by David Jay Brown
by David Jay Brown
Jeff McBride is recognized as one of the most talented and respected stage magicians in the world, as well as a foremost innovator in contemporary magic. He was awarded the title “Magician of the Year” by Hollywood’s famed Magic Castle for his remarkable sleight-of-hand abilities, and he was voted critics’ choice as “Best Magician in Las Vegas” in the Review-Journal annual poll at Caesars Magical Empire in Las Vegas. McBride performs regularly to standing ovations at some of the world’s most spectacular theaters–including Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Radio City Music Hall in New York, and Her Majesty’s Theater in London.
Before starting his solo career, McBride was the opening act of choice for Tina Turner, Diana Ross, and other top stars. His show “McBride-Magic!” was the featured attraction at the Monte Carlo Festival of Magic, and his show “Mask, Myth & Magic” won acclaim Off-Broadway and on national tour, as well as at arts festivals in Barcelona (for the 1992 Olympics), London, Hong Kong, China, and Bangkok.
McBride has appeared in numerous television specials. His spectacular “Burned Alive!” escape was highlighted the ABC TV special “Champions of Magic.” He was featured on NBC’s “World’s Greatest Magic”, the PBS documentary, “The Art of Magic,” The Learning Channel’s “The Mysteries of Magic”, and the PAX series, “Masters of Illusion.” McBride also worked on the Discovery Channel’s “Mysteries of Magic”, where he served as a consultant on shamanism and ritual magic. The Fox television network even devoted a Star Trek Deep Space 9 episode to McBride’s mind-bending illusions, by having him guest star on the show as “Joran”, a role created especially for him.
McBride draws upon many traditions in his magic shows. He has traveled the world extensively, studying different magical traditions, which he incorporates into his performances. He is well-known for his use of masks, and he weaves myth, mime and dance together with comedy and theater, blending a myriad of cultural influences into his performance. His background in psychology, hermetic philosophy and alchemy, are also integrated into his acts. McBride has created a wizardly blend of multicultural entertainment spectacles that echo down the corridors of time to the shamanic origins of performance magic. New York Times columnist Glenn Collins writes, “What Mr. McBride gives his audiences is a mesmerizing performance…a magic show that is at once a celebration of mystery and a struggle to understand powerful forces.”
In addition to his conventional magic shows, McBride also regularly leads ceremonial rituals at large outdoor gatherings, where he blends performance magic with alchemical “magick” and traditional shamanic rituals, sometimes for several consecutive days and nights. Each year, amongst the ancient redwood trees in the Santa Cruz mountains of California, he leads a five day ritual theater festival called Fire Dance, which combines magic with midnight fires, nonstop drumming, chanting, prayers and performances from many different traditions. The Fire circle festivals are now being done all over world–across the U.S., Hawaii, Amsterdam and Bali.
In addition to his work as a performer, McBride also lectures and runs workshops for such diverse groups as The Smithsonian, The Disney Institute, the International Brotherhood of Magicians, and the Center for Symbolic Studies. McBride also founded The Mystery School, an organization of magicians who are interested in exploring “the deeper sides of the art of magic”. This unique experiential retreat for magicians was the subject of an acclaimed 1994 CBC-TV documentary hosted by Arthur Kent. McBride is also the cofounder of the WorldMagicsTM Festivals–multi-cultural celebrations of the environment, or “enviro-magic”–and with Eugene Burger he teaches regular sessions of “McBride’s Master Class” at his home studio in Las Vegas, as well as semiannual retreats for the further exploration of the magical arts.
McBride coauthored the book Mystery School: An Adventure into the Deeper Meaning of Magic. Although the book is written primarily for practicing magicians, I think that it would be of interest to anyone intrigued by alchemy, mysticism, and the transformation of consciousness. His videotaped series teaching “The Art of Card Manipulation” is among the best selling magic teaching videos of all time. To find out more about McBride’s work his web site is: www.mcbridemagic.com
I met Jeff at a large pagan gathering in upstate New York called the Starwood Festival, where he was performing and I was lecturing. Before returning to California, I had lunch at he airport with him, writer R.U. Sirius and his fiancé graphic artist Eve Berni. When the checks arrived at the end of our meal, I quickly snatched up the four leather pouches that hid our checks, and without looking inside them, held them out like I was fanning a deck of cards. I asked everyone to pick a pouch, any pouch. Everyone took a pouch, and when each was opened–miraculously–we all had our own bill. “How did you do that?” Jeff asked. I just smiled.
Jeff currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he performs regularly with his wife Abbi Spinner. Earlier this year, McBride previewed his new theatrical show “The Forbidden Secret of Magic” with Abbi and Eugene Burger at Magicopolis magic theatre in Los Angeles, and presented his new grand illusion spectacular “Jeff McBride-Abracadazzle!” to standing ovations at the Claridge in Atlantic City. I interviewed Jeff on September 15, 2002, and again on February 18, 2004. Jeff speaks slowly and precisely. He puts a lot of thought into his words. Jeff has a strong sense of intuition, and a strange synchronicity seemed to guide our conversations. It was as each of his answers seemed to anticipate my next question. Among the many subjects touched upon in this interview, we discussed his background as a magician, the relationship between shamanism and stage magic, and how the placebo effect influences healing.
