In the world of hocus-pocus and alakazam, there is arguably no bigger stage than the triennial World Championship of Magic.
And in the nearly 60 years that this international event has been held, no one from Tucson has ever made it onto that stage.
Early next month, Tucson native Eric Buss will be among 150 of the world’s finest magicians competing in Busan, South Korea, for the title of World’s Best Magician.
“Only the best of the best around the world ... go there to compete,” said Emory C. Williams Sr., who runs Tucson’s iconic Williams Magic shop where Buss got his start as a teenager. “If he wins there, he will be sitting on top of the world.”
Buss, who performs magic on cruise ships, college campuses, corporate conventions and comedy clubs around the world, will compete in the comedy magic category.
“The chances of me winning with my comedy act, I’ll admit, are pretty slim. However, there is a chance I could win first place in the comedy category,” he said during a phone call last week from home in Los Angeles as he was putting the final touches on “Looping Music With Magic.”
Buss has been working on the act for three years, inspired mostly by musicians at a theater convention who incorporated loop machines in their acts. The machines allow you to record and overlay sounds in a continual loop until you have something that sounds like music.
“I saw a guy playing a bicycle, literally had a bicycle on stage with him, and he was looping all these noises while his accompanist sang songs about bicyclists,” said Buss, the father of a 6-year-old son. ‘I’m a closeted DJ or rock star wannabe and this was a fun, silly way for me to live out this dream.”
Buss’s idea was to create electronica music using magic props — clanking a drum stick against a beer bottle, shuffling playing cards, playing a toy flute, flicking a wine glass and tapping a tambourine — then use the props to create magic as the song unfolds and reinvents itself with every new sound. Among the sleight of hand tricks incorporated into the act is making the beer bottle disappear and pulling playing cards seemingly out of thin air. (See a video of the trick at tucson.com/entertainment)
“I had to create the music using the magic props, and I had to use the musical instruments as the magic props,” Buss explained.
Buss performed “Looping Music With Magic” at last year’s national magic convention in Louisville, Kentucky, which was a qualifier for the South Korea competition. He didn’t imagine the piece as a comedy act, but the judges suggested he enter in the comedy category, which covers novelty acts and original sometimes quirky tricks.
Buss, 43, said making it to the magic olympics has been on his bucket list since he was 16 and learning magic tricks in the backroom of Williams’ East 22nd Street magic shop. The store is now at Trail Dust Town on East Tanque Verde Road.
“It’s taken me a few years, but I am excited to go,” said Buss, who was in the national spotlight in the summer of 2013 after making it to the quarterfinals of “America’s Got Talent” and watching his “Bubble Warp Bike” video go viral (nearly 2 million views).
The South Korean competition is sponsored by the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques — aka International Federation of Magic Societies — which represents some 50,000 magicians and magic clubs in 50 countries including the United States. The federation has been around since 1948 and has hosted the competition every three years since 1961.
Winners get little more than bragging rights, although Buss said the audience and judges are largely comprised of talent agents. A good showing in the competition could lead to big opportunities around the world.
“This is huge,” said Emory C. Williams Jr., who runs the magic shop with his father. “That is like the Academy Awards of magic. There are so many hoops to jump through to get there in the first place. I am just so happy for him. That is quite prestigious.”
Buss said he expects to arrive in South Korea on July 7. The competition is July 9-14.
“There are so many hoops to jump through to get there
in the first place. I am just so happy for him. That is quite prestigious.” Emory C. Williams Jr., Of Tucson’s Williams Magic shop, where Eric Buss got his start as a teenager