Magical Mystical Michael and the Oregon Country Fair

Michael Kauffman is just about the only person other than me who could refer to Ilene Pascal as Mom.

I called her Mom, because … well … she was my mother. And Magical Mystical Michael called her Mom, because he could get away with it. He had an impish grin, and he was so gentle and goodnatured with her.

For years, Magical Mystical Michael would show up in Eugene a few days before the Oregon Country Fair, each July. He roll in along I-5 in his old, converted UPS truck. The outside was a rust red, but the inside was like a wooden cabin interior.

I have two stories about Michael that I’d like to share:


That’s The Only One I Have

The day that Magical Mystical Michael first entered the magic shop, What’s Next, was the day that I approached studying magic out of books with a different frame of mind.

This hippy-looking-guy with a long wispy beard strolled into our magic shop. A few of the magicians looked for a second, and then discounted him as someone not worth paying attention to.

I looked him up and down, and thought he looked like a very mystical, younger version of Merlin. I was totally intrigued.

Within fifteen minutes the other magicians left. I continued to sell magic supplies to the guy who had stepped out of the beat up van. A kid from the junior high school across the street and I were the only ones who remained.

I demonstrated some tricks to the student and Michael. Then I asked if Michael knew any routines that he’d care to demonstrate.

Magical Mystical Michael did a ten minute routine that floored us. We were amazed.

I timidly asked him where he learned those tricks. He answered, “I learned every single one of them from Tarbell’s Course In Magic.”

The student said, “I only have the first volume of that encyclopedia.”

I added, “I also only have volume one of the set.”

And Magical Mystical Michael said, “Yes, me, too!”

Every single one of those tricks was from the first volume Tarbell’s. As I said, he forever changed the way that I studied magic.


No, Magical Mystical Michael Is Not God

One year, Michael was performing at the Oregon Country Fair. The Fair is held outdoors, and that morning, we were hoping that it wouldn’t rain during his performance.

The weather improved as the morning progressed, and Michael got ready to perform on his stage. The meadow was jam packed. It was still cloudy as Michael began his performance. I stood at the side of the stage, ready to assist him.

He got ready for his last trick, the finale, but suddenly he put down the prop. I wondered what he was up to.

He looked at the audience, and then told them almost confidentially, “For this next trick, I need a lot of light. Everyone needs to see clearly, to be completely amazed.” Then he threw his hands in the air and held them outstretched.

He yelled to the heavens, “Let there be light!”

And there was!!!

He was looking out over the audience, but he looked past them. He saw that the cloud that was blocking the sun had started to move. We both watched the line of light get closer and closer to the audience …

It took about a minute for the line to pass over the audience, bathing everyone in sunlight. Magical Mystical Michael simply stood there with his arms outstretched.

Afterwords, he could have done the simplest of magic tricks, and the audience would’ve still believed he was God.

After his impromptu addition, he went into his finale … a real cooler. The audience jumped to its feet in a standing ovation. Rumor of his performance spread quickly.

Magical Mystical Michael’s reputation at the Oregon Country Fair was now legendary.