Sun, 05 Nov 2000

Spending a day with magician Deddy Corbuzier

Deddy Corbuzier, 26, became obsessed with magic after watching magicians on television aged 8. Born in Jakarta, he's become so popular he has two television shows and performs on Sundays at the Regent Hotel, South Jakarta. His rise to national prominence was capped by a performance at the closing of the recent South East Asian (SEA) Games in Surabaya. Although the bachelor has a house in Bintaro, South Jakarta, he prefers to live with his parents in downtown Jakarta. In conversation with The Jakarta Post's contributor William Furney.

JAKARTA (JP): Because I suffer from insomnia, I don't get up until about 9 a.m. I turn on the computer and check e-mails and my schedule. I never have anything to eat at that hour of the day.

I have meetings about 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. Before I go out I do my makeup -- eye shadow, eyeliner and foundation. I used to have someone do it for me, but it took too long. I've learned to do it myself. I wear it everywhere I go because I want to show people that when I step down from the stage, I'm still a magician, or mentalist as I call myself. My work is my life, or vice versa. I decided to have a widow's peak hairstyle because some magicians in the past had them -- as did Emperor Ming in Flash Gordon. I had a mould made at a salon, and I use it to shave my head. The cut on my left eyebrow is from an accident. People ask me if I did it myself as some kind of trendy thing, but I didn't.

I'm recognized wherever I go. People ask me how I am and shake my hand. At the beginning, about three years ago, it was entertaining. But it's moved so fast from being entertaining to disturbing to annoying. I have to smile and say hi all the time and I need the recognition. Otherwise, I wouldn't be doing what I do.

When I was 8 years old, I watched magicians on TV and thought, "I can do that". My parents were pleased with what developed into a hobby. I used to do tricks in school and was quite popular because of it. Later, when I was in university studying psychology, I decided to perform full-time, and I ditched my studies. My parents thought I was crazy. But I've proven to them that I'm not.

I went to Los Angeles last year to do a test for the International Brotherhood of Magicians. They don't tell you what the test is; they just hand you something, like a spoon, and tell you to do magic with it. In my case, they gave me a ball of paper and asked me to do a trick, which I did. So, I became a member. It's a great brotherhood in terms of resources. Magicians from all round the world communicate via the Internet, trade secrets and other things. Buying secrets is an expensive business. Top magicians like David Copperfield can spend thousands of dollars on buying the secret to just one trick. A magician gave me a secret when I was in Malaysia recently and then asked me for US$60 to "honor the invention"!

The brotherhood doesn't allow us to give away the secrets. But in the two TV shows I do, I have magic puzzles. I challenge people to find the secret. If they do, then I give them a prize. So, it's not really giving anything away -- except gifts.

Magic is all about psychology and tricks -- there's no real magic, I'm afraid. As a magician, I don't believe in magic, even though there are many forms of it in Asia, including the things paranormals do.

My afternoons are taken up with more meetings with clients and so on. I have a manager and right now I'm forming my own production company.

New tricks come from other magicians. There are some who are brilliant at making new tricks but are unable to perform them. So they sell the tricks.

As a mentalist, I concentrate on mind reading, spoon bending and things like that. I don't do illusions. If I bend a fork, I can give a lot of explanations about how it's done: maybe I have a chemical in my head that I secretly put to the fork to make it weak; maybe I am so strong I can bend the fork while the audience is not looking, what we call misdirection; or maybe I switched it with my own fork. But I really can't say which one.

Lots of times when I'm performing, there are tricks that just don't work. It happens to all magicians. That's why I tell people it's an experiment. It's good to be a mentalist -- if you're an illusionist sawing someone in half and it goes wrong, I don't think the person is going to be too happy. I was an illusionist at the start of my career, and once almost cut my girlfriend. I prefer mentalism.

When I started performing professionally, there was no one doing what I do. Nowadays, there are so many people doing almost the same magic as me. It makes me sad, but, on the other hand, it's testament to my success. It gets boring, though, as they're all doing the same tricks.

I was supposed to do something with Gus Dur (President Abdurrahman Wahid) at the closing ceremony of the SEA Games. I met him two days prior and he agreed to be a magician and do a magic show with me. Even though Gus Dur is physically disabled, he has a very sharp mind. He's got a sixth sense about things. But the Games ran over by two hours and he had to leave. I was disappointed but felt very proud because magic is never used in closing ceremonies.

The business of magic is very lucrative for me. I charge a lot for my shows because Indonesians believe the more they pay, the better it will be. I charged PON (the National Games) Rp 75 million for the SEA Games show.

I think Harry Houdini was the best magician there ever was. I feel he really supports me spiritually. David Copperfield has the biggest PR machine in the world. In Las Vegas, he's not that famous. There, it's Seigfreid and Roy. I've performed abroad, in places like Singapore and Brunei. Next year, maybe in January, I'm planning on holding a junior magic championship.

Even though I've been performing professionally for years, every time I step onto a stage my heart beats wildly and I get nervous. I thought that after the experience I have, it's not supposed to be like that. But now I think it's good; it means I'm thinking about what might go wrong, and that makes the show better.

I love Indonesian food, especially Padang. I love everything with chilies. Western food doesn't do much for me. I don't like the taste. I like to read books in the evenings -- I've got a big Stephen King collection -- and don't like going out that much as I don't like crowds. Right now, I've got no plans for marriage; I'm still looking for a girlfriend.

I'm up until 5 a.m. most mornings, because of my insomnia. I'll be surfing the Internet and reading during the small hours. You can call me at 3 a.m. and I'll be up. Then I fall asleep with a book in my hand.