An Ace Up His Sleeve
Sammy Cortino, a local magician and student of Appalachian
State University, does not play it close to the chest; he has been making a scene by making things
disappear since he was 2 years old.
"My mother says I made a coin disappear while we were eating out at a restaurant, and I didn't swallow it," Cortino said. "It never did reappear."
In the years since, Cortino received magic sets for Christmas, developed his favorite tricks, and began performing for friends and family.
One of his defining moments as a magician was when, as a 12 year old, he went to Las Vegas to be inducted into the International Brotherhood of Magicians by Siegfried and Roy, giants in the magic entertainment industry.
"That was the first moment when I thought this could really be big," Cortino said. "It was really unworldly."
As a teenager, Cortino performed in local venues and then began lining up larger shows as he got older.
Now, entering his senior year as a broadcast media major at Appalachian State, Cortino has set up a sleight-of-hand card trick to break world records.
On Aug. 6, Cortino will attempt a stunt that has never been accomplished before: Manipulating 300 playing cards for 90 seconds with both hands while blindfolded.
Cortino has dubbed the trick "Synthesis." But why this particular trick?
"It's been a metamorphosis," Cortino said. "I started to manipulate cards with both hands; I've always been somewhat ambidextrous. A magician once came up to me and said that he had never seen anyone do that before."
A friend of Cortino's suggested being blindfolded to increase the difficulty of the trick, and Cortino's family helped him choose the length of time and amount of cards.
The stunt's style harkens back to the early career of Harry Houdini, who made it as the "King of Cards" before he performed his world-famous escape routines.
The attempt will take place at the Julian G. Whitener Municipal Building (Hickory City Hall) in downtown Hickory at 2 p.m, and doors open at 1:30 p.m. The press conference will be open to the public.
Some magicians attempt to make magic look effortless; Cortino is straightforward about how difficult this new stunt is.
"This is definitely the most difficult routine I've ever done; it's as challenging to rehearse as my 90-minute grand illusion show," Cortino said.
Cortino has been working on his magic full-time during the summer between his junior and senior year, and that sometimes involves eight-hour days of practicing magic and putting in the work necessary to book shows.
Cortino has previously performed at many local venues, from Hickory Community Theatre in Hickory to the Hayes Center in Blowing Rock.
He said that, above all, attention to the audience is what makes his shows successful.
"Some mindreading comes into play," Cortino said. "You have to gauge how they are enjoying the show and the more experience you have the more you will know which routines will work well. The thing is to stay connected so that they are part of the show, as well."
Cortino hopes to finish his degree at ASU and then begin booking shows on the performing arts center route as a full-time illusionist, traveling around the country.
His broadcasting degree has taught him much about the perspectives of audiences.
"I've learned how people's perceptions of individuals and society are affected by different media," Cortino said. "I have also learned how to do video editing much quicker and more efficiently than I could before."
At his Hayes Center show, Cortino performed for a full house; the entire auditorium sold out.
"When I did the levitation part of my show, I felt this great energy between the audience and I," Cortino said.
Cortino will continue to perform in smaller venues, such as restaurants, where he can interact with the audience. He has also considered moving into television magic.
"The interaction, where you get to be face-to-face with the audience and have a conversation, that is magic at its core," Cortino said. "Television magic gets to do these grand illusions; I think they both have an important place."
To watch the world record attempt live online, go to Sammy Cortino's fanpage on Facebook and click on the "Viewing Party" link.