The Amazing Ramon!
Beguiling the crowd with his conjurations
Magic Moments In Central Park
On warm summer days Central Park becomes a wondrous place. It is first and foremost what its creator, Frederick Law Olmstead, wanted it to be: a beautiful arboretum where people from all backgrounds could meet on common ground. Its reputation as one of the world’s great public spaces is well deserved. Aside from its great physical beauty, its location in the middle of Manhattan makes it easily accessible, and the fame that attends its name makes it a magnet for tourists from all over the world. Hence Central Park is an excellent venue for open air theater of all kinds and performers flock to its hills, meadows and walkways to showcase their acts for monetary donations from the spectators.
However in a city where world class performances can be seen in the subway tunnels, in order to attract an audience in Central Park the artist must be good at their craft. I was out in the Park on Father’s Day on my way to meet my daughter Makeda at a smoking concert in the Summer Fest series featuring bands from Haiti and Mali, both part of the World Music scene. Although I was racing against the clock to be there when the first band hit, I stumbled upon a magic man, and got so carried away watching the fantastic feats performed by Ramon that I missed the first band altogether.
In order to be a good magician it is not enough to master the tricks, no matter how spectacular. The great magicians have a complete act, which means it is paced and nuanced to build suspense. Central to his act is verbal dexterity; the performer must be able to capitivate the audience with his rap and the tricks are like magnificent arias. Ramon, who was trained by an uncle and began studying the art of magic at six years old, is a master of all aspects of his trade. His non-stop rap, which is sprinkled with risqué double entendres that titillate the adults, soars over the heads of children, and never becomes vulgar or offensive. In fact, it is a marvelous display of verbal virtuosity, wit and imagination.
Slight Of Hand
Then there are his fantastic feats of magic. All through his performance, A guy with a heavy Russian accent was standing directly behind me and kept saying “This guy is good…he’s very good.” When I finally turned around and spoke to him he explained that he was a magician trained in the Moscow Circus – one of the best in the world – and he assured me that he was uniquely qualified to evaluate Ramon’s act. And then he repeated “He’s very good.”
There are various kinds of magicians: grand Illusionists like Doug Henning, escape artists like Harry Houdini and the contemporary master David Blaine, and slight of hand virtuosos like Ramon. Most magicians can do several kinds of tricks besides their specialty; for instance David Blaine is also an excellent slight of hand artist. Ramon is also a fire eater but he didn’t devour any flames on this occasion. However his slight of hand tricks were spell binding, and I am a long time fan of magicians who has attended magician’s conferences to watch them work their splendid alchemy.
Now You See It Now You Don’t!
Making Magic With Cigarettes
Among Ramon’s repertoire of tricks is the ability to make you believe that he can stick a cigar in his ear and spit it out of his mouth, and with a switch of his hand removes the photographer Hakim Mutlaq’s watch from his wrist and deposited a dollar in his hand. He did it so smoothly it actually took Hakim a minute to figure out what happened. It became clear when Hakim saw Ramon fastening his watch on his arm.
The Big Switch
Smooth As Butter!
A Moment Of Confusion
Ramon Displays Hakim’s Watch
The Crowd Is Flabbergasted!
Every magic act must have a climax, or perhaps finale is a better word because there are many climaxes in this well designed act. There’s never a dull moment as he moves along in triple time. However his finale is worth the wait. The fact that he allows the crowd to come up close and stand in a circle makes Ramon’s act all the more exciting.
Drawing facinated spectators into the act
The sorcerer weaves his spell
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice pay’s rapt attention
And We Were All Bewitched!
In his improvisational repartee he skillfully builds up the crowd’s expectations with a repeating refrain about the trick that took him five years to learn: placing a quarter in a coke bottle. Every trick he did led to this one, and when he performed it we were all right up close. I kept shooting with the camera, trying to capture his every move in order to see if I might discover what he was doing when I ran the pictures as a slide show. But I am as clueless as before!
After showing his apprentice The Right Position
In order to pull this off, Ramon says he must practice several hours a day. He says that he practices with mirrors all around so that he can see what the spectator sees from all angles. He also points out that although the grand illusionist are more spectacular, what he’s doing is the greater art. This is because the grand illusionist employ machinery and the control the angels that the audience sees. To be able to pull off these tricks surrounded by spectators determined to catch you in the act is…well….Magic!
Ramon points to precisely where the quarter will pass
Then He Took Aim and…
Drove the quarter through her hand into the coke bottle!
The trick worked like a charm
Photos and text by:
Harlem, New York
June 29th, 2010