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Saturday, April 19, 2014
Neighbors
A magical journey to success
Brian Croce/Herald
Lou Johnson performs a trick for Michael Arriaga, 16, right, and Dylan Phelan at Sip This on Jan. 3.

Many kids take up a hobby while growing up — painting, collecting baseball cards, horseback riding — but the number of kids who keep their hobbies in adulthood dwindles, and even fewer people turn their childhood hobby into a career.

Lou Johnson isn’t most people.

Johnson, 45, is a juggler, magician, performer and Valley Stream resident who learned his first trick at age 6. The youngest of three growing up in Massachusetts, Johnson said it was his brother, Maynard, who showed him his first trick in the early 1970s. It was that and his grandmother’s love of bridge and other card games that got him interested in the world of magic.

“I love great figure skating and gymnastics,” he said, “but I can’t pull a back handspring to save my life, but magic came to me.”

While in high school, Johnson took a career exploration course where he got the opportunity to get some hands-on experience at a local magic shop. The shop’s owner, Ray Goulet, a seasoned performer himself, took Johnson under his wing. Johnson loved working at Goulet’s magic shop where he would sweep floors and dust posters in addition to learning new tricks. Johnson didn’t receive a paycheck for his work, and when his class requirements were satisfied, he didn’t stop going to the shop.

Johnson worked in Goulet’s magic shop every Saturday for three years and over the summers as well. Professional magicians would come into the shop and Johnson would learn as much as he could.

Although history wasn’t his best subject in school, Johnson loved learning about the roots of magic and the performers who came before him. Goulet would give him tricks to learn each week, but it wasn’t long before Johnson was asking for entire books to read. It was there that Johnson learned that the oldest tricks are the best tricks. Every so often, he uses the first trick his brother taught him in his act.

He went on to the University of Maine to pursue a degree in theater, but he wound up graduating from another college first: the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.

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