INTERVIEWS By Marla Santos
NOT YOUR ORDINARY MAGICIAN
A trained and talented gymnast on the silks and the Cyr wheel, Seth Grabel combines his talents with his craft as an illusionist onstage.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Seth Grabel decided to attend UNLV here in Vegas. After graduation, he worked for the darkly comedic magician, Amazing Johnathan, filled in for family-friendly comic, Louie Anderson, and worked for the topless revue, X Burlesque, as a preshow act – performing magic within the audience as fans filtered into the theater. It was his audition for the hit television series, America’s Got Talent, which brought him nationwide fame when he made it into the season’s finals. It was at The Clarion Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas that I was able to catch the charismatic talent of Grabel – in a show which he has taken to a new level – combining his unique blend of magic, pickpocketing and acrobatic skills. Newly engaged, Grabel is madly in love and enjoying traveling with his fiancée, touring internationally with his show – but someday, we hope he will return again to perform in Vegas. In the meantime, he has a lot of irons in the fire and is elated about his upcoming wedding.
STRIPLV: When did you come to Vegas?
GRABEL: I came and went to Hotel Management at UNLV and graduated in 2007. I started doing magic and one thing led to another. I met Amazing Johnathan and started performing in his show.
STRIPLV: What was that experience like?
GRABEL: It was good. He gave me a break. Most people won’t do that – to help the other guy coming up. Jonathan was like: “Why don’t you be on my stage?” It takes a good guy to do that. I’ve not seen too many guys give me an opportunity, so I’m very grateful to Johnathan.
STRIPLV: Did you ever see his car warehouse – turned into an outside drive-in?
GRABEL: Oh my God, it was great! He had raved about this theater back in Detroit that was part of his childhood, so he made this crazy theater in his warehouse.
STRIPLV: Richard Ruby, a local Vegas artist, did that amazing recreation. He hand painted murals of classic vintage cars making it feel like you were parked outside under the stars at that original drive-in theater in Detroit, incorporating Johnathan’s real vintage collection of cars as seats to watch movies in.
GRABEL: It was so cool! I saw some movies in that theater.
STRIPLV: You went into hotel management, even though you loved magic?
GRABEL: I didn’t think I’d be an entertainer. For the most part, it was just a pipe dream. Realistically, the people who make it in the entertainment business are very slim. One in one-hundred would be pretty impressive, and I’m sure it’s much less than that. I’m business savvy and really believe in business and trying to figure out a win-win situation for both parties. I’ve got my gigs and dates that I’m working on and it’s thrilling when I get a contract. I don’t know what the right formula is, but being business savvy is really important because you can get taken advantage of so easily. It’s happened to me, but you learn and you grow.
STRIPLV: The pipe dream became a reality…
GRABEL: I didn’t think this was an option at all. Who becomes a magician?! Then as I went through it, I found that I could support myself as a magician. I don’t live a lavish lifestyle really, compared to if I was in another business. I’m very lucky, because I get to travel and I get paid to travel. It’s amazing to be able to go to Korea for free – and then they pay you. I just came back from a gig on Catalina Island. Growing up in L.A., I never went to Catalina Island in my life, but they flew me to the island. It was VIP treatment all the way – an amazing experience. Traveling becomes more of a luxury, and I won’t travel on my own dime anymore. I’d rather travel, get taken care of, and get paid. It makes more sense. They really treat you well. I got there and it was: “Where do you want to go? What do you want to eat? Do you like lobster?” I love it.
STRIPLV: Have you ever worked on a cruise ship?
GRABEL: No, but I’m going to. I did just go on one called The Windjammer, but not to work. It was one of the most exciting experiences that I’ve ever had. It was VIP treatment all the way. That is where I proposed to Tammy. We were in the Bahamas and I did a “message in the bottle” to Tammy. Luckily, we had the photographer for Islands Magazine who just happened to be there. Isn’t that fun?!
STRIPLV: Have you been going together for quite awhile?
GRABEL: Not really. About seven months, but I just know and she knows. It fits! I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else!
STRIPLV: Are you planning on working again in Vegas?
GRABEL: Yes, but I just want to experience life right now. I’m going to Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, then New York City. So I can live life and travel for awhile.
STRIPLV: Will Tammy be able to travel with you?
GRABEL: Yes. She owns the magazine Las Vegas Woman, and she has a staff that’s amazing. She can work from anywhere because of the Internet, and they can handle things here while she’s gone. If she can’t go, I don’t need to go.
