I grew up in New Jersey. My mom was in insurance, and my dad owned a men's clothing store.
Before I was in my teens, I thought it would be cool to become a ventriloquist.
It turned out that this place sold props for ventriloquists was also a magic shop. So instead of walking out with a dummy, I ended up with a bag of tricks. I started doing little shows in my home town.
When I was 18 I got this part in a musical called "The Magic Man." I got to do my own illusions and sing. The longer the play ran, the more illusions I performed, and the less songs they wanted me to do. I guess I wasn't cut out to be a singer.
When the show closed, I starved in New York for a year, and my dad would slip me a few bucks to pay the heating bill. I sat in my apartment inventing magic, finding the right music, and staging routines. I knocked on a lot of doors and sent out a lot of video tapes. One day I got a phone call to be the host of a TV show. I was 19, and I couldn't believe it.
My first few specials were to music by Gershwin. My inspirations were Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. I though I was really cool. I wore big collars, shiny jackets, and a bad haircut.
On my fourth special, I wanted to go beyond the normal number. So I took that shiny jacket and that bad haircut and made an airplane disappear.