A COMEDY AND MAGIC JOY RIDE
Interviewed by Marla Santos
The Laugh Factory at Tropicana has a new fun-filled show starring Murray SawChuck, who describes himself as the Dennis The Menace of comedy and magic. With his platinum blond hair spiked up in all directions, and his black-framed Armani glasses, he is not your typical magician, but the audience just loves him!
His show is filled with laughter, as he experiments with magic in the midst of comedic routines, but then all of a sudden, he’ll perform an incredible trick. His close friend, Douglas Leferovich, known in the show as “Lefty”, portrays a bumbling stagehand that does card tricks when he thinks Murray isn’t watching. It brings a warm and fuzzy feel to the show as “Lefty” imagines himself as the headlining star. Chloe Louise is Murray’s assistant, who’s beautiful and sexy, and when she squeezes into a box for a vanishing act, it leaves you amazed.
As a 5-year old living in Burnaby, British Columbia, Murray started taking lessons on the accordion, piano and saxophone, and then learned many dances, including Ukrainian, ballet, break dancing and ballroom. Combining all this with soccer, baseball, skiing and horseback riding, his childhood was extremely full. At age seven, he received a Siegfried and Roy Magic Kit, and the rest is history.
His parents showered him with lessons, but encouraged him to work, to earn
his own money. He had the typical paper route, delivering 260 papers. As he was stuffing his papers with local ads, he had the bright idea to include a flyer of his own, promoting the jobs he was willing to do. Besides raking leaves and shoveling snow, he promoted his magic shows for birthday parties, etc. At 16, the young entrepreneur had an ad in the yellow pages, and a business line, answering machine, and fax in his bedroom.
His list of jobs and work accomplishments are pages long. Murray has performed all over the world, from cruise ships to clubs and casinos. His latest was a stint on “America’s Got Talent”, where he received standing ovations from Sharron Osbourne, Piers Morgan, and Howie Mandel, for producing a Ferrari from thin air, turning a showgirl into a 450-pound tiger, and making a steam train vanish, all in front of a live audience. Murray now guest stars as the Historical Magic Consultant for History Channel’s hit reality series, “Pawn Stars”. His job is to determine if the magic-related item is authentic and its value.
This summer, Murray and Chloe were married by their friend, Monti Rock III. Douglas “Lefty” Leferovich was Murray’s best man and Chloe had her friend Ashton Nicole (star of “Bite” – Stratosphere) as her bridesmaid. Chloe has also started dancing in the Luxor show, “Fantasy”. 2012 seems to have all the stars in alignment for this happy couple. During his recent interview with StripLV, Murray shared with us his journey to get to where he is today: as a headliner at the Tropicana, a man who loves the laughter from the audience, and his fantastic life right here in Las Vegas with his new bride, Chloe.
SLV: How old were you when you recognized that you craved the limelight?
MURRAY: I think I realized it as young as four or five years old. My heritage is Ukrainian/Scottish, so I started dancing Ukrainian dancing when I was five years old. I started doing talent shows and I would play the accordion, of all things, and it was fun getting the attention. I was an only child as well, so attention was obviously enjoyable to get. I loved the limelight and the reaction of people having a good time. It was exciting for me to be the vehicle of that, because I’m not a very serious person, so I love meeting people and giving them a good time and having them enjoy themselves – and thus, taking them away from the problems of life and death, and relationships, and everything we all have in our lives. I didn’t realize all that at five years old, of course, but now that I’m older, I look back and see that it was the roots behind all of that.
SLV: Did you push to take all those lessons or did your parents push you?
MURRAY: I think I pushed, but I didn’t have to push that hard. My parents were wonderful in the sense that my mother had eight miscarriages, and then I was the ninth pregnancy. We had a twin, but she lost my twin in the first trimester. When I was raised, I wasn’t spoiled with the things you have to get. I bought my first car. Any fun things, like toys, I would have to earn. Education-wise, they took care of music lessons, accordion lessons, or dance lessons. The minute I would say it, I’d open my eyes and I’d be there dancing or playing the accordion. If I showed an interest at all, they’d give me lessons.
SLV: Were there any lessons that you didn’t enjoy?
MURRAY: Not too much. I tried some things like soccer, and after a couple of years, I was tired of it, because I didn’t want to kick a soccer ball around at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday mornings in the rain.
SLV: What are the favorite things you learned as a child that you continue with today?
