Articles about Ben Robinson
Elizabeth Fogerty reacts to Ben Robinson during their interview
by Elizabeth Fogerty
When people are around Ben Robinson, strange things happen. Their jewelry disappears. So does their money. He’s pretty good with a knife and has been shot at six times. Ben’s even gotten his wife involved in the act. While she admits her husband is a rogue, she also says what he does is very seductive. It’s no surprise the Secret Service knows all about him. “The one thing that magicians do that those in the nefarious world also do is they try to look like someone else,” said Robinson, 40, who has been perfecting his magic since he was seven years old.
Magicians, like con men, work exclusively in illusions. But the con man’s technique is primitive; he only has to get you to believe the plausible before he can perform his trick. A magician has to get you to believe the unbelievable, and then he makes you smile. Ben can catch a speeding bullet between his teeth; maybe you saw him do that on The Maury Povich Show. He’s been featured in a Levi’s commercial. He’s also been on Letterman and the Today Show. If you don’t have a T.V., maybe you caught his act in Monte Carlo, at The Playboy Club or at Everest’s base camp. He’s also written a book, won awards and is a historian and collector of all things magic.
To somebody facing life’s daily challenges, “magic is a welcome escape,” said Robinson. He uses his magic to help people forget about bills and broken hearts. Ben himself knows a little about magic’s ability to make the world an easier place to live. When he was still a little boy, growing up in a suburb north of New York City, he lost his father. He wasn’t seen as a young boy who was mourning a significant loss; he was just the kid without a dad and, to his peers, that made him weird. “I didn’t want to be known except as a magician. My identity was, ‘He’s the little kid without a father.’ I jumped into this other realm, more to control a better way to socialize and to have something attractive,” said Robinson.
Ben admits learning magic wasn’t easy at first. He remembers trying card fanning for nine hours straight in front of the TV until his fingers bled. And magic didn’t give Ben the immediate acceptance he sought. “You really get razzed as a kid when you assume the role of a magician because you don’t know the level of power to demonstrate” in front of an audience, he said. But by high school, Robinson was making more over the weekend performing magic than his friends made all week delivering papers. Magic made Robinson enough money to pay his way through Connecticut College.
In addition to live shows and TV and film appearances, Robinson gives seminars on pick pocketing for corporations and has spoken at The Department of Treasury for the Secret Service. Ben taught the agents how to detect concealed weapons and spot counterfeit money by observing an individual’s behavior. “We use your perception against yourself,” Ben said of a magician’s skills. “I look at you and I can tell how much money you have in your pocket to, really, the nickel,” he said. This ability to read people, what Robinson calls cold reading, is one of the tools a magician uses to create a situation where magic can happen. Through cold reading, the magician figures out how best to approach a person so he or she will accept the trick and, therefore, enjoy the magic. This is also how criminals get their marks off balance, making them susceptible to attack. “This is the exact same way, frankly, a con man works. He gives you his confidence first, but what he gives you is illusory. So you give him yours, which is real,” he said.
The skills that make Ben a good magician are very powerful indeed. Like the force of Star Wars fame, there is a dark side. Luckily for us, Ben Robinson only uses his skills to make people happy. He respects the power he wields. Though Luke may say otherwise, Ben Robinson sums up his magic philosophy with a simple statement: “I really am the last of the Jedi.”