David: What were you like as a child?
Jeff: I was very hyperactive, always looking for a place to store my energy. I was into masks, horror movies, and drumming. I had a lot of energy that I needed to find a creative outlet for. I initially found it through drumming and martial arts. Then I eventually discovered dance and performance magic. These became ways for me to channel all of this energy. I’m still very blessed with this energy, and I found a way to channel the energy at a very early age.
David: How did you become interested in stage magic?
Jeff: I grew up in upstate New York, and I was very isolated from other kids. There were no magicians in the area. I found a magic book next to the music book that I was studying in school, and that opened up a whole new world for me. I was taking books out from the library on music, and there was a book on magic next to them. I had never really seen magic performed anywhere, but I started reading about it.
David: How old were you at the time?
Jeff: Eight years old. I think every kid, when they’re about seven, eight years old is looking for sense of personal power, something to make them different or stand out. And I was the only magician, and that felt really good to me. There was nobody they could compare me to, as bad as I was.
David: How have your travels influenced your stage performance?
Jeff: My performance is drawn from the roots of many different world theater disciplines. When I was in Japan I studied Kabuki theater. When I was in Europe I studied classical mime at Comedia delle Arte. Wherever I go, I try to pick up some of the influence of the culture–especially by meeting magicians in the many different places that I travel, finding out the way people experience magic differently in the world, and by the way the performers create their magic and rituals.
David: Are there other people who have been integrating mime, dance, comedy, and theater into their magic performance, or is this combination pretty unique to you?
Jeff: I think the blend that I have is quite unique. However, comedy and magic–that’s been done since the very
David Jay Brown
Valerie Leveroni Corral is the cofounder and director of the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), the most highly praised medical marijuana collective in California. Corral was the first person in California to challenge the marijuana laws in court, based on the necessity defense, common law doctrine dating to the Magna Carta, and win. She also helped lead the 1996 battle to pass Proposition 215, the state’s medical marijuana law. An article in The New York Times referred to Corral as “the Florence Nightingale and Johnny Appleseed of medical marijuana rolled into one.” And according to High Times magazine, “Valerie’s leadership role in the battle for medical marijuana is unquestioned.”
Corral was in a serious automobile accident in 1973 that left her so severely epileptic that she often suffered from five grand mal seizures a day. With “deliberate application and mindful monitoring”, Corral began using marijuana as an adjunct medicine to help control her seizures in 1974. This treatment soon replaced her rigorous pharmaceutical regimen, and it
David Jay Brown
Edgar Dean Mitchell
Edgar Dean Mitchell–the lunar module pilot for NASA’s Apollo 14 space mission in 1971–was the sixth man to walk on the moon. In addition to his historical achievements as an astronaut, naval officer, and test pilot, Dr. Mitchell has also made important contributions as a research scientist, author and lecturer. After retiring from the U.S. Navy and the Astronaut Program in 1972, Dr. Mitchell’s research interests shifted from exploring the far reaches of outer space to the frontiers of inner space. He has spent the last 30 years studying human consciousness in search of a common ground between science and spirit. Dr. Mitchell founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences in 1973 to sponsor systematic research into of the nature of consciousness, especially in regard to how it relates to psychic phenomena and alternative healing techniques. The institute has since grown into one of the world’s largest research groups studying the unexplained powers of the mind.
Dr. Mitchell attended primary schools in Roswell, New Mexico, and is a graduate of Artesia High School in New Mexico. (As a child, there were strangely synchronistic foreshadowings of Mitchell’s career as a space traveler. As he walked to a country school near Roswell, Mitchell sometimes saw the little farmhouse where Robert Goddard, the godfather of modern rocketry, lived. Then, around the time that Mitchell was a senior in high school, Roswell became a household word as the site of an alleged crash of an alien spacecraft.) In 1952 Mitchell received a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Management from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, and he entered the Navy that same year, completing his basic training in San Diego. In 1953 he completed his instruction at the Officers’ Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, and a year later he completed his flight training in Hutchinson, Kansas. From 1954 to 1958 he flew a P2V aircraft in Korean war, then a A-3 aircraft from the aircraft carriers Bon Homme Richard and the Ticonderoga while assigned to “Heavy Attack Squadron Two” at the end of the war. He was a research project pilot with “Air Development Squadron Five” until 1959.
