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Bringing Out The Kid In Everybody: Magical Entertainer Dan Jimmerson
Montana Senior News, June/July 2016
“What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes.” The words may be Harry Houdini’s but the truth behind them has guided illusionists long before and after Houdini’s heyday. No one knows this better than magical entertainer Dan Jimmerson. He mastered his first card trick when he was 11 and is still keeping audiences smiling and baffled.

Although too shy to show that card trick to anyone except his family and a few friends, Dan knew he wanted to delve deeper into the age-old art of illusion. As he continued to perfect his sleight of hand skills, the more he understood that adeptness at reading people mattered as much as deftness of hand movements.

“A lot of magic is real simple. You need to have good manual dexterity, the ability to make people laugh, and patience,” he says. “You must be able to do the mechanics of the trick without thinking about it and put everything into the presentation. But there’s a distinct difference between practicing and performing. You have to be able to interact with the audience when you perform and make adjustments when necessary.”

After his military service in the 1970’s, Dan took a job with the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company, where he earned his living for the next 27 years. Even while working on the potlines, though, he was constantly teaching himself new magic tricks at home. Through his co-workers and through talent shows at his daughter’s school, he gradually became known locally as a magician.

During this time, Dan absorbed valuable lessons about his craft courtesy of a San Francisco Bay Area magician, Roger Mycroft. After relocating to the Flathead, Roger placed an ad in The Mountain Trader looking for people interested in joining a magic club. Dan answered the ad, which turned out to be an excellent move for him.

“Roger taught me to forget the rabbit and the big illusions. Instead, he said to concentrate on stand-up, close-up magic tricks,” remembers Dan. “He also said it was better to do six tricks well instead of 25 tricks decently. You can make your living doing six tricks. But you need to do them better than anyone else.”

Another important thing Roger emphasized is that a trick has to be more than magic. It also has to be entertaining.

“The trick means nothing unless you can hook people with the presentation, the reason to be doing it,” states Dan. “So you try and interject a story related to the trick or something to go along with it.”

As Dan’s reputation as an illusionist grew, organizations, businesses, and individuals began asking him to entertain attendees and guests at special events and parties. Nowadays, Dan keeps an active year-round calendar performing throughout the Flathead. And thanks to him, you can definitely tell what day of the week it is if you stop for dinner at The Back Room in Columbia Falls. Every Thursday evening for the past 24 years Dan has delighted diners at this landmark restaurant with his talents.

“My job is to make their evening more enjoyable. To make them laugh, have fun, and want to come back. With two rubber bands, a deck of cards, and a sponge ball I can perform for 30 minutes at a table,” notes Dan. “You get so you can read people pretty well, whether they’ll enjoy it or not. I can tell within 30 seconds at a table if I’ll do one or three tricks. I can also count on one hand how many times people have said, ‘no, not interested.’”

Given that party guests and the restaurant’s clientele constantly change, he never worries about doing the same tricks over again.

“You can repeat them because your audience is always new and second-timers don’t mind seeing a repeat. It doesn’t matter how many times people see a trick, they’ll want to see it again if they like it,” says Dan. “Most people like to be fooled but I never try to make someone look stupid. Some people get frustrated because they want to figure it out and can’t. It’s not often that people do figure it out. About 95 percent of the people don’t care about that; they don’t want to figure it out.”

One of the most unexpected offshoots of his sideline occurred when Dan agreed to use his magic skills on behalf of Flathead Electric Coop to teach school kids how to be safe around electricity. For the past eight years, from February to June, Dan has visited 4th- and 5th-grade classrooms around Flathead Valley and in Glacier County explaining the difference between insulators and conductors and why people get electrocuted. He estimates he has reached some 15,000 students so far.

“I want them to see how electricity works and teach them what to do and not do around electricity. I present facts and tie in magic tricks using coins, cards, ropes, and sponge balls to hold their interest,” says Dan, who researched and wrote his own script. “The schools love it and the kids get to be educated and entertained. The biggest lesson they learn is that electricity wants to go to ground and take the shortest way to get there. If you are in its path, you will get electrocuted. You die.”

As a performer, Dan loves knowing that where magic is concerned neither age nor language barriers exist between him and his audiences, be they grade-schoolers or grandparents, American or foreign. Visitors to the Flathead, who may barely speak English, watch him transfixed often with accompanying ‘ooow’s' and ‘ahhhh’s.’ So do residents of assisted living and nursing homes, who are especially appreciative of his abilities.

“I’ll never forget one woman in particular in the Alzheimer’s Unit at Kalispell’s Emmanuel Lutheran Home. Her eyes lit up and she was like a six-year-old girl again. Magic isn’t just for kids,” Dan concludes. “It brings out the kid in everybody.”
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