The Magic Man
Practicing law by day and magic by night, Springfield’s Bill Evans becomes the International President for the International Brotherhood of Magicians this month.
It’s half past 10 p.m., and Bill Evans is bellied up to a felt-lined table in his Southern Hills home. The room he’s sitting in, nicknamed The Magic Room, is lined with bookcases, the shelves packed with books about magic. Evans picks up a box of navy and white Bicycle playing cards, his hands more than familiar with its slippery-smooth surface, and pours them into his palm. He tightens the deck with a few taps on the table, then gives the cards a couple of perfect shuffles.
“There are secrets in here, but it’s not a secret place,” Evans says of his magic room. “It’s not like The Magic Castle, where you have to walk through a bookcase to get in.” Rather, it’s a place where Evans, an attorney of 36 years, hangs out every night from around 9 p.m. to midnight to practice and study his true passion in life: magic.
The Magical Details
Other than his time in college and law school, 61-year-old Bill Evans has lived in Springfield nearly all of his life. A well-respected attorney at Carnahan, Evans, Cantwell & Brown, P.C., Evans graduated from Southern Methodist University with an undergraduate degree in Economics, then got his law degree at the University of Missouri. He returned to Southern Methodist to get his Master’s, an L.L.M. in Taxation. But while he is an attorney by day, he is always sure to make time for his two true loves—music and magic. “I don’t sleep much,” he says.
If Evans looks familiar, chances are, he is—he is a founding member of the M-Dock Band, which has played together for 21 years, and plays the guitar, mandolin and harmonica for the group. On top of it all, he’s a magician. But he’s not running around town with a magical wand, and he doesn’t pull rabbits out of top hats. Far from the magical world of Harry Potter, Evans performs stand-up and close-up magic, specializing in card magic. You know those magical acts where you “Pick a card, any card”? Evans does that, only much more advanced.
Evans’ relationship with magic began when his father showed him his very first magic trick at 5 years old. “After I studied magic, I learned that it was a very basic trick, but I was fooled by it then,” Evans says. His interest was sparked. Five years later on a family vacation in California, Evans stopped at Hollywood Magic Shop on Hollywood Boulevard. Instead of getting a box with Chinese dragons on it, he followed the suggestion of the man behind the counter and bought two books about magic. “It was the most important advice I have ever received,” Evans says.
Throughout high school and college, Evans’ magic fell by the wayside, as he spent his free time learning to play musical instruments. Then in law school, things changed. “I was walking through the bookstore and I saw a book on sleight of hand and I thought, ‘Man, I haven’t done that in a long time,’” Evans says. “I bought the book.” For the rest of his years in law school, Evans used magic as a release. “I’d study for a couple of hours, then take a 15 to 20 minute break and try to learn a card trick,” he says. “I’ve been practicing every day since.”
Making it Big Time
After law school, Evans met professional magician Gene Devoe at a magic shop in St. Louis. “Gene said I really needed to join the I.B.M., the International Brotherhood of Magicians,” Evans says. He joined, and now 36 years later in July 2013, he is being inducted as the International President of the organization.
The I.B.M. is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the art of magic. It has more than 11,000 professional and amateur magician members in 85 countries. Local chapters, called rings, meet monthly. The current International President is from England. The one before that was from Malta. Now, after this month, the International President will be Springfield’s very own Bill Evans.
As International President, Evans will help the I.B.M. in its mission—promoting fellowship and the advancement of magic as an entertainment art. His duties include full and complete administrative power in conducting the affairs of the I.B.M., subject to the direction of the Board of Trustees.
So, how did this local law advocate achieve such an important role in such a big organization? “One thing led to another, and I was often in the right place at the right time,” Evans says. “When I moved back to Springfield, I invited Eugene Burger, a famous magician in Chicago, to come to Springfield for a lecture, and we became friends,” Evans says. Later, when professional magician Mac King was coming through town, he called Evans upon the advice of Eugene, and the two also became friends. From there, Evans was introduced to fellow magician David Sandy who eventually became the International President of the I.B.M. “When he did, he asked me to be his legal advisor, because every president needs a legal advisor,” Evans says. Evans was legal advisor for two presidents after David, then was appointed to the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee. Then he became Vice President then President Elect.
Evans in Action
You won’t find Evans performing in Vegas, and you can’t hire him for kids’ birthday parties. “I have upmost respect for magicians who can do kids’ parties, but that’s just an area for which I am not qualified,” Evans says. “That area requires special study and training to pull it off successfully.” What he is qualified for is adult magic shows. “I guess adult contemporary would be my category,” he says. If the mood is right, he’ll start off a client meeting with a new trick, or he’ll make cards disappear while grabbing drinks with friends. Evans cares more about the fun than the funds. “I guess I’m a true amateur in the way that I love magic for what it is, and I don’t try to make a living at it,” he says. “I enjoy being with people and I enjoy bringing laughter and fun to the group that I’m with.”
In order to make those magical moments happen, Evans says you have to practice. “I know about 100 magic effects, but I keep a working repertoire of about 10 to 15, which I practice on a regular basis,” Evans says. “Any more than that at one time would require more hours in the day than I have. I rotate my performing effects in and out on a regular basis, dusting the older ones off like jewels and practicing them to get the necessary degree of perfection before inserting them in my current performing list.”
When he does perfect an effect and is ready to perform, his audience is in for a real treat. Evans can perform a perfect shuffle on a deck of cards, meaning each and every one of the 52 cards is perfectly alternated, at the blink of an eye. He can make cards move from one stack to another without even touching them. He can make cards appear in empty boxes, and he can move cards from boxes to piles halfway across the table. So, how in the world does he do it? You’ll see it happen, and you’ll ask him to explain the trick. He’ll say something witty, but he’ll never tell you his secrets. You’ll never know, and that’s the most beautiful thing about it. “Magic is creating a sense of wonder,” Evans says. “If you can suspend your disbelief for just a moment, magic has the ability to take you to a different place. If you can let it happen, and you can have that sense of mystery, it’s a wonderful thing.”
Want to have Bill Evans perform at your next event? Call Evans at 417-447-4400 or email him at D28S@aol.com for more information.