STRIPLV: Besides doing your magic show here, what else do you plan?
GRABEL: I would like to do TV, because that’s really important. I’m working on some reality stuff now.
STRIPLV: You are very strong, doing the acrobatics that you do.
GRABEL: You have to be. Doing the ring is very physical. You have to be very strong to do all the things that I do.
STRIPLV: Do you have to spend a lot of time at the gym to maintain your strength?
GRABEL: I’m at the gym five days a week for 3-4 hours a day.
STRIPLV: Do you lift weights or other exercises?
GRABEL: I do both. I lift my body weight. I do Hot Pilates at Vegas Hot. I love the workout there.
STRIPLV: Do you do all your own tricks or do you use other people in town?
GRABEL: I don’t mind sharing with a younger magician if they reach out and want to learn – I’m all for it. Through the years I’ve had different consultants that have helped me out, so it’s not 100% me. Technically, the concept is mine and then I bounce the idea off of someone else. I love learning from people and gaining knowledge from other people. I think of myself as a constant or continual learner. When I stop learning… what’s the point?
STRIPLV: Do you sell some of your tricks?
GRABEL: I haven’t yet, but I’m going to start marketing some of the original effects I’ve created. It’s more lucrative to market to the masses, like having a magic kit, for example. Some people make a good living at it by building illusions. There are a lot of guys out there doing it.
STRIPLV: What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?
GRABEL: Working out and spending time with my fiancée. Ventano’s is one of my favorite places to eat. Shrimp on the stone is amazing!
STRIPLV: What makes you happy?
GRABEL: Success makes me happy. Making people smile makes me happy. It’s a very fulfilling feeling when you can perform magic and people just lighten up. I’ve gone through situations where someone might not be that happy, then I do it and then they smile, and that’s cool!
STRIPLV: What turns you on?
GRABEL: Love turns me on, and that I’m so in love with my fiancée. She’s just phenomenal! I never thought I’d be getting married until I was 40 or 50, so it’s an amazing feeling to be in love.
STRIPLV: What turns you off?
GRABEL: Negativity. I don’t like negativity and people that are time-wasters.
STRIPLV: What excites you?
GRABEL: Opportunity excites me.
STRIPLV: If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
GRABEL: Stopping war. Our world seems so up and down and it feels like at any minute things could crumble.
STRIPLV: What is the one thing that would surprise people to know about you?
GRABEL: I talk in my sleep.
STRIPLV: If you could have dinner with someone living or dead, who would that be?
GRABEL: It would have to be my grandfather. I was sixteen when he passed away and I miss him terribly.
STRIPLV: What would be your perfect day?
GRABEL: Waking up to rain with Tammy and realizing that the day is just the beginning of an amazing opportunity. I’d do some work in the morning, then we’d hangout together and go on an adventure. One of the most perfect days of my life was when I proposed to Tammy. I woke up and I was planning this whole escapade of how I was going to propose to her. I told everyone on the ship – so the Captain had his guitar ready on the island – there were drinks that were hidden. I brought her off The Windjammer to take a picture, and I said: “Oh, what’s that? She noticed the bottle in the sand and opened it up to find a poem that I had written for her and at the end it said: “Will you marry me, Tammy?” She was just floored, stunned, and didn’t know what to do. Finally, she said yes. The captain started playing the guitar and champagne was passed out and it was exceptionally beautiful!
STRIPLV: What’s something on your “bucket list?”
GRABEL: I want to create a motivational seminar, educating students and at-risk kids about how to become successful and how to get involved with something they believe in. When I was a kid, I floundered. I was up and down and did a lot of stupid stuff. Finally, I decided what I wanted to do and I went at it and attacked it and focused on it. I’d like to approach kids and teach them a little bit of that, so they’re not older when they start doing it. I think it would be great. A friend of mine does something called Ambassadors of Compassion. I recently went to it and there were 4,000 high school students in the audience and it was really touching and cool. I knew one kid who is 12-years-old and he helped me backstage a lot. His name is Chris and he knows he wants to be a movie producer. From backstage, he was filming everything. I just wanted to give him the experience of being there and doing it.
STRIPLV: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
GRABEL: I’d like him to say in a Danny DeVito voice: “Well, you finally made it.”
Seth can be contacted for events online at his website: SethGrabel.com