Dr. Mitchell received another Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1961, and he took his Sc. D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1964. In addition, he has received honorary doctorates in engineering from New Mexico State University, the University of Akron, Carnegie-Mellon University, and a Sc.D. from Embry-Riddle University. From 1964 to 1965 he was in charge of the Project Management Division of the Navy Field Office for Manned Orbiting Laboratory. Dr. Mitchell was in a group selected for astronaut training in April 1966. He served as a member of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 9 and as backup lunar module pilot for Apollo 10.
Dr. Mitchell was originally scheduled for the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, where an explosion exposed most of the inside of the service module to space, and had to be guided, using the power of the Lunar Module, back to Earth, forcing NASA to abort that mission to the moon. Dr. Mitchell completed his first space flight as lunar module pilot on Apollo 14, which was NASA’s third manned lunar landing. This historic journey began on January 31, 1971 and ended nine days later on February 9.
After landing the lunar module “Antares” on a hilly upland region of the moon, Dr. Mitchell and Commander Alan Shepard subsequently deployed and activated various scientific equipment and performed a number of experiments. In addition to collecting almost 100 pounds of lunar samples for return to Earth, they made a number of first-time achievements on the mission. They were the first to use a unpowered wheeled lunar vehicle called the Mobile Equipment Transporter. They carried the largest payload placed in lunar orbit, and the largest payload returned from the lunar surface at that time (later missions did more). They transversed the longest distance on foot (ever) on the lunar surface, and stayed on the lunar surface for the longest amount of time–33 hours.
After successfully completing his mission on the Moon, Dr. Mitchell had an experience on his journey home that was to forever change the course of his life. As he was hurtled through the abyss of space, back toward our tiny blue and white world, Dr. Mitchell became engulfed by a profound and overwhelming sensation that he describes as “a sense of universal connectedness…” where he “…suddenly experienced the universe as intelligent, loving, harmonious.” In other words, Dr. Mitchell had a classic mystical experience. As a result of this transcendental experience in space, when Dr. Mitchell returned to Earth he began devoting his life to the study of consciousness. This was one of the reasons that he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences in 1973. (However, Dr. Mitchell had been interested in psychic phenomena prior to his mystical experience in space. Prior to the Apollo 14 mission, he had privately arranged to conduct secret ESP experiments with several colleagues on Earth during the space flight, with intriguing results.)
In completing his first space flight, Mitchell logged a total of 216 hours and 42 minutes in space, and he was subsequently designated to serve as backup lunar module pilot for Apollo 16. In his career as an astronaut, Dr. Mitchell has received many distinguished awards and honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1970), the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the MSC Superior Achievement Award (1970), the Navy Astronaut Wings, the navy Distinguished Service medal, the City of New York Gold Medal (1971), the Arnold Air Society’s John F. Kennedy Award (1971), the USN Distinguished Medal and three NASA Group Achievement Awards. He was inducted to the Space Hall of Fame in Las Cruces NM in 1979, and the Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville, FL in 1997. In 1984, he was a cofounder of the Association of Space Explorers, an international organization of those who have experienced space travel.
Dr. Mitchell is the co-author of Psychic Exploration: A Challenge for Science (1974) and The Way of the Explorer (1996, revised 2001) as well as dozens of articles in both professional and popular publications. He delivers between 25 and 50 lectures a year on cosmology, human potential, and the future evolution of life on Earth. He is a frequent guest on radio and television talk shows, and has been featured in several documentary films. To find out more about his work with the Institute of Noetic Sciences visit: www.noetic.org, or his own website at:www.edmitchellapollo14.com.
I interviewed Edgar on March 23, 2004. He was 73 at the time of this interview. I watched Edgar walk on the moon when I was a child with excitement and awe, so it was an incredible thrill for me to be able to spend this time talking with him. I found him to be thoughtful, generous, and regal in spirit. I greatly appreciated Edgar’s patience in answering questions that I’m sure he’s answered a thousand times before. His stories held me spellbound, and I sat in rapt astonishment, hanging on every word, as he poetically described his mystical experience in space to me. We spoke about the possible relationship between gravity and consciousness, how different altered states of consciousness compare with his mystical experience in space, and the frontiers of quantum physics, Chaos Theory, and research into psychic phenomena.
David: What were you like as a child, and what inspired you to become an astronaut?
Edgar: As I child I was rather precocious. I was raised on my family farms and ranches, working like any other kid with his dad. Growing up on a farm I did all the things that farm kids do. I don’t really think that I realized it at the time–although perhaps my parents did–but I would be able to be at the top of my class. And I continually was, once I started going to school, but it didn’t seem like anything different to me. I was just being a kid.
Now, as far as getting interested in the space program, that really didn’t happen until I was in the Navy during the Korean war. I went into military service for the Korean war. I also would have been drafted, and was serving my tour. I was a pilot aboard a carrier headed back for shore duty, as a test pilot, when Sputnik went up in October, 1957. And although I hadn’t planned a military career, that sounded like a pretty interesting thing to do. So, even though there weren’t astronauts at that time, I set my cap at that