Those Villamontes are a tricky, magical family
BY BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON / Lincoln Journal Star
Here was a man who needed a good woman to saw in
He had traveled plenty of roads and baffled many with his tricks, but it wasn’t really a show until Luis Villamonte met her.
He took one look at sweet Rogene and said: “You want to get on a stage?”
She was 19, an age where ambition meets no stop signs, and so the answer was
“Sure, I’ll get on stage.”
The magic carpet ride began.
“She fit in the boxes, so I went ahead and married her,” Luis jokes now, just before stealing your pen, appearing to stick it up his nose, appearing to pull it out of his mouth, and definitely wiping it on his arm.
He hands it back. The conversation continues as if what you saw never happened.
Maybe it didn’t.
You do not walk out of Villamonte’s Magic Shop just off 10th and Charleston streets with the same assuredness you walked in.
You’ve seen peppermint candies appear out of nowhere and cards with red diamonds become cards with blue diamonds, and that’s just from the couple’s 13-year-old son Vincent.
So goes it. Kennedys campaign. Von Trapps sing. Villamontes do magic.
If you ask a Villamonte how he did a magic trick, the answer will not remove the scratching finger from your head.
“Very well, I thought,” he’ll say.
Magicians are frustrating that way.
Married for 15 years, Luis and Rogene now have seven kids, most of whom came out as quick-handed as their father.
Even the 1-year-old, Victoria, likes to throw her right hand to the air and blurt out in baby speak: “Magic.”
Then there’s Vincent Villa-monte, which is as great a stage name as it is a real name. He’s an eighth-grader-to-be at St. Peter’s Catholic School and very popular at the lunch table.
He can make a yo-yo do crazy things, ride a unicycle, juggle. He’s been doing magic since he was 6.
A few weeks ago, he competed with his 11-year-old sister, Rebecca, at the International Brotherhood of Magicians’ Competition in Reno, Nev.
The Villamontes were the youngest competitors there, but that didn’t stop Vincent from placing second in the youth division’s close-up magic contest.
Sitting in the Villamonte’s magic shop one morning, Vincent begins to dazzle, replaying his Nevada show.
A peppermint stick serves as his wand. Peppermints begin to magically appear under Dixie Cups, then York Peppermint Patties appear, then a miniature statue of the Peppermint Patty character from the “Peanuts” series, then a peppermint candle.
“I don’t even really like peppermints,” Vincent says after his show.
Ah, but the audience would never know, just like they never need to know when a magician makes a mistake.
Before all the kids came into their lives, Luis and Rogene used to tour the Midwest, sometimes doing as many as five shows a day and 300 a year.
Do that many shows, and a few mistakes are bound to find you. One time, Luis was doing a trick with an egg. Before the performance, he slipped on the ice and the egg cracked slightly.
At showtime, when he pulled it out, the egg broke entirely. Talk about yolk on your face.
He just laughed it off and threw it over his shoulder. For all the audience knew, the whole thing was a joke, not a failed trick.
“Never panic when something goes wrong,’” Luis says. “Maybe you’ve seen the trick done right 100 times before, but this is the first time for the audience.”
Luis’ father was a master chef, even cooked for President Ford one time, he said. While traveling to various country clubs with Dad, Luis got hooked on magic when he was 8.
One of his first attempts was to try to levitate a doll. By 16, he was getting paid for magic shows.
Not long after came the farm girl from David City. Talk about love. It had to be for Rogene to let Luis do his “mismade lady” trick on her.
A picture in the magic shop shows Rogene in four pieces in a box.
“The best part about doing magic is when you see everyone react to a trick,” Luis says, “and they don’t have a clue and it’s written all over their face.”
Intellectuals sometimes overthink a trick. Often, it’s the kids who see past the wand-waving and unlock what is a mystery to the businessman making six figures.
What is certain: All this magic can be big business if you do it right.
In 1995, Luis and Rogene opened The Computer Magician. On one side of the store, Luis has a shop for fixing computers. He has a magic hand at that, too. On the other side is the magic — fascinating toys and magic kits promising more than 120 tricks on the box covers.
“The Lollypop Mystery.”
“The Magic Finger Chopper.”
You can do them all for a price. Kits usually range from $15 to $135.
Eight years ago, Luis got the idea to start selling them online at magickits.com.
Now, 100 kits a day are going out the door to Internet buyers.
“The thing about magic is it’s real addictive once you start screwing with people,” Luis says.
Consider Vincent among the addicted.
Now, his main goal is to go back to the IBM contest in two years and win the prestigious Gold Cups.
Only eight magicians in the last 20 years have won the Gold Cups, and the youngest ever to do it was a 16-year-old. Vincent would be 15.
And so he spends at least an hour of bliss each day making quick hands quicker. It is good to be a kid and full of tricks.
After one trick, you ask Luis how it was done.
“Can you keep a secret?” he wonders.
“So can I.”
Reach Brian Christopherson at 473-7438 or email@example.com.