MURRAY: I don’t pick up the accordion. It’s funny, I Ukrainian danced and played the accordion and I wanted a girlfriend, so I quit playing the accordion. (laughter) I mean come on, really! I was destined to be a complete nerd, come on now, really! I loved fishing as a young kid, and I didn’t realize how much I loved it until I went and did it a while ago when we were camping. It’s something I stopped doing for years, because I had to work and pay the bills. As a child I wanted to be one of those fisherman guys on TV. After the Ukrainian dancing and accordion, becoming one of those professional fisherman… are you kidding me? But fishing is fun, and I also enjoy landscaping and working in my yard. I used to work with my dad, cutting trees, and I hated it, but now that I have my own house, I love doing it. That’s my kind of yoga.
SLV: When you look in the mirror, who looks back at you?
MURRAY: A guy hiding behind messy hair, glasses and a blue suit.
SLV: So you see your persona. Do you see yourself inside that persona?
MURRAY: Sure I do. It’s the guy who, on the weekends at home, wears a baseball cap, ripped jeans and a t-shirt. I’m well aware of that when I walk on stage, I look like I do, and what I do, and that look like a clown. Ha! (laughter) I think indirectly I’m a very shy person. You’d never notice that or see that, but if you knew me well enough and spent 4 or 5 days a week with me, you’d see that I have my moments where I’m extremely shy. I think having the hair, the glasses, the persona, the look, and the brand… I can hide behind that. It works. Look at Liberace, Howard Stern, Lucille Ball... any “great” has some sort of a look. Maybe they’re born with it, or it may be unnatural.
SLV: I loved the story about you putting your fliers in the newspapers you delivered. Where does that ambition come from?
MURRAY: I think I was born with it, to be honest. I saw people at garage sales and swap meets, and they were selling and people were buying. I realized it went back to the old system of bartering. I thought that some people needed their leaves raked or snow shoveled or whatever it might be, so I printed the fliers at a print shop. It started off with the snow shoveling, because it was winter, and then progressed to my magic shows in my teens. I put up advertisements for $50 for my magic show at the local recreation center where I took swimming lessons.
SLV: When was your first visit to Las Vegas?
MURRAY: I came when I was in my early 20’s with some friends and we were headed to Idaho. I believe we pulled off right here at the 15 and Tropicana and saw all the different acts in lights down the Strip. I said: ‘How do you get from this person driving this truck, (which we know this town sees thousands and thousands of every day)… how do you turn that into getting your name up in lights?’
SLV: And that’s when you knew what you wanted?
MURRAY: Yeah, I knew as soon as I made that left turn at Tropicana onto the Las Vegas Boulevard. That’s when it happened.
SLV: You opened for Amazing Johnathan as one of your first jobs here. How was that?
MURRAY: I got to know Amazing Johnathan and we became friends in the business. He was a big star before I was even around. We met at Magic Castle, when I was performing, and we had Thai food together. He needed opening acts and I thought it would be a great stepping-stone to be associated with him in that capacity.
SLV: You also performed in “La Femme”. Any funny stories about that?
MURRAY: There’s a very funny story between “Lefty” and me that we laugh at now. “Lefty” is one of my best friends and also an act in my show. In “La Femme”, I did a solo act with CD’s and compact discs. It was an act I invented years ago, when I was 17 or 18, to become a name in the business. Nobody had ever done it and that’s the act “La Femme” wanted. It was a live audition in the evening. Lefty had a job performing at the Hooters Casino, but he needed to help me take my stuff off the stage. The girls that work there had no idea I was there auditioning. They’re used to the same music and acts every day, and all of a sudden there was new music and a new guy. I’m on stage and performing to all the executives along with a live audience. Now I’d done the act for years, but as I’m performing, all of a sudden I see “Lefty” on the ground in the wings, ready to pull my stuff off stage. As he’s crouched down, I see one set of eyes. It was like the Scooby Doo, where the eyes pop up in the dark, and it’s eyes and breasts. Eyes, breasts, and you’re naked! As I’m performing, I then see three beautiful naked women to my right and “Lefty” is surrounded by breasts. I look to my left and there are four more girls over there. All of a sudden it dawned on me that I wasn’t trying to impress the audience, but the pretty naked girls. Who cares about the audience?! (laughter) I’d never thought that in my life. By the end of the act, I had the whole cast in the wings completely naked, watching me! The audience couldn’t see this and all I could think was, ‘Do the act well and get the job. Don’t screw the damn thing up!’ I knew there were more naked women around me than I’d ever seen in my entire life, but I stayed focused. I finally ended the act and the curtain closed, and of course, they all went away and I never saw them again! (laughter) What are the chances? It was like a dream and then I woke up. True story.
SLV: Were you nervous when you were on “America’s Got Talent”, doing those huge magic acts?
