Valley gets magic back |

Valley gets magic back

Naomi Havlen
Eric Mead asks guests to pick a card Wednesday evening at the Library bar in the Hotel Jerome. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.

When was the last time you saw something – besides your money – disappear into thin air at a local bar?That phenomenon all but vanished when the Tower Restaurant and Magic Bar in Snowmass Village closed last April. But on Wednesdays this month at the Hotel Jerome’s Library bar, Eric Mead brings the tradition of wily card tricks and disappearing and reappearing silver dollars back to life. Mead spent 14 seasons at the Tower’s Magic Bar before it closed, entertaining guests with his quick wit and intricate tricks.During his performance, Mead tosses the same playing card from his pocket onto the bar repeatedly without audience members knowing how it got into his pocket. Standing behind the bar he quotes Adam Ant, sings a line from “Copacabana” and laughs it up with the crowd while continuously shuffling his playing deck with a steady thwack-thwack-thwack sound.All eyes are on him.

The sleeves of his black button-down shirt are neatly rolled up, and his tie is carefully pinned down. Mead is a clean-cut brunet with glasses and a soul patch who seems to lie in wait for these kind of moments.He holds one silver dollar between his thumb and forefinger and tells bar patrons he will squeeze his fingers and the coin will disappear.It does.Or at least it seems to. Mead’s efficiency and grace at close-up sleight of hand are skills that should be witnessed firsthand to comprehend. As eyes widen and jaws drop, Mead smiles and says it is the exact reaction he was hoping for.”When you see something that your mind recognizes as impossible, there’s a feeling that goes along with that. People feel amazed, and I like to give that to people,” Mead said. “When people are really filled with wonder and you see people reacting that way, it’s a pretty big thrill.”

Mead started practicing the craft when he was a kid growing up in Fort Collins. His first professional show was when he was 9 years old – a 15-minute performance for $25 at a kid’s birthday party.By his teenage years he knew that he would never have another job that wasn’t magic related. In 1989 the Tower Magic Bar in Snowmass Village came calling. Mead and his future wife, Shawn Rios, moved to the Roaring Fork Valley, where she now teaches at Basalt Elementary.Now that the Tower has closed, Mead is traveling across the country to perform at private parties, and he’s hoping business will pick up locally. The loss of the Tower Restaurant, an establishment once co-owned by John Denver and Michael Shore, is a great one for Snowmass Village and a tradition of magic in the Roaring Fork Valley, Mead said.”Snowmass Village had that one really unique thing that grown-ups could do at night. Now you can go hear a band or play pool, but that really unique thing it had is gone,” he said. In the world of magicians the loss is even greater. Magic bars started up during Prohibition times in cities like Chicago, and when the Tower closed it had been the longest-running magic bar left in the country, Mead said.

Mead keeps his work alive by continually honing his craft, practicing day in and day out to get better and funnier. Mead said magic is like artwork – it’s a journey of seeing what’s more challenging and more interesting, and he’ll never arrive at the end of that journey.Mead said 25 percent of his act is original material, and the rest is either classic work “performed by the masters 100 years ago” with his own twists, or a combination of his ideas and other magicians’ material.What flies out of his mouth in front of a crowd, however, is 100 percent original. Last Wednesday Mead bantered back and forth with the crowd, noting to all of them when things got a little more risqué that his wife was watching.”My wife’s here. If anyone is going in my pants, my wife will pick who it is,” he said to the laughing onlookers. “And don’t pick Frank,” he added, glancing at his wife. “He tried that last time, and it didn’t go well for me or him.”During December, Eric Mead performs at the Hotel Jerome Library bar from 9 p.m. to midnight on Wednesdays only.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is