This article by David Sandy first appeared in the May 1999 issue (Volume 79 Number 5) of “The Linking Ring” – The official publication of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.
Bram Charles – A Captivating Canadian
It was a childhood dream; a dream that began as early as age seven. For Bram Charles Linetsky, that dream took him from hanging out every Saturday morning at Browser’s Den of Magic in Toronto all the way to the bright lights and non-stop excitement of Las Vegas. Countless young magicians aspire to “work” in Vegas, but few actually make it. Bram is an exception, but it wasn’t an easy trip. Perseverance and good fortune were in Bram’s corner.
Bram Linetsky, later to become known only by his first and middle names, Bram Charles, grew up in the suburbs of Toronto and took an interest in magic after seeing magicians perform at a few birthday parties he attended. He even received a Marshall Brodein magic set for his seventh birthday. He studied the tricks and practiced feverishly whenever he had the chance. When the first offer of doing a paid performance presented itself, Bram made his first trip to Morrissey’s Magic Shop on Dufferin Street in Toronto in order to “class up” the act. In addition to purchasing a “deluxe” magic set, he also left the shop with a Color-Changing Silk and a miniature Die Box. Day after day, hour after hour, of practicing the Penetration Frame, Spiked Coin, Linking Rings, Rice Bowls and other tricks he had purchased, and after after coercing his best friend’s little sister to be his assistant, Bram was ready to present his first real performance and collect his fifteen dollar pay. The show went well, and the spotlight had hooked Bram for life.
A Saturday morning regular at Browser’s Den of Magic, Bram developed a host of magical friendships and received hands-on teaching from well knowns like Jay Sankey, Peter Marucci, Gary Kurtz, Colin Bartlett, as well as Den of Magic owners Len and Bernice Cooper. Doug Henning and David Copperfield even made surprise visits from time to time. All of this exposure to great magic deepened Bram’s desire to make magic more than just a hobby. He wanted to make it his life.
At age fourteen, Bram lost his most loyal fan and supporter when his mother died unexpectedly. ”She was the center of my universe, who always had time for me, ” he said. ”She got me involved in acting classes, guitar lessons, art lessons, and many other activities. I miss her with all my heart.”
It was that same year when Bram auditioned to work at Canada’s Wonderland Theme Park in Maple, Ontario,
Canada. He got a job doing walk-around, close-up magic and operating a “Jacob’s Ladder” game in which challengers, after paying a fee, were to climb up an inclined ladder mounted on swivels at each end and ring a bell at the top without tipping the ladder or falling off. If they were successful they won a prize. Bram used magic to ballyhoo a crowd for the game.
During the third year of working at Wonderland, the Jacob’s Ladder was removed and Bram began performing a twenty-minute street show six times daily, six days a week. The Medieval-themed performance was scripted about his “troubles” with the King of Canterbury with the magic woven into the storyline. It was here Bram learned the importance of overcoming obstacles for the sake of the show. ”It didn’t matter if you had a headache or whether it was raining, the show had to go on, ” he explained.
After three years at Canada’s Wonderland, Bram decided it was time for a change. At age seventeen, he joined the Canadian National Exhibition, one of Canada’s most popular events, performing six twenty-minute shows a day, seven days a week, for the duration of this annual three week fair. ”I made the same amount of money working the three weeks at the “Ex” as I did the entire summer at Wonderland. ” added Bram. ”It was pretty grueling on performers… 21 days straight with no days off, in the heat and humidity, with millions of people coming through.”
Throughout his years in Toronto, Bram was very active in the Toronto I.B.M. Ring 17, known as the Hat & Rabbit Club (now the Sid Lorraine Hat and Rabbit Club). He attended every lecture he could and fondly remembers those who impacted his own magic, including lectures by Jay Sankey, Gary Kurtz, Jamy Ian Swiss and, of course, Sid Lorraine.
