Normally, I write the blog every Friday. However, I was so excited to report about my trip last week that I decided to write a day early. As many of you know, Betty and I traveled south to spend the day with Mark and Nani Wilson at their warehouse last Friday. Thursday evening, I was like a kid waiting for Christmas. I kept thinking about what I would see and experience once we arrived there. I couldn't sleep and got up early to get ready to go.
We arrived around 11:15 AM and were met at the door by Nani and Mark, and they graciously took us into their offices. I think Mark could sense how excited I was to tour their warehouse first, so out the back door we went. The first stop was a small room that contained files and files of promotional materials, memorabilia, and some of the early mail-order magic sets. I glanced up to one of the top of the file cabinets where there was a box labeled "Mark's Fake Head." Of course, I immediately wanted to know if that was really in the box. And it was. This was part of an illusion that Mark performed where parts of his body were physically assembled as part of an illusion. The legs, body, and head were placed inside of an upright cabinet, spun around, and the doors opened to reveal Mark in the flesh.
Mark's Head in my hands
Mark, Nani and I in front of the legendary backdrop from the Magic Land of Allakazam
Next, we entered the warehouse where Nani pointed out a large, blue curtain with white stars and moons. This was the actual backdrop curtain used on the Magic Land of Allakazam show. Wow! What memories this brought back! Betty looked at me as I stared at the curtain and asked, "Don't you want to touch it, Paul?" Of course, I did. It was mesmerizing to think of all the memories this backdrop curtain contained and how many children saw it every Saturday morning.
Guillotines and illusions for as far as the eye can see
Props, scenery, and more
Nani giving the guided tour
As we toured the aisles of the warehouse, there were hundreds of crates and custom cases containing a lifetime's worth of illusions and props stacked from floor to ceiling, wall to wall! Overhead, there were cartons of custom made costumes that Nani designed for each of their television shows and appearances. Down one aisle were not one but several guillotines (one of which recently made its appearance on CBS's C.S.I. New York) and also a custom-made thin model sawing that Mark explained was created for Flip Wilson to saw the late, great Johnny Carson in half. At the end of another aisle was a custom made cabinet that was absolutely huge. Nani opened it to show that it contained drawers filled with custom "Good Night" banners they used for corporate sponsor shows, etc. There were so many in all the drawers neatly folded that at a moment's notice, they could be pulled out and used again immediately!
A view from above of Nani's office
Cartons and suitcases full of costumes
The tour continued as we gazed upon countless illusions and props until we came back into the offices and entered Nani's very own department. Here's where she takes and processes all the orders, assembles props, and takes care of the business end of magic. Up the spiral staircase of her office, we entered the second story where to the right, there are countless file boxes neatly stacked, all containing parts and pieces for the magic kits that were sold. We then entered another room where Mark showed me a multi-file cabinet that housed even more promotional materials and additional memorabilia! I have to tell you that at this point, I could not believe everything I was seeing. And the best was yet to come!
Scripts and show ideas
Hundreds of boxes containing original musical scores
Show film and video archives
Mark going through each show
Next, Mark pulled out many different artists' renderings of the many shows they've created for theme parks, television, and corporate events. The artwork itself was so beautiful that it could be framed and hung on any wall! As we strolled down the hallway, there were shelves containing hundreds of boxes of original music reels that were created specifically for Mark and Nani. Every effect they performed in every show that used music was written and scored exclusively for them.
Down a narrow hallway to another room that contained racks and racks of original film cannisters from Mark and Nani's many television shows and performances. I was completely awestruck to see all that I had seen so far exceeded even my own expectations!
The hallway to Mark's office
Back downstairs, to Mark's office we went. As you walk, all the walls are adorned with posters, memorabilia, and photos of their vast career. It was like walking in a time capsule; the things that I saw and all the memories that flooded back to me were truly overwhelming! I felt like a kid again seeing all that I saw, and to be standing and talking to the very people who were responsible for all that was humbling, to say the least. We went into Mark's office where he and Nani shared stories of their magical lives. We watched DVDs and poured through scrapbooks containing every nuance and detail of their legacy. I even found out things about Mark and Nani that I didn't even know; how he designed magical trade show booths and traveled with them all over the world, how the Robot Girl trade show attraction caused quite a stir in England, and so much more! Mark even showed us a few tricks and talked to us about a few new projects in development.
It's a pretty amazing life Mark and Nani Wilson have led so far: The first couple to have a live weekly magic show on television, the first American magicians to perform in China, thousands of performances under their belts, one of the most successful courses in magic ever published, and invaluable resource to performers both new and old, all the corporate and amusement park shows and attractions they've created, all the television shows they've helped to consult and supply props for, and it doesn't end there! Being with them, it is evident that they truly love one another and are real partners in life supporting each other in every endeavor. Betty and I walked away feeling like how you felt when you gazed at the stars for the first time and felt truly inspired by them.
The day had truly flown by, and before we knew it, it was time to go home. I was so excited by everything I had seen and experienced that day that I couldn't stop talking about it all the way home. Poor Betty -- she couldn't get a word in edgewise as I jibbered and jabbered all the way home. She just looked at me and smiled; she knew what this day had meant to me. I still haven't stopped talking and thinking about it (as is evident here). It became evident to me that their entire lives from the beginning to present day were housed inside that wonderful building that they so graciously allowed me to be a part of for that day. Before we left, Mark and Nani gave us a beautiful set of four autographed promotional stills, which will hang framed in a special place in my office:
To say my Christmas came early is an understatement. Thank you, Mark and Nani, for a day that I'll never forget.
Merry Christmas to all of you.
Until next time,