from the Rapid City Journal, Aug. 20, 2006
by Laura Tonkyn, Special Sections Editor  ~  Photos by Don Polovich

  A kid might have a hard time deciding which of Keith Raymond's jobs is most exciting. Meeting Raymond in his role as a Rapid City firefighter would surely be a thrill. But, this week, youngsters will likely find Raymond's magic act at the Central State Fair even more of an eyepopping experience.

  As a youngster himself, Raymond says he was "glued to the TV" anytime a David Copperfield special came on. And by his early 20s, he began teaching himself some magic tricks.

  But it was his responsibilities as a paramedic for the fire department that led to his burgeoning career as a magician.

  Each year, firefighters organize puppet shows at local schools to teach students about fire prevention. After Raymond began doing some card tricks at work, the department asked if he could "spice up" the school presentations a little.

  "I brought some magic stuff, and it totally snowballed from there," he said.

  Today, Raymond, along with his wife and partner, Dee, perform year-round at various corporate events, at restaurants such as Applebee's, and at birthday and holiday parties. But it is the past two summers that have seen his magical career really take off.

  "Most weekends, we're on the road, Raymond said.

  Last summer, the couple traveled throughout North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana, putting on 50 shows in 30 days, with regional fairs the most common venue.

  Becoming a recognized performer throughout the region means Raymond must constantly refresh his performances by coming up with new routines.

  "The act is always under construction," Raymond said. "I don't think you would find a good magician who isn't constantly reinventing himself. Throughout the year when we're not on tour, we're looking at different commercial routines and then inventing our own."

  Simple routines may take only a few hours to perfect, but some of Raymond's larger illusions take two to three months to get right.

  As his career began to take off, Raymond says he and his wife sat down to discuss how big it should get -- which led to some big decisions.

  "We ended up taking out a loan and buying all these illusions, a trailer, a sound system and lighting for the stage," Raymond said. "But it was worth the risk. We're having a blast."

  The couple's summertime travels are a working vacation that allows them time to relax and enjoy time together. "We decided when it stops being fun, we'll stop doing it," Raymond said.
  Actually, according to Raymond, his wife wasn't entirely certain her role as his assistant was going to be fun at all. While Raymond loves being the center of attention, Dee was not so enthusiastic about being in the spotlight. Originally, Dee helped haul equipment and set up the magical props. But, the act soon grew to include more complicated illusions, such as vanishing tricks, that require two people. "We're married, so guess who's going in the box," Raymond said of the decision to expand Dee's duties.

  The difference in their personalities has actually given the show its unique twist. “Throughout the show, she mocks me with little comments under her breath." Raymond said. "She doesn't think my jokes are funny; she rolls her eyes.”

  The couple makes fun of themselves during the entire process. Raymond said, which seems to go over well with their audience, whatever their ages.

  "Last year, we kept track -- 35 people asked me if I could vanish their wives," Raymond said.

  But it's the kids who are most fun to interact with.

  "I love it when the kids are laughing at me," Raymond said. "Kids love it when they see an adult making a fool of themselves."

  Raymond loves it, too, and finds being a magician a perfect counterbalance to his fire-fighting career.

  "On tour, it's about making sure the show is great and the kids are happy." Raymond said, "versus the stress of going into a burning building or on a medical call. It's totally different, which is what I love."

  Keith Raymond will perform his "Madness and Mayhem Tour" at Central States Fair this week. Raymond opens all his shows with his noted “Cards from Nowhere” routine, in which cards appear out of thin air to the sound of lively background music.

  Raymond's act is known for its unique and colorful magic props. "The props all look super wacky," Raymond said. 'They are all crazy colors and the kids love that. It's almost cartoonish."

  While every year brings exciting new routines, one of the tricks kids always anticipate is the ABC Gumball Maker, when Raymond turns chewed-up gum back into fresh gumballs with his "gumball recumbobulator."

  The one-of-a-kind prop is kind of crooked and is all bright colors. "Kids point and say, 'What's that, what's that?"' Raymond says. "Kids like to see messes, they like to see color and they like to laugh," Raymond said.

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