GROVELAND — Larry Wilson claims he was forced into show business.
After graduating from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in film-television production, he discovered that a swarm of recent film school graduates had converged on Los Angeles. The only work he could get rewarded him with lots of experience but no paycheck.
It wasn't exactly the way he planned on starting his career.
"While I was toiling on some misbegotten, low-budget feature, I ran into an old friend," Wilson recalls. "He said his parents were having a party, and asked if I still did magic."
Easy money and a welcome respite convinced Wilson to accept the offer to perform a magic show. To his amazement the audience loved it, and so did he.
Cocktail napkins became business cards, launching a new profession.
At the next party a guest asked if he'd like to be on television. The guest turned out to be a producer. This led to a sudden string of appearances on variety shows, daytime talk shows and a soap opera.
No one was more surprised than Wilson when he was nominated for an Emmy Award.
Before long he was performing on stages in Las Vegas, as the opening act for some of the biggest names in entertainment.
Three decades later, some say his magic is as amazing as it is hilarious.
Wilson's magic show is part of Groveland Hotel's "Winter Magic" dinner theater series. On Saturday, dinner seating in the Cellar Door Restaurant starts at 7 p.m., followed by the 8:30 p.m. show. The cover charge is $10 per guest. Seating is limited. Reservations can be made by calling (209) 962-400 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
He has performed with stage legends such as Sammy Davis Jr., Ann Margret and the Pointer Sisters. The late Dick Clark once said Wilson was the master of magical madness.
Audiences are drawn into Wilson's world, where anything is possible.
"I think I may be the only magician who is just as amazed at what I do as my audience," Wilson said. "A lot of what I do is deconstructing any preconceived notions about magic: What it is, how it works and why we allow ourselves to be seduced by it."
Where do all those quarters come from? How does a red silk handkerchief turn into an egg?
In Wilson's act, he explains much about what he's doing, giving the audience a glimpse behind the scenes. In the process, he's poking fun at himself and the notion that he possesses supernatural abilities.
Those in Groveland's audience can expect an evening of impossibilities that will remain in their imaginations indefinitely.
"I cannot fool you unless you have tacitly given me permission to do so," he concludes. "It's a gossamer confection, leavened with humor, that continues to rise long after it has been consumed."
Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at email@example.com.