| 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
"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,"
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
"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
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
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
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.