MURRAY: It was probably the most nerve-racking experience of my life, and something I’ll never do again. It was also the most rewarding and thrilling, because what that taught me, is that if somebody asks you if you
can do something, if you say, “Yes,” it’s amazing how you can make it happen. Somebody asked me to produce a car in the show, but I’d never produced a car in a theater in my life. I talked to a few friends and they didn’t want to rent me their illusion, so I designed my own. I got help from a builder in town named Bill Smith, who builds illusions for all the guys in town. We put the trick together, and I made the Ferrari appear. We rehearsed that in his warehouse in Vegas, not even close to a theater. We loaded it into a theater in front of a live audience. I brought my own team who knew what they were doing, and we had five minutes to rehearse it. The girl who was in the actual Ferrari had never been in the car before. They cut the gas, because you can’t run a car properly, can’t start it inside a building, without all the precautionary measures, and we did the trick. As we did the trick, I was spraying with a spray paint can, and two things went through my mind. ‘Please don’t drop the cloth early and have this can hit the car.’ It’s a $280,000 Ferrari! The second thing I was thinking was I was praying to God that when the cloth dropped, that there was a car there. The way I rehearsed it, it should be there, but I have no choice, because that cloth has got to come down. The trick is to have nothing there and now it’s there. It’s live on camera, in front of the judges, and I’ve signed a release saying that they can air anything they want. I’ve worked 20 years of my life, and there could be this one little 90-second bit that screws up all that. Luckily, when the cloth dropped, it was there and looked amazing! I say it looked amazing just for the fact that I was just as excited as everyone else that was watching. It was the same when the girl turned into the tiger. Would you believe when we rehearsed the tiger trick, I’d never worked with a tiger in my life. I designed it and we built that whole routine for that one 90-second spot. As I rehearsed that for the cameras, it never worked right once. There were times the curtain would drop and the girl was in there and the tiger was in there at the same time. There were times the girl didn’t make it behind the judges. There were times the curtain dropped and the tiger was there, but the other part of the curtain didn’t drop. I couldn’t believe the curtain not dropping. I had enough problems with a 450-pound tiger and a live woman. I thought the curtain should be the last thing to worry about. The producer walked up to me and said: “Hey Murray, just so you know, it’s a great trick, but if it doesn’t work, you don’t go to the next round. That’s all I have to say.” And he walked away. That night, Lefty, (my right-hand with everything) and I stood in the CBS parking lot from 7:00 until 10:00 with a security guard, and I must have undone that curtain 80-90 times to make sure it worked. I had everything working now, the tiger and the girl, but if that curtain snags, it doesn’t matter how great the trick works, if the curtain doesn’t drop, it doesn’t matter what’s there. When we went live, I turned to Howie and said: “Howie, this is a trick that everyone’s going to be talking about tomorrow.” When I pulled the curtain and it came all the way down and the tiger was there, my face was as relieved and excited as the audience, because I really was! When I saw that cat there, it was exactly the way we designed it. Someone asked if I’d ever redo the trick again and I said no, because it worked the best it would ever work in my lifetime. The minute it was done, the tiger was back in his beautiful NASCAR trailer, air-conditioned, with hay and a steak. It had better living conditions than most people in New York City. By the time I got to my dressing room, the tiger was already on its way back to Big Bear, California, to a ranch. He was a Hollywood tiger and was used in the movie “Gladiator” with Russell Crowe.
SLV: Had you asked Piers Morgan if you could borrow his jacket before that trick?
MURRAY: No. I had told the producers that “When you mic him, mic his tie, not his lapel, and make sure his cell phone wasn’t in the jacket.” It was the first time in the history of “America’s Got Talent”, that somebody’s actually borrowed something from Piers Morgan. No, it wasn’t a set-up. Piers could have said no and it would have messed up my time, because you’re only given 90 seconds.
SLV: Tell me the story about the train.
