After a modest start, magician now Ringling Bros. Ringmaster
GREENSBORO - When it comes to ringmasters, Alex Ramon is not what you'd expect.
He's not linebacker big, with hands as wide as platters and a voice uncannily deep.
Nope. That's not Alex. He'd get lost in a crowd.
He's 137 pounds and stands 5-feet-8. And he doesn't sing. He does magic. Matter of fact, he does magic well enough to make a 4-ton elephant disappear.
And he's only 23.
"I knew card tricks,'' Alex said a few hours before his Wednesday night performance at the Greensboro Coliseum. "And here I am.''
A decade ago, Alex Ramon was known as Alex Ramon Gonzalez, a second-generation Mexican American, the youngest of three from a city bordering the San Francisco Bay.
And Alex had never seen a magic show.
One day, a guy named Paul Brown, one of his dad's friends, showed Alex a few card tricks. The one trick that hooked him was when Brown crumpled a napkin into a ball and placed it into Alex's hand.
"Wiggle your fingers over it,'' Brown told him.
Alex did. The napkin floated right out of his hand.
"I thought I was dreaming,'' Alex said. "I thought I saw something impossible.''
For Christmas that year, Alex's dad bought him a 370-page book on magic. For the next 18 months, Alex stayed in his bedroom, reading his book and perfecting his sleight of hand on coins and decks of cards.
He practiced so much the backs of the cards turned his fingertips blue. But he was shy. He never showed anyone, other than a few magic tricks for his mom or dad.
Then, the question came.
"Why don't you perform for your dad's 50th birthday party?'' his mom asked.
So he did. He changed the color of scarves and made candles disappear and reappear. And he was horrible. Still, that was his start, in a community center in his hometown.
He began performing magic shows for his family's friends. His rate: $20 an hour. Big money for a teenager.
Later came magic shows at restaurants, libraries, conferences and variety shows. At 18, he won a national championship in magic in Las Vegas. Then, Alex got a call from Disney about joining a tour of young magicians.
He dropped out of community college and spent nearly three years traveling the world.
Then, in late 2007, the same producers of the Disney show approached him about their "Big Show,'' the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. They wanted him to be their star, their ringmaster.
"Man, you've been handed the keys to the largest circus in the world,'' one of his friends told him.
Yes, he has. Alex is just into, maybe, his sixth city on a two-year tour. After Wednesday night, he'll perform eight more times this week in Greensboro before heading to another city, another crowd.
He sprinkles in bits of magic as he carries out
13 illusions, wears three different outfits, downs
four half-liter bottles of
water and changes his sweat-drenched shirt four times during a two-hour show.
And all after yelling that famous phrase, "Laaaadies and gentlemen ...''
All because he knew a few card tricks?Well, not quite.
From the Greensboro News Record, February 9, 2009