Metro-East Living

Illusionist looks like a rocker, but acts like Houdini

Joel Meyer calls himself an “interactive illusionist” because all of his bits include help from audience members, who inspect his props and otherwise try to keep him honest.
Joel Meyer calls himself an “interactive illusionist” because all of his bits include help from audience members, who inspect his props and otherwise try to keep him honest. Provided

Illusionist Joel Meyers will headline an upcoming fundraiser for St. Clair County Historical Society, thanks to family connections. His wife’s grandmother serves on the board.

“He’s pretty famous, all over the world and also at our family gatherings because he entertains us,” said Daphne Sumner, 79, of Millstadt. “He’s always got a new trick to show us.”

Joel, 30, of St. Louis, is taking a break from his national tour of 50 colleges campuses to perform Nov. 12 at the society’s Historia Fall Gala at St. Clair County Country Club (reservations required by Friday).

“I call myself an ‘interactive illusionist,’” Joel said by telephone from Florida. “The kind of magic that I do involves interaction with the audience. I couldn’t do it without them.”

In many cases, audience members are used to examine props, such as a needle and thread, which Joel swallows separately before pulling the threaded needle back out. Other acts are more traditional.

“I get out of the same type of straight jacket that Houdini used, and I beat his time,” Joel said. “I get out in two minutes. Houdini took three minutes.”

Joel describes his shows as engaging, funny, scary, thrilling, dangerous, terrifying, happy and sad. He maintains a rocker-like persona with his leather jackets, spiked hair and dark eye makeup.

We depend on events like this to support our educational programs and maintain our properties and our collections.

Will Shannon on the Historia Fall Gala

“He’s a very captivating entertainer,” said Daphne, who has watched his videos but will be seeing him perform live for the first time in Belleville.

This is the third year for the society’s Historia Fall Gala fundraiser. Joel’s show is called “A Magical Historia.” Tickets cost $75, which includes dinner, an oral auction and wine pull.

“We’re a non-profit,” said Curator Will Shannon. “We get no government funding. We are 100 percent self-supporting. So we depend on events like this to support our educational programs and maintain our properties and our collections.”

Joel grew up in Eldon, Mo., near Jefferson City. He got interested in magic at age 6 when his father taught him some tricks, such as floating a dollar bill above his hand and linking two rubber bands.

“My dad always encouraged creativity,” said Joel, who began going with him on business trips and doing street-corner magic in tourist areas such as New York’s Times Square, the Key West boardwalk and Santa Monica pier.

Then Joel started getting hired for corporate events and private parties. At 13, he opened for Wayne Newton in Branson, Mo.

I get out of the same type of straight jacket that Houdini used, and I beat his time. I get out in two minutes. Houdini took three minutes.

Joel Meyers on one of his illusions

Joel met his wife, Maggie Meyers, Daphne’s granddaughter, about nine years ago through his sister. Today, Maggie works as his manager, booking up to 50 shows a year.

“I don’t love traveling necessarily,” Joel said. “I always say, ‘I get paid for traveling, but I do my shows for free.’”

Joel has appeared on reality TV competitions such as “Fake Off,” “America’s Got Talent,” “Wizard Wars” and “Penn & Teller: Fool Us.” His “Fake Off” team, “The Surrealists,” came in second.

Joel has performed in Mexico, China and Europe, but this year, he’s focusing mainly on college campuses around the United States.

“College shows are very exciting and very honest,” he said. “College students really let you know if they like you, and I enjoy that. My personality works well with that.”

At a glance

  • What: Historia Fall Gala fundraiser for St. Clair County Historical Society
  • When: 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 12
  • Where: St. Clair County Country Club, 100 S. 78th St. in Belleville
  • Admission: $75 includes “A Magical Historia” performance by illusionist Joel Meyers, as well as dinner, an oral auction and wine pull
  • Reservations: Required by Friday
  • Information: Contact Will Shannon at 618-234-0600 or email to stcchs.curator@gmail.com
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