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Illusions of grandeur

When Bill Blagg turned 8, his dad made him an offer. He could have a birthday party with all of his friends, or he could have $50 to spend in a local magic shop.

Blagg had gotten hooked on magic a couple of years earlier when he got a magic set from his grandparents. He did a trick for his dad he made a quarter disappear and he got a kick out of his dad's reaction.

"He said, 'How did you do that?' and I thought, ooh, I like this,'" Blagg said.

But, did he like it enough to turn down a birthday party?

Yup.

He stocked up on all kinds of traditional tricks. He'd pull things out of hats and make birds appear. But Blagg realized other magicians were doing those same tricks. He wanted to do something different.

So Blagg recreated himself as a "grand-scale illusionist." Based in Milwaukee, he travels all over the country putting on magic shows. On Sunday, May 22, 3 p.m., he will perform at the Palace Theatre in Albany.

Attend the show and Blagg might just call you up on stage and saw you in half or make you float. You'll also get to see his famous dancing handkerchief, one that seems to move and dance across the stage all on its own.

Blagg developed the dancing hanky for a national competition when he was 18. By then, he was a veteran of magic shows, having performed at school assemblies and landing his first paid gig when he was 13 (the local park district gave him $35 for a 40-minute show). It wasn't unusual for classmates to stay inside during recess to watch Blagg do magic.

But the national competition was the first time he was really on a big stage. And he knew that to really create a wow factor, he needed to do more than "standard, novice stuff." Hence the dancing hanky.

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