Famous Star Magician Steve Cohen on Enchanting Celebrities and Being Born Into the Business

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Guillermo Del Toro and Steve Cohen at Chamber Magic

Nico Moreno

Live magic is very much alive in New York!

Renowned magician and showman Steve Cohen is an enchanting part of the famed Lotte New York Palace Hotel, entertaining audiences in one of the venue’s intimate and elegant lounges with a dazzling live show, titled bedroom magic.

The show, presented weekly, features everything you’d expect from over an hour of live magic, including conjuring, mind reading, sleight of hand and some special tricks Cohen has in his sleeve. The evening transports audiences to the type of parlor entertainment popularized in early 20th century Manhattan.

Below, Cohen talks to PEOPLE about what attracts celebrities to a hit show, how he got into the world of magic, and what returning fans can expect.

You might find a celebrity in their audience

Cohen says he was “thrilled to see Stephen Sondheim in the audience” before the Broadway legend died. “He sat in the front row, and it was just a really exciting thrill,” Cohen recalled. “And then he kept sending all his theater friends over to see the show. John Williams, the composer of the star wars music. He came to the show twice. Guillermo del Toro, the director. He came to the show three times, then introduced me to Bradley Cooper, and then I did two scenes with Bradley Cooper in the last movie. alley of nightmares. Tracy Morgan bought the whole front row of the show at the Palace and he brought his whole family. And during the show, he was very vocal. He was throwing his hands in the air, punching the air, yelling things like, ‘This guy is better than Houdini.'”

Steve Cohen in Nightmare Alley

Steve Cohen in Nightmare Alley

Kerry Hayes

He comes from a family of magicians

“My great-uncle, my father’s uncle, was an amateur magician,” Cohen shares. “He was born in 1901 and when he was little he had seen all the magicians in New York and he thought it was a great hobby. He took it up as a hobby. Then when I was little , I was born in 1971, my uncle used to show me the tricks he learned over the years that he used to carry in his pockets, and something just popped into my mind, it’s my life’s work. And of course my parents wanted me to be a doctor, I became a magician.”

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Katie Couric and Steve Cohen at Chamber Magic

Katie Couric and Steve Cohen at Chamber Magic

Courtesy of Steve Cohen

Fate brought him to the Palace Hotel

After living and performing in Tokyo for five years, Cohen returned to New York to pursue his career as a magician. “I was really a starving artist at first,” he recalls. “And my wife and I were walking down Madison Avenue one day, and it sounds like a fairy tale, but it’s 100% true. And we stopped in front of the Palace Hotel. It was Christmas season, so they were giving out free xmas cookies in that yard which was closed when you came in. But it’s usually open when construction isn’t going on. They have a big yard where they were handing out xmas cookies, apple cider and hot chocolate. And I walked into this courtyard, and I looked around this beautiful mansion and I said, “One day I’m going to do my show here.” And of course, 20 years later I ended up doing my show there. And at the Palace, I’ve been there for five years. I was at the Waldorf Astoria for 17 years before that.

Renee Zellweger and Steve Cohen at Chamber Magic

Renee Zellweger and Steve Cohen at Chamber Magic

Courtesy of Steve Cohen

He likes the intimacy of a little show

While Cohen has performed in venues as large and esteemed as New York’s legendary Carnegie Hall, he particularly enjoys small stages where he can develop a connection with the audience. “I always thought it was important that the magician and the audience could see each other in the eye,” he shares. “And when you’re performing on a big stage, especially when there’s stage lighting, the magician really can’t see the audience’s eyes at all, because they’re shrouded in shadows. So part of the allure of a close up The magic show is that everyone has the chance to truly feel a personal connection with the performer When I’m on stage and I’m a few feet away from you it’s not even on stage. It’s more like you’re in my living room.”

Tracy Morgan and Steve Cohen at Chamber Magic

Tracy Morgan and Steve Cohen at Chamber Magic

Nico Moreno

His show is constantly evolving

“What I’ve found is that people come back, and they realize that it’s different every time and there’s an interaction that changes,” Cohen said of his show. “It’s like an improv comedy that way. People said, ‘Oh, I never see it twice, but I’ll come back and see it a second and a third time. One of the other good things is that because it’s been touring in New York for 22 years now, which means over 6,000 live performances, I have people who have come back and have may have seen the show when they were teenagers. 20 years later, they returned in their thirties. And that’s quite rewarding for me. One woman said to me, “I’ve thought about this show my whole life and wanted to come back as an adult.”

For tickets from bedroom magic, visit the show’s website.

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