He holds séances and burlesque shows, and he can make you believe you're the one with magical powers, doing the tricks while he manipulates the cards. Fifteen years ago, he was Elias Caress, a software engineer working in a bank. He hated it. As nice as the money was, the job made him miserable, so he picked up some hobbies. A friend got him into magic, which he resisted at first, saying magic is for kids. Now he performs weekly as Lefty Caress (pictured above center, with assistants Celeste McCulley and "Shuffles"), at Slices Pizza (4655 S. 2300 East, 801-613-9901) on Tuesdays, and Hatch Family Chocolates (376 Eighth Ave., 801-532-4912) on Monday evenings. Visit EliasCaress.com for more showtimes.
Do you really possess magic?
Generally, it's considered immoral to leave someone with the impression that you have genuine powers. Every now and then, you can't expect to change someone's deeply held belief with just a quick census. If somebody, at the end, believes it to be real, then I did my job. At the end of a seance, though, I take them aside and tell them that it's fake. It's a terrible thing to see ghosts and stuff.
Where did "Lefty" come from?
Years ago, I had a cowboy event to do, and we had to think of a name quickly. I'm ambidextrous, but "Ambidextry" is not a good name. It's a little long. It doesn't roll off the tongue.
Why did you walk away from steady job security?
I would rather be bohemian and make less money and be happy than make good money and be miserable.
Do you have a mental flow chart to help you perform for different audiences?
I like to play to the audience. I try to appeal to them. Some of them are older people; some of them are college kids, and college kids require a certain type of performance. And children, obviously, require something different. That's the majority of my skill: playing to the audience.
In a corporate office, if I pull a quarter out of an executive's ear, he might genuinely be amazed by it—but he can't act like it, because he would feel silly and childish. He's got to be cool. So I have to play around that. If I were to do it, I might say, "That was silly. I can do something better." Or, I'll do something sophisticated that he would feel comfortable showing appreciation for.
College kids are basically children who are old enough to drink. All the children's tricks, you can do for college kids. You can pull quarters out of their ears, and as long as you drop an F-bomb every once in a while; they think it's great.
Do people try to figure out your tricks?
I have a flow chart for those people too. I can usually identify them early on. If they appear to be more cerebral or analytical, then I'll recognize that and change tactics. I even have math tricks. The analytic types love those.