MURRAY: The steam train was the same thing. “Lefty”, my mom, and I were sitting around and saying what would be next? Why don’t you do something about your family? The wolves didn’t raise you, you didn’t have a poor upbringing, and you were the only one that didn’t have a normal job. Your whole family was in the railway, so why don’t you produce a train? I said I’d already produced the Ferrari, so “Why don’t we vanish the train?” The producer said: “It doesn’t get any better than this, so what’s next?” and I said, “Yes it does. What if I vanished an early 1900 steam engine on stage?” They said: “You can do that?” I said, “Of course I can!” They asked how much it was going to cost and I gave them a price. So they gave me some money and I looked at Lefty and my mom and said that we were going to vanish a steam train in 10 days. The first thing out of their mouths was: “Where are we going to find a steam train?” I had no idea, but we finally found one in Boulder City. They had to gut the train and cut some pieces off it, because it was too big for the studio, and then ship it to Los Angeles. Again, we were in the parking lot every night trying to make this train disappear. The way we draped the cloth over it, wasn’t going to work. We thought it would, until we tried it, and it didn’t work. So at the show, when I went to pull the cloth off the cover, I pointed to the audience and I ran back to pull off the cover and I thought, ‘Man, when I pull this off, I hope there’s no train sitting there.’ Thank God, we did it, and there was no train. These are things I’ll probably never recreate, because we did them as well as we could, and remember, we were doing them live. Criss Angel and David Copperfield do TV specials where they tape it. I had to do it in front of a live audience, judges, and 22 million people who were watching the show. You knew it was real time. There was no camera editing, no cutting. What you saw was real time.
SLV: You’ve won 21 awards worldwide for your magic work. That’s more than any other magician. Is there one that you’re the most proud of?
MURRAY: I think the one that I’m most proud of is the World Championship Award I won in Shanghai, China, in 2001. Every country flies in magicians and they all compete with each other, and then it’s judged by a people’s choice, along with judges.
SLV: Tell me something about yourself that most people don’t know.
MURRAY: Most people don’t know that I was in the Rodeo for six years. My parents had a ranch and I rode for 21 years. I was on my first horse when I was 2 years old, and I’ve ridden all my life. I rode the most between 10 and 20 years old and was in the rodeo between 15 and 19.
SLV: Where did you meet Chloe, the beautiful girl from England?
MURRAY: Chloe and I have been together just under five years. We met when she was dancing with Jean Ann Ryan Productions on a Norwegian cruise ship. I was the headlining magician on board and I needed an assistant to work with me, since my other assistant was leaving and a new cast was coming in. I asked if they could find a girl that would like to work with me, I really didn’t care who it was. All dancers are in good shape and they’re fine. I was told: “I found this amazing girl, she’s stunning, the most beautiful girl in the cast.” I thought she was just saying that. Then I met her and she was absolutely gorgeous, super nice, no ego, really laidback to work with and enjoyed magic. She wasn’t one of those girls that would help and then disappear on their cell phone, texting. She really enjoyed the process of magic and how it worked
and the entertainment value of it, so that was intriguing. She had someone at the time, and so did I. That all disappeared and we started dating on and off over a five-year period. I asked her to marry me and she said “Yes,” so we got married. We believe marriage is in the eye of each other, and that we didn’t need this massive 800-person wedding with every entertainer in Vegas. I said, “Let’s do the opposite of what people would think I would do or you would do. Let’s have it in our backyard with people that know both of us.” Coming from England, she doesn’t know that many people. She knows people, but she doesn’t know people. It was important to us that the people we invited knew both of us, so that was the rule. I could have invited easily 400 people, but then she’d be walking around with 400 people that she would have no clue who they were. It was a really small group. I think every couple should do that when they get married, because usually half the people there are people you never met or knew. At the end of the day it saves costs, because it’s coming out of your pockets and you can put that into buying something else, like another house or something. I went down to the Pawn Shop and they had always said: “When you buy jewelry, always buy it from a pawn shop. You’re paying for the weight of the gold, not the design or the Tiffany brand.” So we bought our rings from them. We planned it in two and a half weeks. We didn’t fight. We had a very intimate wedding with Monti Rock being the reverend. We both knew him very well, and he’s a person that shoots straight and that’s just who he is.
SLV: You’ve traveled the world. Where are your favorite places?
MURRAY: My two favorite places in the whole world are Monte Carlo, Monaco, and Santorini, Greece. If I were to retire, I love Palm Springs. I get why lots of the stars of yesteryear went there. It’s safe, it’s comfortable, and tucked between these mountains, and has a lot of greenery. My mentor lives there, too – Mr. Electric. He’s the guy who lit light bulbs with his hands for years. Without him, I wouldn’t have a career.
SLV: Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
MURRAY: I’d love to do some TV like Tom Bergeron. I love Tom Bergeron, the host of “Dancing With The Stars” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos”. He has this likability that when you meet him, you just want him to be your neighbor. He has this great personality from having years of experience being a game show host.
SLV: Describe your show at Laugh Factory in the Tropicana for our readers.
MURRAY: I think it’s where magic and comedy collide, with a guy that looks like a Q-tip. Magic is my vehicle, but I love hearing the laughter louder than the applause for a trick.
Murray Sawchuck at the Laugh Factory inside Tropicana