German execs turn to magic
PULLACH I. ISARTAL, Germany — Harold Voit takes out his wallet, extracts a wad of 50-euro bills and gazes at it calmly as the cash goes up in flames.
Slamming the billfold shut, Voit puts out the fire and opens it again to reveal the money intact and ready for spending. A room full of wide-eyed magic students erupts into applause.
Most of these apprentices of the dark arts are not budding cabaret or YouTube stars, however, but business executives and other professionals hoping to put a few new tricks up their sleeves.
“Learning magic isn’t just about picking up a couple of gags — it’s about developing your own personality, your own way of presenting, speaking and moving,” said Voit, 70, founder of the Magic Academy in Pullach, a wealthy Munich suburb.
Voit, who has worked for more than half his life as a professional magician and instructor, said that was part of why so many busy career people sought out his courses.
“Most of my students don’t quit their day jobs. I’ve had everyone from young interns to an 80-year-old priest from a monastery,” said Voit, who has a neatly trimmed beard and a conspiratorial twinkle in his eye.
Harry Potter mania
“You’d be amazed how many situations there are in which magic can help,” he said, offering examples ranging from flirting to closing a business deal.
Germany’s fascination with sorcery goes back centuries but saw a strong revival in the postwar years, when a weary population sought entertainment and escapism in popular nightclub acts.
The current boom has two decades of Harry Potter mania to thank, as well as a growing recognition that a bit of wizardry can go a long way in real life.
The country’s biggest magic stars, the Ehrlich Brothers, fill football stadiums.
German illusionist Marc Weide, 27, won best parlor magic performer at July’s world championship in Busan, South Korea with a card trick—beating a rival who could make 10 doves and four sheep vanish and reappear. Second place went to another German, Axel Hecklau.
Voit, who abandoned a career with the foreign intelligence service to take up a magic wand, said his night school offered Germany’s first state-recognized certificates for illusionists.
But most pupils who commit to two years of weekly classes for a 750-euro ($860) fee came to him seeking something more elusive than a rabbit to pull out of a hat. The course motto is “Conjure yourself into the spotlight.”
“I was looking for some balance in my life,” said entrepreneur Marco Hafenrichter, 46, one of the pupils present on a recent night in the classroom.
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