Written by Chris Boyle, email@example.com Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:00
To John Lepre, his 71 years on earth have been made all more precious and enjoyable by something that many people refuse to believe in—the power of magic.
Born in the Bronx in 1941, Lepre has been making his living as a full-time performing magician for the past 18 years. A kindly, energetic, soft-spoken man, with a full mane of silver hair and a perpetual smile plastered on his boyish face, he said he was first exposed to what would become his life’s passion at an early age.
“Like a lot of magicians, I got a magic set when I was six years old,” he said. “I was fascinated by it…some guys go through phases and then move onto something else, but it was different. From there, I was always reading books on magic, and if I had extra money, I would visit local novelty shops and buy various magic tricks.”
In his teenage years, Lepre got into the magic scene even more deeply, but it wasn’t until he and his family took a summer vacation at Lake Carmel, NY, that he finally found a true mentor in the mystic arts.
“I met a man named Eddie Liedtke, who was a semi-professional magician,” he said. “It was the first time I had ever met an actual up-and-running, working magician, and that’s when I really got the jump-start on magic.”
Thanks to Liedtke’s influence, Lepre joined a magic club in Manhattan and started establishing ties with the other local magicians. It was through this club that he would meet one of the biggest performers of that day and age—The Great Harry Blackstone himself, a man so well-regarded in his time that he even starred in his own series of radio dramas and comic books, enjoyed by an enthusiastic young Lepre.
And, he actually got to meet his idol in the flesh.“It was such a thrill meeting The Great Blackstone,” Lepre said. “He was a very striking man—if you saw him walking down the street and you didn’t know anything about magic, you would take one look at him and say, ’that man is a magician.’ He was a huge influence on me and my magic career.”
Eventually, Lepre met a special young lady at the Manhattan-based insurance where he was employed, and after the third date he popped the question; she said yes. The two lived in Forest Hills, Queens, for about two years, and then moved to Massapequa Park in 1976, where they raised a son and a daughter.
Despite his love of magic, Lepre had a family to support. So, while he got some magic gigs, he still faced the daily grind of the insurance industry; that is, until that one day when he decided it was time to make a change.
“On the weekends I used to do shows...and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that magic is a heck of a lot more fun than insurance,” he said. “So, I finally decided it was time to do what made me happy, and about 18 years ago I started doing magic full-time, and I was fortunate enough that I was able to make a living at it.”
Lepre plies his mystical trade to a diverse group of clients, including children’s day care centers, senior centers, and functions sponsored by the Massapequa Chamber of Commerce. And while many in his field bemoan the current harsh economic climate and its impact on their bottom line, Lepre tells young magicians that to be successful they need to get out there and make the business happen.
“It doesn’t matter what you are...a magician, an accountant, you name it...work does not come in. You have to go out and pursue work, get your name out there,” he said. “I also keep my rates in the real world...a lot of magicians are not working because they want far too much.”
Lepre describes his style as friendly and engaging; his tricks are based both on science and illusion, and he always encourages audience participation from both children and adults, making an effort to keep the proceedings lighthearted and humorous.
When talking to Lepre about his life-long love of magic, it’s easy to see that he’s far from finished; indeed, if you were to ask him, he would tell you that he’s just getting started.
And that’s where the real magic comes from, he says.
“People always ask when I’m going to retire...why? So I can sit at home and be a crabby old man?” he said. “At this point, I’ve probably done nearly 10,000 shows in my life, but I never get tired of magic...I’ve taken a hobby, something that I love, something that touches kids and adults and entertains them, and I’ve made it into a career. And believe me, I have no intention of slowing down now.”