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A Glimpse of Magic in Sugar House

Apr 08, 2016 09:56AM ● Published by Bryan Scott

Elizabeth Suggs | elizabeth.s@mycityjournals.com

Sugar House - On Tuesdays at the restaurant Mellow Mushroom, entertainer and magician Elias “Lefty” Caress performs magic with his esteemed assistant, Celeste McCulley. 

This is a second time Caress and McCulley have performed at Mellow Mushroom, after taking a break from performing at another restaurant. 

“The last venue was a problem,” Caress said. “The place was much smaller, but I loved the owner.” 

Caress didn’t always know he’d get into the field of magic. In fact, five years ago his life was different. He worked as an engineer and to ensure he kept his sanity kept intact, he started playing around with magic as a hobby. 

“I needed to have hobbies to keep myself sane,” Caress said. “So, I learned creative things: how to juggle, magic, sideshow stunts and fire tricks.” 

The sideshow tricks include how to hammer a nail into his nose, which he learned from a chiropractor. Caress also learned how to walk on broken glass and lie on a bed of nails. Walking on broken glass, according to Caress, could be described as similar to walking on fire coals — it hurts.

Fire breathing was also one of his many hobbies that he built up. However, since he’s grown his magician-styled beard and mustache, he has stopped that. 

But it wasn’t until he made the leap of faith to start performing at venues, as well as quit his job as an engineer, that he made magic a full-time gig. He even works as a voice actor at Mystery Escape Room, but neither that nor Mellow Mushroom are what he considers full time. It’s the events and shows that keep his income steady. 

“I make enough money in December from holiday events to ride out the slow season, which we’re in now,” Caress said. “Then I go through summer to make enough money to live off through the slow months before the holidays. It’s a cycle.” 

Caress uses gigs like Mellow Mushroom as an outlet for his talents. He takes these opportunities to practice things he wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to practice at venues or live shows, such as new magic card tricks. 

This is also the time for Caress’ assistant McCulley to either assist Caress or practice her own techniques, like balloon animals and dresses. 

About four years ago, McCulley started learning the art of balloon making. It started after a year of helping Caress street perform. 

“I thought, ‘What can I do to keep the line coming?’” McCulley said. “Because Elias wouldn’t do it, I thought, ‘I’ll do balloons.’” 

McCulley regularly attends a once-a-month group called Balloon Jam. She also learns from a mentor who helps her design balloon creations, from simple animals to Cinderella with her long blue dress and blonde hair. 

Like Caress, however, McCulley works with multiple types of performing arts. Not only does she assist magicians and create balloon creations, but she also hula hoops, belly dances, does AcroYoga — which is a partner yoga — as well as clowning, burlesque and poi. 

Similar to Caress, she’s also learned to fire eat and still performs with it, since a beard is something she doesn’t have to worry about. 

McCulley’s fire talents have even led her to the big screen in the movie “The Lone Ranger” with Johnny Depp. During the audition she shot confetti, ate fire, did silk bands and even lay on a bed of nails and had Caress jump over her as she was lying down. 

“Watching everyone at the audition was like watching the best show,” McCulley said. “There were so many different things. Every circus performer you could think of was there.” 

After she was picked, McCulley and six other people were sent down to New Mexico for the shoot, which was done only at night from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.

“I was the queen of fire,” McCulley said. “I had this crazy outfit with this crazy wig.”    

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