Frank Balzerak won’t pull a rabbit out of a hat, but he’ll easily hoodwink unsuspecting diners and party-goers with his sleight-of-hand skills and his engaging sense of humor.
The 54-year-old professional magician specializes in up-close magic tricks that are quick-paced and interactive, often leaving people asking, “How’d you do that?”
The Windsor resident brings his talents to bookings across the Bay Area but spends much of his time entertaining at local restaurants, where he brings his act from table to table.
Smartly attired but without the traditional magician’s top hat, Balzerak randomly grabs a butter knife from a setting and uses it to conjure up a stream of coins; a piece of notepaper spotted at another table is deftly folded into origami that becomes a $100 bill.
“It can feel like real magic,” Balzerak said of his intimate illusions. “It’s nothing short of real magic.”
Balzerak is a master of card tricks, rope tricks and disappearing-ball tricks, all performed within a few feet or even just inches of his audience. He likes to chat and occasionally pulls out a magic wand, but he won’t use conventional storytelling, gimmicks or lead-up techniques with his tricks.
“I like to blur the line between where reality ends and magic begins,” he said.
The big stage has little appeal for Balzerak, who makes his living in smaller settings entertaining people of all ages. He’s played Las Vegas and larger venues across the country before, but says they’re just not his style.
“I hear weekly, ‘Why aren’t you in Vegas?’ and I always come back with, ‘Have you been to Vegas?’ ”
Balzerak prefers the intimacy of local restaurants and taverns, where he typically works four gigs per week. He relies on word-of-mouth referrals and doesn’t advertise beyond his web page.
Balzerak has done everything from kiddie parties and winery functions to trade shows, conventions and business meetings for a long list of Fortune 500 companies.
Clients include celebrities, politicos and everyday people who want to add some fun and humor to holiday gatherings or special events.
He enjoys Grad Night celebrations for high school seniors, sometimes his toughest audience but always among the most appreciative of seeing their friends duped.
The late actor Robin Williams hired Balzerak for several private parties “and was very complimentary and very nice,” and bestselling author Danielle Steel has been a repeat client, he said.
Revealing her own sense of humor, the many-times-divorced author once quipped to Balzerak, “Can you add a little magic to my love life?”
The magician even managed to get some smiles from stoic Secret Service agents at a function in San Francisco hosted by former Secretary of State George Shultz and his wife Charlotte.
“People love Frank,” said Stevie Brunolli, a manager at Hopmonk Tavern in Sonoma, where Balzerak performs on Thursday nights. “With magic, you usually think it’s for kids but the grown-ups are the ones impressed with him. Man, he’s good. He’ll get you every time.”
No matter where he’s performing, Balzerak can work his magic to elevate moods, elicit laughter and leave people smiling.
“I can walk up and change someone’s day or week,” he said.
Balzerak says it was “divine intervention” when he discovered magic at age 9 or 10. He headed to the library for a magic book, feeding a passion that’s continued throughout his life. Even today, he’s still learning new tricks and adding variations to old ones.
Cal Fire findings on 12 Northern California wildfires
Those referred to the District Attorney indicate Cal Fire determined PG&E was in violation of state code.
Redwood fire (Mendocino County): 543 structures destroyed, 9 deaths, 36,523 acres burned. The fires started in two locations when trees or tree parts fell onto PG&E power lines.
Nuns, Norrbom, Adobe, Partrick & Pythian fires (Sonoma and Napa counties): 1,355 structures destroyed; 3 deaths, 56,556 acres burned (Sonoma and Napa counties); all but Nuns fire referred to District Attorney.
• Nuns: Broken top of a tree crashed into powerlines.
• Norrbom: Tree fell onto powerlines.
• Adobe: Tree fell into PG&E powerline.
• Partrick: Oak tree fell into PG&E powerlines.
• Pythian: The fire started with a downed powerline caused after PG&E tried to re-energize the line.
Atlas fire (Napa County): 783 structures burned, 51,624 acres burned, 6 deaths; referred to the District Attorney.
Sulphur fire (Lake County): 2,207 acres, 162 structures destroyed; referred to the District Attorney. Fire ignited when a PG&E power pole failed, causing power lines and equipment to contact the ground.
Pocket fire (Sonoma County): 6 structures destroyed, 17,357 acres burned; referred to the District Attorney.
37 fire (Sonoma County): 3 structures destroyed, 1,660 acres burned (Sonoma County). PG&E distribution lines started an electrical fire.
Blue fire (Humboldt County): 20 acres burned; referred to the District Attorney. A PG&E powerline conductor separated from a connector, causing the conductor to fall to the ground and start a fire.
Cherokee fire (Butte County): 6 structures destroyed, 8,417 acres burned. Fire started when tree limbs made contact with PG&E powerlines.
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here