The Healing Power of a Little Magic
By Ann Marie Quill
Photography by Harold Alan Photographers
Howie Marmer doesn't just pull birds out of hats or coins from behind your ears for fun he truly believes in the healing power of magic.
"It's always been about healing," says the magician, whose stage name is Howie the Great. "It's different for each person - whether it's through laughter or other ways, such as gaining insight into how to work things out."
You've probably seen Marmer strolling through the brunch crowd at Ray's on the River or entertaining folks at Dave & Buster's or the Punchline. And if you've spent any length of time with Marmer, he's probably pulled a thought or two from your mind - or your watch from your wrist.
Reading minds, Marmer claims, enables him to help people sort out their problems or even find lost objects. But you won't find Marmer boasting about his mind-reading skills with a neon sign outside his home, since, as he says, real clairvoyants don't have to advertise.
A magician since the ripe old age of 8, Marmer says his first paying gig was a 5-year-old's birthday party.
He became fascinated with magic when his father would host weekly poker games in their home in Rochester , Minn. - one of many places, including Atlanta , which his family lived. One of his father's friends practiced magic, so "the deal was, I could watch him do a trick and then I'd have to go to bed," Marmer says.
Marmer attended high school in Atlanta , and then went to the Florida School of the Arts and later the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in Manhattan to help with his stage technique.
He has opened for singer Diana Ross, entertained at NBA halftime shows and performed at an anniversary show for CNN - in front of heads of state and celebrities - where he sliced anchorwoman Lynn Russell in half on stage and then artfully restored her. The show received front-page attention from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Marmer will perform on stage for large audiences at corporate events and trade shows or stroll through the crowd entertaining guests at family functions like weddings and bar mitzvahs.
The magician, who has several industry awards under his belt, says his favorite shows are the more intimate ones that include strolling, "close-up" magic. "People can experience what is happening," he says. He also prefers to use objects he finds where he's performing for spur-of-the-moment sleight-of-hand.
Of course, there's always a cynic in the crowd. "I love winning the scientific and jaded over," Marmer says. "I feel like I've accomplished something."
Teaching magic to kids is another specialty of Marmer's, but he goes beyond card tricks and rabbits. As he performs, he talks to the children about physics and the "perception of failure. To me failure is when you've given up."
But not to worry, he says, "I always teach them how to do a trick before I send them home to their parents."
Marmer has also been known to drop in on a homeless shelter on his way home from a paying gig to perform.
For all of that, Marmer, who enjoys skydiving, skateboarding and cooking and belongs to Temple Emanu-El, says he finds the most magic in his children, 9-year-old Daniel, "an incredible chess player - he wants to be in the Guinness Book of World Records" - and 6-year-old Peter Max.