Jay Alexander. A Modern Magical Artist.
I recently got to spend a little time with Jay Alexander, one of the most successful magicians currently working in the corporate market. I recorded a 90-minute interview with Jay in which he gave some amazing insights into the thinking that has made him such a successful and busy magician. This column is just a teaser for the full-length article I am writing about this very remarkable performer. However I first want to tell you a little about the man himself.
Alexander was born in Houston, Texas and at 11 started his love affair with magic in the traditional manner, after receiving a magic set as a gift. His mother owned a shoe store in which she worked and Jay spent a lot of time there practicing and performing his magic for the customers. It was here that Jay started to acquire his ‘10,000 hours of practice….’ At this time Jay was influenced and inspired by magicians he saw on TV such as Harry Anderson and the late, great Doug Henning.
At 13 someone asked him if he performed kid’s shows and he instantly, and untruthfully, responded, “Yes!” After the show he took his five-dollar fee and went to ‘Archie’s Magic Store’ in Houston to buy a trick. Wayne Raeke who worked at the store, and was to become Jay’s first mentor, persuaded him not to spend his money on one bad trick but to buy a book and learn several good tricks. It was great advice that is as sound today as it was then
After Jay’s second paid show he returned to ‘Archie’s’ and spent his ten-dollar fee on a copy of ‘Royal Road to Card Magic.’ He had now officially begun his own Royal Road into becoming the knowledgeable and highly individual performer that he has blossomed into.. Jay is still a voracious reader of every kind of magic book. Talking with Jay it is impossible not to be impressed by the scope of the magical information that he has at his manicured fingertips
At age 18 Jay moved to California to attend the prestigious San Francisco Art Institute. He was also attracted to San Francisco because of the thriving street performing scene. It had been instrumental in the development of many of his favorite performers including Harry Anderson, The Raspyni Brothers and Frank Olivier. Upon arriving in the Bay City he took his own magic to the streets and began to develop the high-energy skills and distinctive look that define him today.
The first big break in Jay’s career was when he became a favorite performer for the legendary Rock n’ Roll promoter Bill Graham. Graham booked him for repeated performances at the famous Fillmore West and Warfield Theatre, where he performed backstage for such iconic rock and rollers such as the Rolling Stones. He quickly became a very popular performer in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley area with the help of these ultra hip credentials.
Alexander’s second break was the release of a popular magic DVD-Rom that introduced Jay to the national spotlight and resulted in a series of appearances on major television interview shows. This project was a perfect blend of ground breaking technology and performance skills that have remained a personal trademark to this day. It is hard to tell which topic he enjoys talking about most—Apple or Magic!
The long hair and ‘wild’ clothing that were integral to Jay’s style might have made his entry into the corporate market a difficult one— not in Silicon Valley where he quickly became to ‘go to’ guy for the wildly successful high-tech and dotcoms’ that were flourishing in the area. His distinctive appearance was ideal for a young hip computer companies. His success has continued building from those days and he is now one of the highest paid corporate magicians in the country.
There is a lot more to Jay Alexander than you see onstage, and it only takes a few minutes in his company to feel the warmth and humanity that illuminate his professional persona. His generosity and caring are evident in the way he gives back to his friends and the community in general. Every January for the last 9 years Jay has performed a fund raising show to raise money for Arts & Music programs for schools in his hometown in Northern California. He began this series of shows when he looked at how many benefits he was appearing in and how often the full cash returns were not finding their way to the cause. He has now raised over $80,000 for this excellent cause, and every year he sells out a 700-seat theatre in which he stages the event.
This is just a brief introduction to a very individualized performer and I am looking forward to being able to cover his philosophy and guidelines to performing in my upcoming article. I learned a huge amount from Jay during our interview and am looking forward to being able to share some of it in my future writings.