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Magician Pursues Dream of Opening Own Theater at the Beach

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Bloch in the Dickens Parlour Theatre in Delaware.
WAMU/Bryan Russo
Bloch in the Dickens Parlour Theatre in Delaware.

Rich Bloch started working in a magic shop at the age of seven, and has been hooked ever since.

But that’s not his only gig. When not pulling rabbits out of hats, he can be found working as an attorney in Washington, where he's sorted out labor disputes for the likes of the National Football League and Major League Baseball.

He now owns his own theater, in coastal Delaware. It's called Dickens Parlour Theatre, and we recently met Bloch there to learn more about his special brand of magic.

Attracting the attention of Abbott and Costello
Bloch was only three years old when he got his first offer to work in entertainment.

“I was three years old, and my father had passed away. My mom took me out to the West coast, just for a change of pace, and scenery. We had relatives out there,” he says. “And one day they took me to the Abbot and Costello Radio Show, somewhere in Hollywood. During the show, for reasons way beyond me, Lou Costello came down into the audience looking for someone to bring up onto the stage."

"And he chose me, this little three year-old kid. I really don’t remember what I did up there. But after the show, he came to my mother and made her an offer. He said that they wanted to keep me in Hollywood, and send me to the various schools out there for actors, and they would underwrite the whole experience, and apparently it was a pretty extraordinary offer. My mom thought it over for about a minute or two, and flatly rejected it, and whisked me out of there to get me away from those show people, and take me back east. So that was my brush with early stardom.”

A Eureka Moment
Bloch says he first began working in magic at the age of seven.

“My mother was on the road as a traveling saleslady, and I was living with my aunt and uncle a great deal of the time. And they were pretty laissez-faire about just letting me go out and wander and have a good time, and I did. This was in East Orange, New Jersey, and there was a magic shop at the end of the street."

"I walked in, and there was a guy there doing miracles. And I was absolutely smitten. And I walked up to him, I watched him, I just stood there in awe. And I said to him, ‘I want to work here. You need to hire me.’ And he said, ‘What’s your experience?’ And I responded something like, ‘Experience? I’m seven.’ But, boy, I really wanted to be there. So I just lied to him. I said, ‘Look, I don’t have any experience, but my father is a great magician.’ And I had seen a magician the year before, in first grade. And I didn’t remember him, but I remembered his name, for some reason."

"The name was Ted Collins. And I said to this guy, ‘My father is Ted Collins.’ And he was very impressed, and he said, ‘Well, if your dad is Ted Collins, you can work here. Come in after school and on the weekends, and I’ll teach you the art.’ And I was thrilled. And as I walked out of the shop, I turned to him, and I said, ‘I don’t know your name.’ He said, ‘It’s Ted Collins.’ True story. And I worked there for eight or nine years. And it was—it was heaven. And I was just in an idyllic surrounding."

[Music: "Sea of Love" by Tom Waits from Brawlers / "I'll See You In My Dreams" by Boilermaker Jazz Band from Panama]

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