Bram completed high school a year early and was accepted into the exclusive Ryerson University’s Radio and Television Arts Program. Only 144 out of more than 2000 applicants are accepted. Bram thought a degree in broadcasting might offer him the security of a traditional career. But he really wanted to do magic. So he left school after two years and sought work entertaining at corporate functions and private parties.
In 1994, Bram took a vacation to Las Vegas with a friend. In only four days, he saw the performances of Lance Burton, David Copperfield, Joseph Gabriel and Seigfreid & Roy. He also lucked into a private party and met Stan Allen, Marshall Brodein, Mark Kalin & Ginger, Paul Osborne, Jim Steinmeyer and others. This “rubbing elbows” with successful magicians convinced him that he wanted to move to Las Vegas and do magic.
So in January, 1995, Bram boarded an airplane bound for the Vegas strip with only what he could carry in his arms. He didn’t have a work visa and had basically no contacts. ”After four days at the Hacienda, I found a place to live in a bad neighborhood with some very shady roommates, ” explained Bram. ”Since I didn’t have a visa at the time, I was unable to work and my funds were going down fast. I went to the Desert Magic Seminar armed with my resumes and videotapes. It was there that I introduced myself to John Moehring, the producer of the Wizard’s Secrets show at the MGM Grand Hotel.”
After running out of funds and with no job commitments, Bram was forced to head back to Toronto. ”Once I had made some contacts in Vegas, I decided I could follow up just as easily from Toronto as I could living in Vegas…
and I could work while living in Toronto! Bram fired out postcards to those he had met while in Vegas. One went to John Moehring indicating Bram’s continued strong desire to work in the Wizard’s Secret’s show. After initially getting a reply from John that there were no openings, two weeks later John called Bram with good news. There was a spot for Bram if he could get there quickly. Bram packed his bags and drove over 2,200 miles in three days fueled by the excitement of his life-long dream coming true. He headed to Vegas… and this time it was to work!
Bram lived with John and Cindy Moehring until he could find a place of his own. Soon after his first performance in the Wizard’s Secret’s show on October 25th, 1995, bad news came. Bram heard that MGM had decided to close the show the following April. This meant he would have to find another job or move back to Canada. Coincidentally, Caesars Palace was preparing to open a new fifty-million dollar themed attraction called Caesars Magical Empire. Auditions began in November and Bram was there. In December, he was called back for another audition and was offered a job as a magical wizard. Rehearsals were scheduled to begin the first week of January with the opening in March. Because he was still working for John in the Wizard’s Secret’s show, Bram turned the offer down.
As good fortune would have it, due to some modifications in the original concept, Caesar’s grand opening was delayed until June. So, in March, auditions were held again and Bram was there, this time dressed in his complete costume from the Wizard’s Secrets show. After a series of callbacks, Bram was once again offered a job. However there was a dilemma. Magical Empire rehearsals were scheduled to begin mid-March at an offsite dance studio. Bram was still under contract with John and MGM through April. Bram considered the possibility of talking to John and trying to work something out. However, word got back to John before Bram had a chance to approach him. ”The Wizard’s Secrets show was closing and I had this opportunity to be a part of something big and stay in the United States. So I left the Wizard’s Secret’s early and starting rehearsing for Caesars.” explained Bram. ”It was a very hard split for me. I cried when I picked up my final check. John and Cindy had been so good to me.”
After more than 1,300 shows in the Wizard’s Secrets Parlor Theater in the Emerald City at MGM Grand, Bram joined the cast of Caesars Magical Empire. Caesars auditions were held in New York, San Antonio, New Orleans, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and of course, Las Vegas. Over 500 people were auditioned and only 30 were hired. The producers were looking for magicians who could act, sing, and move well. Because it was difficult to find magicians with all of these qualities, Caesars hired a mix of magicians, actors, and comedians. Bram was fortunate, he could sing and act in addition to doing magic. ”I think I got the job because the place was a perfect fit for me. The majority of my experience had been working for theme parks, and to me, that is what Caesars Magical Empire really is, a magical themed experience. The Dining Hall of the Gods show is a combination of singing, acting, close-up, and parlor magic,” he stated. Rehearsals ran until June 1996 with script revisions on a daily basis. The Caesar’s wizards, known by the name of Octavius, would learn magic and technical aspects of the show in the mornings, and the scriptand blockings in the afternoon. The Magical Empire finally opened with little fan fare and thirty dining room wizards, including Bram. Farrington Productions originally handled the production management. After only the first week, Caesars switched the production management to Landmark Entertainment Group.
