“No matter how hard I strived to be a doctor or a lawyer, my parents always held out high hopes that I would become a starving entertainer . . . “
Those inclined to dismiss experience and competence against the backdrop of youth would mistakenly dismiss Bryan Gilles as a mere magical upstart. Looking past reflexive assumptions, however, one could just as easily find themselves dumfounded by the sheer knowledge of the art and its historical provenances possessed by such a comparatively young entertainer.
These characteristics alone separate Bryan from 95% of his contemporaries, whose primary magical tapestries began with the emergence of David Blaine and the advent of the “YouTube School of Magic.” As a rare, second-generation magician, who as a child saw countless sold-out stage shows and churches in his father’s gospel-themed act, Bryan was outfitted with the early tools and appreciations necessary to later work with some of today’s leading Las Vegas acts—with one-of-a-kind stage acts and white tigers to boot.
Bryan’s sense of presentational acumen comes as a result of both being born into a family of entertainers, and the fact that he had been a primary player in his father’s act from the age of five. In one seven month period, Bryan’s family toured twenty-seven states presenting the Gospel and illusions in churches, schools, community theaters, auditoriums and civic centers. Bryan’s father, Dave had himself been performing from the age of eight, and so passing on a generational itinerary and workload was not only a rite of passage—it was also tradition.
That tradition led to Bryan and his sister’s 1st place victory in a stage magic competition that same year.
Magic would become a centerpiece for Bryan through both elementary and high school—sometimes at the expense of studies and classroom cohesion. Magic’s innate ability to entertain peers also led to occasional consternation by teachers. “Detention,” recalls Bryan, “was merely another practice venue for me. It was just what I was studying and when I as studying it that was the problem.”
And study he did. While today’s Internet immediacy literally removes much of magic’s anticipatory wonder, Bryan had his father’s tapes—those of early legends such as Copperfield, Siegfried and Roy, Lance Burton, and the late Doug Henning. Practicing involved direct mimicry of these legends coupled with the secrets learned from his father. After countless hours along with just a few more years, Bryan knew that the road forward was actually backward. He began to study magic’s deep and rich history, and what made the illusionists from yesteryears so wonderful.
College was the only real hiatus, as academics temporarily displaced what was in reality, a lifestyle. Moving from California to Northern Idaho would solidify Bryan’s individual and unique approach to the art. Bryan’s quick wit and fast hands became a mainstay in the local magic shop, which also provided a steady array of spectators already inclined to enjoy his performances. This of course led to small engagements, parties and casual gatherings—venues whose fluidity and frequency have led to some of Bryan’s most solid performance pieces. Pieces he asserts will always be a part of his act.
In 2001, Bryan attended a show featuring another young magician as the headline act. Bryan attaches his decision to plow headlong into his own magical identity on this moment. “It was great to see someone—my age—making a name for themselves using magic as the platform.,” he says. “The great thing is, I’ve been in contact with him ever since, and it’s been great watching his career blossom.”
In 2007, Bryan had a rare opportunity to be grafted in to Las Vegas’ magical culture. Being in the employ of one of magic’s leading acts, Bryan diversified his talents as both an illusion technician to the show, as well maintaining the health and temperaments of some of the world’s rarest felines (to include a “Liger,” a half lion/half tiger amalgam seemingly ripped right out of the Napoleon Dynamite screenplay). And while a grueling six-day-a-week schedule that saw two shows each day was replete with the Vegas complement of beautiful dancers and giant illusions, it was working shoulder to shoulder with giant magical minds—those known in magic’s “inner circles” as the real geniuses, some of them very aged, but no less enthusiastic—that made it all worthwhile. “It was an experience I will never forget,” he says. “I learned so much and worked with so many dedicated and hard-working people.”
And hard work is exactly what Bryan brings to his art today, as he now calls Northern California his home yet again. Bryan continues to reach into his magical past using every experience—no matter how small— to fortify what he sees as magic’s ultimate future. And based upon Bryan’s unique blend of comedy and magic, the future looks bright. “I just have an inner drive to keep magic alive in the lives of others,” he says. “I hope that I can ignite a desire in others the way it was ignited in me by those that came before, and they would be inspired to carry on magic’s metaphorical torch.”