Q & A WITH MISTY
A Magician and ‘Professional Creeper,’ Misty Lee thrills audiences with her bold wit and tendency to walk on the dark (and wild) side. Here’s an exclusive Q & A with Misty, Magic’s Malevolent Mistress.
Photo by Kevin McShane
Who are some of your favorite magical performers?
Oh, there are SO many: Derren Brown, Teller, Max Maven, Bizzaro, Jonathan Pendragon, Richiardi, Leo Kostka, Sylvester the Jester, Ricky Jay, Richard Turner, Michael Weber, Kevin James, Jeff McBride, Andy Nyman… the list goes on and on. They’re all completely different, but each has that perfect mix of technical know-how, creativity, and solid essence. Elvira, too – she’s not a magician per se, but seeing her transition from Cassandra to Character is a remarkable illusion. She’s also super nice. I just love her.
Why do you think people are so drawn to spirituality and the occult?
People think secrets are sexy, because their access is limited, and their content is often taboo. Occult fascination, I think, comes from narcissism – our desire to learn more about ourselves. Science says we only use a small percentage of our brain – what’s the rest of it for? If we unleash that, can we fly? Are these signs and symbols the key to unlocking that demon or potential? Magic, particularly the dark kind, bridges our history and our future – it implies a way of probing the mysterious, unconscious parts of our brains – a way of understanding. There are hedonism, fetish, and wish-fulfillment aspects which make the Occult appealing too, but that’s a different interview. *eyebrow wiggle, grin*
What’s the best way to make people afraid?
Threaten to take away what matters to them. Make them mad, then render them powerless. Make them believe they’re in danger of losing something valuable – life, love, status, or even rattling their mores and values – and they’re terrified. Even just the thought of that loss is often unsettling. I’d wager you thought of something immediately. *eyebrow up* What are YOU afraid of losing?
What’s the strangest thing to occur during one of your séances?
I saw a figure in a long, red and black executioner’s robe standing at the table during one of my performances. I thought it was our Tech Wizard, Tom, and was both disappointed he’d chosen not to terrify anybody with his unexpected presence and also impressed he had managed to sneak in—and then out again—during the dark part of the séance without letting the light into the room. After the show, I teasingly called Tom out about wasting what could’ve been a terrifying opportunity, and he said he hadn’t been in there with us after all. Here’s the freaky part: when I mentioned the shadowy presence to my guests, one of them said he had seen the figure in the black and red cloak before—in fact, it’s been hanging around him most of his life! Neat, eh?
Have you ever encountered a ghost?
A few days after my dear friend (and former Voice of the Magic Castle) Mark Nelson passed away, I felt what could only be described as a cold hug. It wasn’t unpleasant or scary, just… familiar, and odd. Always a skeptic, I said out loud, “Mark, you know I don’t believe in this stuff – if you want acknowledgement, you’re gonna have to prove this is really you.” Within 30 minutes, I got a call from the Magic Castle Board of Directors, offering me the job as the new Voice of the Magic Castle. Still an ardent skeptic, but that was delightfully creepy.
That’s not the only Mark-thing that happened, either. While sorting his estate, they found some Christmas gifts under his tree. His gift to me was ‘The Uncanny Scot’ – a book by magician Ron Wilson, whom Mark had been pestering me to put into the Castle Séance. I’m still convinced Mark was micromanaging me from the Beyond. Love him anyway, but geez, man – let it go. *grin* (Ron is in the Séance now, by the way, so Mark did win the battle.)
Whose ghost would you most love to meet?
I’d love to sit at the Algonquin Round Table when in it was in full swing and silently exchange silly faces (Gookies!) with Harpo Marx while the brilliants flex their wits around us. Would also love to watch Charlie Chaplin direct (and chat story structure with him), and pick Houdini’s brain about image and marketing. *grin again*
Why do you think Houdini is still such a fascinating figure today?
Houdini was such a powerful presence that he managed to keep his name both relevant and in the papers well after he died. He created a tremendous mythology that endures to this day. I mean, come on – the dude and twelve other people had their photo taken with Teddy Roosevelt, and Harry made sure he stood next to Teddy, and then HAD THE OTHER ELEVEN PAINTED OUT so his version of the shot was just Harry and the President. That’s a magician and a marketing genius at work. He was an egomaniac, but he was absolutely brilliant. We have that photo in the Séance Room at the Magic Castle. Come see it!
What’s it like being the first female staff medium at Magic Castle? Why do you think all the previous mediums have been men?
It’s an honor and a tremendous responsibility. There are so few females in magic in general, and next to none of them are both weird like me and capable of creating their own magic effects (something both the show and the room demands), so the job definitely sharpens my desire to deliver high-quality performances and just do good work. It’s also AWESOME, because now I have a reason for ‘Magic Creeper’ playdates with Leo Kostka and Max Maven, two of my ‘Dark Arts’ mentors and all-time favorite close up magicians (and people)!
Why have the previous Staff Mediums have all been guys? Well, I think it’s a tough room and role to carry – especially for a woman. You’ve got to entertain (and handle) twelve (sometimes drunk) people who are RIGHT in front of you (and then bound together in a jet black room) for almost an hour, so for me the job is part close-up magician, part story-teller, part Meanie, and part Mommy, with a streak of other-worldly Danger to keep them on their toes. I’m like a Scary Mary Poppins, and I’m the only female magician I know with enough brass and bold to pull it off. I’ve also got heavy theater training, lots of Improv experience, and a background in psychology, ALL of which I’ve needed in this show. Also, without an inherent understanding of drama, the show would fall completely flat. It’s a wonderful but difficult job to have, and it’s VERY tough to do it well.
On that note, they call you a Human Lie Detector. How do you know if someone’s lying?
First, you need a baseline to determine normal behavior for that particular person, then you look for triggers, spikes, and signs of deviance from that baseline – like shifting into closed-off body language (crossed arms), flashing a revealing microexpression, or exhibiting duper’s delight (hint of a smile when telling a lie). It’s not as easy as it sounds. I trained with a CIA ‘Truth Wizard’, members of the Scotland Yard, and former ATF agents. Their methods (which I can’t disclose here) are brilliant, and they work.
What do you love about doing voice work for cartoons and video games?
I love not having to put on stage makeup or haul props for work. Those things are fun, but you do need a break from them now and then. A voice actress’ costume is her vocal cords. You don’t have expressions, movement, clothes, or props to rely on. All you have is your voice and your acting.
What do you think separates a good magician from a mediocre or bad one?
Consideration of the audience. A good magician sees herself as a tour guide instead of a destination. It’s not about what they think of YOU – it’s how you make (or help) them feel.
Next, read testimonials from some of professional magician Misty’s audience members and clients.