delivery of his line as he became consumed in his role.
“For a second, I thought I did something wrong,” he said.

The audience’s response was astounding. The crowd broke into applause and laughter. After the show, his teacher congratulated him on his performance.

“In that instant I knew I belonged on the stage,” he said.

Throughout high school and after graduating, Luna prepared for a career in acting. He took dance lessons and landed roles in community plays.

“Then I got a draft notice,” he said.

After four years in the army, including three in Germany, Luna came home to Oakland with greater responsibilities. Now married, with a small daughter and another baby on the way, Luna saw his dreams of acting diminish. Yet the stage quietly called to him, and one day in 1972 he read a quotation that changed his life: “A magician is an actor pretending to be a magician.”

Although he later learned the phrase was a common misquotation of magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, Luna will never forget the effect it had on him. The words ignited his interest in magic and he saw an outlet to perform after hours and evenings. He immediately dove into magic, working to perfect his craft.

Having performed in a variety of venues, Luna fondly recalls a moment in the mid-1970s when he was asked to appear at a school for hearing impaired youth. Although he was told an interpreter would be by his side as performed his usual show, he was concerned that the full effect of his magic might be lost on his audience.

Luna’s concerns eased as the youngsters responded enthusiastically to each illusion. Afterward, a teacher approached him and said that a student was asking to come forward and shake his hand. Luna agreed, and watched as a nine-year-old girl was wheeled up to him. As he took her hand, she pulled him close and, as all the students watched, gave him a hug. Suddenly all the childen came forward to greet and hug the wonderful magician.

"I’d never experienced anything like this,” said Luna, his lips quivering. “It really made me realize this was what I was supposed to be doing. It was like a stamp of approval.”

Luna, who moved his family to Pleasanton in 1976, retired a few years ago from his full-time job driving school busses. But he’s never retired from magic and has never lost the passion. These days he can be found performing at corporate events, birthday parties, daycare centers, and other gatherings.

“The audience makes it exciting and keeps it fresh,” Luna said. “As a magician I get to take them out of their everyday problems, even if it’s only for an hour. Magic really is magic.”

To experience Leo Luna’s magic, contact him at 925-846-3888 or by email at rabbitsgon@comcast.net.


she said...

oh! he is wonderful/fantastic in every way

he was the magician at my nephews birthday party last year

EVERYONE loved him and his magic show, the adults as well as the children

he is the best kind of performer

charismatic, humorous, and with such an interactive show,

the kids were very involved/engaged not just watching

i took over 80 pictures at this birthday party without realizing it.. so many great memories to capture

raised hands, huge smiles, kids in costume, laughter/curiosity, kids trying to figure out how he does it

magical indeed

"to leo luna & magical memories!"

thanks ren man, love, ~s.

Mel Kientz- said...

Nice piece on my old friend Leo who taught me magic in my first life-time... I posted a link to your blog at wwww. magician.org under The November Buzz! - Mel Kientz

Jim Ott said...

Mel, thanks for your comment and for posting a link to this story on magician.org.

Sandra, thanks to you as well for your remarks and your toast to Leo!