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North Vancouver magician knows life's greatest tricks

Edgemont’s Paul Romhany has received one of the magic world’s highest honours

It doesn’t matter whether he’s performing for one of Europe’s royal families or children in a South American orphanage. When he miraculously makes someone’s card appear, the outcome for North Vancouver magician Paul Romhany is always the same.

“It’s giving people the experience of wonder that we all had once when we were kids,” he says. “That’s just the pure love of magic.”

Growing up in New Zealand, Romhany had two transformative experiences at the age of eight – seeing a Charlie Chaplin silent film, and watching a magician perform. Almost instantly, he’d divined his life’s direction.

“I always tell people, I wasted the first eight years of my life, not knowing what I wanted to do,” he jokes.

By 21, Romhany had graduated from university and was working as a high school music teacher, but he found he was making more money performing magic at parties than he could as an educator, so he set out to perform internationally.

“Much to the dismay of my parents,” he adds.

Over the last 35 years, he’s performed in 125 different countries, headlining cruise ships, TV shows and historic theatre stages.

As a performer, Romhany is a master of close-up magic, comedy and mind reading, but about half of his act is done in character as his idol Chaplin.

“Because, of course, it’s a silent act and you can work anywhere,” he said, “He's just such an icon, a legend.”

Real life magic

A life on the road is hard, Romhany can tell you. You can travel a long way to play for an empty auditorium. An artist’s family always pays a price. Romhany might hold the record for most times having an airline lose his luggage in one year – 14.

“The disappearing act trick is not one of my favourites,” he said.

Once, while passing through security at an airport in Brazil, Romhany ran into issues when the inspectors took a closer look at components of a trick he does to make snow appear from his hands.

“You can’t get the mechanics of that trick through an airport screening. It looks like a bomb,” he said.

Talking your way out of trouble is much harder when there’s a language barrier, but when he dropped the name of David Copperfield, the tough audience was willing to give him a chance.

“I ended up in the airport with machine guns on me making a huge snowstorm from my hands,” he said with a laugh.

But Romhany has no regrets because he possesses something of a real magic power. Whether it’s a knack for living vicariously through his audience or having a deeper sense of empathy than most, every time Romhany performs a trick, he feels a certain spark, like it’s the first time it’s been done.

“I’ve seen it for the 100,000th time. They’ve seen it for the first time. And really the magic for me is their reaction. That’s what really blows my mind,” he said. “Because I’m a big kid and that childlike wonder has never gone. It’s always there with me. I’m wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt right now.”

Magic words

When his son was born 13 years ago, Romhany knew travelling would be much harder but he wanted to stay in the business, so he started publishing Vanish, a trade magazine for magicians and fans of magic. It features up-and-coming performers, and Romhany likes to showcase diverse performers who might otherwise go unrecognized. Today, Vanish reaches about 80,000 subscribers.

For this, the Academy of Magical Arts awarded Romhany last month with its Literary and Media Fellowship recognition.

“Honestly, I just still can’t believe it,” he said. “It’s like the biggest honour in our business. They say it’s like the Oscars.”

Fittingly, the Los Angeles theatre where he received the award was one built by Chaplin in 1927.

North Vancouver magician Paul Romhany in character as his artistic inspiration Charlie Chaplin. The Academy of Magical Arts awarded Romhany with its Literary and Media Fellowship recognition in May 2024. | Brent Richter / North Shore News

And now for my next trick

At this stage in his career, Romhany still performs on stage and at private functions. He’s got dates booked in Europe, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. But he spends more time consulting for other magicians, writing books on magic and inventing new tricks that he can sell.

Recently he came up with a trick for a TV magician in which he devised a way to make someone’s butterfly tattoo turn into the real thing.

A magician, famously, never reveals his tricks, and in that respect, Romhany is no different. But he doesn’t mind sharing some more of the real-life magic behind his act that doesn’t involve sleight of hand.

The secret, Romhany said, is knowing how to observe the everyday.

“When I look at the world, I see things a little differently. I might see a butterfly and that’ll spark something in my mind with magic. What can I do with a butterfly?” he said.

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