“I have a great uncle [Nat Zuckerman] born in 1901, and when he was a boy, he had a chance to see Harry Houdini,” Cohen, of New York, said. “He was so inspired by having seen him, he wanted to learn magic himself, so he went to a library and got a magic book and learned tricks on his own.”
Cohen said it was the “riveting secrets” on the pages of his uncle’s books, which are now falling apart, that ignited his passion.
“He became a proficient amateur magician. … He started showing magic to me and I was the only one who really paid attention,” he said.
At 10, he made his debut at a 4-year-old’s birthday party.
“My mother drove me to the show, she picked me up and drove me home,” Cohen said. “I performed all through high school and in college [at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.].”
After college, Cohen lived in Japan for five years and learned how to speak, read and write Japanese. He performed his magic show at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, all in Japanese.
For the past 12 years and counting, Cohen, also known as the “Millionaires’ Magician,” performs his famous Chamber Magic show at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan.
Once a year, the hotel closes to the public to host the United Nations and Cohen picks a city to visit and perform. This year, Atlanta was it.
In his first Atlanta performance, he will entertain audiences at the Four Seasons in Midtown Sept 21 and 22.
“I love leaving New York because the attitude is usually more warm and friendly,” Cohen said.
Four Season Director of Catering Charles Kaval said the staff is excited to have Cohen as a guest performer.
“He’s a very sought-after magician,” Kaval said. “I saw him in New York and it was just a great production overall. …It was money well spent.”
Cohen is in high demand worldwide, and has performed at the White House and for people like Warren Buffet, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, the queen of Morocco, Martha Stewart and Woody Allen.
He said his biggest difficulty is overcoming the stereotype of the “cheesy magician.”
“I’m presenting magic with dignity, with a capital M,” Cohen said. “It’s not the kind of thing where a magician comes up to you and pulls something out of your nose. …It is a well-crafted story. The whole show has an art to it.”
His audience is typically 95 percent adults, he said, and everyone is expected to dress up.
“Over recent years, I feel like we’ve lost respect for theater and giving it respect, “ Cohen said. “I’m trying to bring that back. It’s part of whole experience.”
Paul Ginsberg, a fan and amateur magician from New York, said Cohen’s audience becomes part of his performance.
“He’s very engaging. … He takes the time to develop effects so that he turns tricks into mysteries,” Ginsberg said. “You just think the laws of physics are suspended when he’s in the room.”
Cohen said the magic “game” is what he loves most about his passion and career.
“I love the challenge of presenting a very well-constructed puzzle to smart people and having them realize they’ve been joyfully had,” he said. “I like that I see the childlike expressions that peoples’ faces melt into. … Magic shows give you a childlike feeling of wonder.”
If you go:
o What: Steve Cohen’s Chamber Magic Show
o When: Sept. 21 and 22 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
o Where: Four Seasons Hotel, 75 14th St., Midtown
o Tickets: $75 and $100 for front-row seats
o Information: http://www.chambermagic.com/ or http://fourseasons.com/Atlanta/