In the mid 1980s, I was working the college circuit with my comedy magic act in Michigan. My intro music was playing and I was just about to go onstage, when one of the students in charge of the event approached me and whispered in my ear that Muhammad Ali was in the audience.
I laughed. I had heard Ali lived nearby and I knew he was a magician, but the thought that he would be watching me perform – as opposed to the other way around – just couldn’t happen.
Well, my intro music ended, the emcee said my name, and out I walked on stage. The crowd was large; the lights were bright. As the applause rang in my ears and my eyes adjusted to the glare, I looked out into the crowd and there he was… the greatest of all time.
I started my act, but for the first few moments of it, I was on auto-pilot. After countless years performing as a comedian and magician, there were very, very few things that could throw me off my game. From hecklers to drunks and beyond, I had dealt with it all… but this got me.
I was literally stunned. I had grown up watching this man do his “magic” in the ring. I had imitated his voice, his cadence, and I’d even thrown imaginary jabs at the mirror… just pretending. Now, here he was.
Somehow, I regained my senses and concentration to continue with my act. It was a great show! (And no, I didn’t use Ali to help me with any of my effects. In the past, other famous people had watched my show, and I had never felt right about calling on them to assist me on stage. Plus, I was in awe of the man!)
At the end of my performance, I shook hands with many in the audience as they began to leave, but, from the corner of my eye, I noticed Ali was not getting up.
As the crowd thinned, a man, who had been patiently waiting on the side, walked up to me and asked if I would like to meet Ali. I, of course, said “Yes!” The man then said, “Well, why don’t you come over to his house and meet him there? It’s just down the road.”
About 45 minutes later, I was driving my van up a long driveway. I parked, nervously walked up to the front door, and rang the bell. A moment later the door opened and that familiar voice said, “Why do you look so shocked? Who do you think was going to answer my door… a butler?”
It was Ali. He laughed at his comment and so did I. He ushered me into his home and for the next few hours we talked and performed magic. His lovely wife, Lonnie, brought us some refreshments and left the two of us to continue sharing some secrets and laughs.
Ali was funny, sharp and witty. With a twinkle in his eye, he would do a trick for me and then it was my turn.
He performed his famous “silk from an empty hand” and a few others. He watched me perform some close-up magic and asked questions about some of the sleight-of-hand that was involved in those effects. Side by side – he with his deck of cards and me with mine – we walked through a few classics of the art we both loved.
As the evening came to a close, he graciously allowed me to take a few photos – with Lonnie holding the camera. The photos have aged and, alas, so have we, but the memory of that night will never fade.
It was an evening of magic with the greatest of all time – Muhammad Ali.
Known as a guy who took a dream and turned it into reality, Bob Garner is a successful business person, author and funny motivational speaker who speaks for Fortune 1000 corporations on personal and professional development. BTW – Bob uses magic and comedy in his programs to reinforce specific points. Follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BobGarnerSpeaker
©2016Bob Garner. All Rights Reserved. You may use this article, but you must use the byline and author resource. Contact Bob Garner at http://www.bobgarneronline.com .