In November 1996, Caesars stopped offering lunch as part of the Empire experience which resulted in laying off eighteen wizards, leaving only twelve. Bram was one of the chosen dozen.
In August 1998, Landmark left the project and show producer Brian Dixon formerly with Landmark, formed Dixon Entertainment Arts and took over the production management. At present, of the twelve remaining wizards, Charles Bach, Darren Romeo and Bram are the only magicians. The others have been taught magic over the last few years. Just recently, Caesars has also hired Joey Burton, Scott Hitchcock, Steve Turner and Sophie Evans to entertain with walk-around magic in the Sanctum Secorrum during evenings.
Under the direction of Brian Dixon and Dixon Entertainment Arts, Caesars Magical Empire was sold out for the first time this past Christmas season. It has become the number one rated attraction in all of Caesars World, including Atlantic City and Lake Tahoe. Unusual in a high-traffic tourist destination such as Las Vegas, an astonishing 25 percent of CME’s business is from repeat customers.
I had the opportunity to see Bram work at Caesars Magical Empire for the third time just a month ago during my visit to the World Magic Seminar. Bram immediately endears himself to the audience and does some very impressive and entertaining magic with borrowed currency, cards, and more. Bram mixes skillful sleight-of -hand, such as one-handed shuffles and a beautiful bill switch, with some fun parlor magic including a very entertaining and fun sucker wrist shackle escape routine involving a couple of spectators. Performing in character as Octavius, Bram, acting as our dining host throughout the evening, vanishes before our eyes and appears on the other side of the small dining chamber at the conclusion of our meal.
Bram not only works magic in Las Vegas, he lives it. Bram shares a 4,300 square foot house complete with hot tub and swimming pool with three other magicians who also work Las Vegas: Charles Bach, originally from St.Louis, also works as a wizard at Caesars; Bob Massey, originally from Tucson, manages and demonstrates at Lance Burton’s Magic Shop in the Monte Carlo Hotel; and Tommie Lainge, who appears onstage throughout the Lance Burton show as a very funny, comical character assistant. The late Chappy Brazil was also a good friend. In fact, Charles Bach and Chappy Brazil filmed the recently released “watch steal” video in the house where Bram and friends live. They all share magic libraries and video, and offer each other constructive suggestions on their “works in progress.” ”It is sort of like Magic Central”, explained Bram. ”There is always something going on in our house… a rehearsal, a late-night magic session, or one of our fabulous parties.”
On my most recent visit to Las Vegas during the World Magic Seminar, Bram invited me to a birthday party for Tommie at the house. It was like visiting the most luxurious “frat” house I’ve ever seen. Magicians and Vegas show business people were all over the place. The spacious three-car garage was a small warehouse for each of the magicians’ larger stage acts. People were talking magic here, there, everywhere! I met a lot of new faces and got to visit with my good friend and incredibly talented magician John Shryock from Tucson. It was great fun!
When I asked Bram what the future holds, he replied, “I love Las Vegas… and I absolutely love my job at Caesars! Brian (Dixon) is kind enough to grant us a leave of absence inorder to take on other projects, if needed. I have never lectured or performed at a magicians convention, and that might be interesting for me to do. I have never competed in a contest, either, so that presents another challenge. I love to travel, so a cruise ship would be nice, too. I am currently working on a stage act suitable for a Vegas or cruise ship review show”, he added with a smile, “I’m just keeping my options open.”
Considering the fact that Bram Charles is still in his twenties and already fulfilled what is a lifelong dream for most, I’ll bet that he’ll have many more options from which to choose. ♦