Arts and Culture | Focus on Families

Grandparents sparked young magician’s global journey

Danny Cole will perform at Tucson’s Temple of Music and Art Dec. 28, 2013 with Tucson native Eric Buss and juggling champion Ivan Pecel.
Danny Cole will perform at Tucson’s Temple of Music and Art Dec. 28, 2013 with Tucson native Eric Buss and juggling champion Ivan Pecel.

Danny Cole has been performing magic since he was 10. Now, at 35, he has more than a dozen magic awards to his credit —starting with the Kleinman Award for Most Promising Young Magician at age 15 — and has performed all over the world, from Toledo, Ohio, to Taipei, Taiwan, from Austria to Hong Kong to Venezuela.

He’ll perform in Tucson later this month as part of a show called “Shenanigans: Comedy, Magic, and Mischief for the Whole Family” at the Temple of Music and Art.

Cole owes much of his success to his maternal grandparents, who piqued his interest in magic and were among his biggest supporters, he says, noting that “this magic thing isn’t always the most popular professional pursuit.”

But his grandparents, both Holocaust survivors, always loved magic. They especially liked going to Las Vegas to see Siegfried and Roy.

“I wouldn’t be as enthralled with magic if we hadn’t watched it together from an early age,” including shows on TV and live shows in Southern California, where Cole grew up. His grandfather even knew and taught him a few sleight-of-hand tricks.

His grandparents also instilled the value of hard work, Cole says, explaining that they came to the United States with nothing and started a purse manufacturing business. Whether it was handbags or illusions, they taught him that quality matters.

His parents were also supportive — a magician entertained at his Bar Mitzvah party — but they did insist he get a college education. He got a degree in politics, philosophy and economics from Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. Cole worked briefly in a law office and also tried the restaurant business, but “magic kept pulling me back,” he says, explaining that right after he graduated, he got a job performing for three months in Japan. “How do you pass that up?”

His act, he notes, is choreographed to music, with no speaking, giving him the freedom to perform anywhere.

It’s a freedom his late grandparents appreciated. They both came from the Hungarian/Czech border. His grandfather was in a labor camp, while his grandmother was sent to Auschwitz at 18. She lost all of her family except one brother. “My mom’s an only child, I’m an only child, so I think with that narrowing of the family, [my grandmother] really wanted me to be able to pursue my dreams.” Another possibility, Cole muses, is that because his grandmother lost such a crucial time in her life and was unable to pursue her youthful dreams, she lived vicariously through his success.

Whatever the reason, his grandparents gave him a safety net, says Cole. “When I needed to invest in new tricks, my grandparents were key,” he says, explaining that research and development of new illusions can get pricey. With his grandparents’ help, he says, he had the luxury of being able to make mistakes. “I knew I’d always be able to pay my rent.”

The “Shenanigans” show, which will be held on Saturday, Dec. 28 at 7:30 p.m., will also star Tucson native Eric Buss, who’s performed on “The Late Show with Dave Letterman” and “America’s Got Talent,” and Ivan Pecel, World Juggling Federation gold medalist, who’s been seen on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Tickets, $15 for adults and $10 for children, are available at