The Mystery, The Energy

The set-up sounded preposterous. the audience held its collective breath. Unwrapping a brand new deck of cards. a willing spectator was asked to merely think of a card and keep its identity a secret — that is. Then. he tossed a pillow into the crowd.By Gabe Fajuri As he launched the deck of cards toward the ceiling. teetering somewhere on the brink between belief and disbelief. the magician PHOTO: MICHAEL CAIRNS . The magician strode out onto the platform and suggested the impossible. until the deck was airborne. After a few more throws to ensure a random selection.

He’s at home as a performer under nearly every circumstance. right? HOLD THAT THOUGHT… Kostya Kimlat. was born in Kiev. already he’s able to build tension. as he became a teenager. Florida area with his parents. Ukraine in 1983. the deck flew from his hand. when Kostya was three years old. but also made an easily searchable. he’d started an on-line magic newsletter. at the age of 9. It was about that time. headed on a quick upward trajectory toward the ceiling some 30 feet away. and stun spectators with the ability of a seasoned professional. the thought-of pasteboard would stick itself to the ceiling! Eat your heart out. sister. he started working. and grandmother in 1992. They also wanted to raise their children in a country where their religion — Judaism — would never be drawn into question. It was through that newsletter he met San Francisco magician PHOTO: MICHAEL CAIRNS . in any surrounding — on the trade-show floor. Additional inspiration came in the form of all eight volumes of the Tarbell Course in Magic. Shortly thereafter. At 22 years old. And his date book isn’t just full of lectures for the local IBM ring or the occasional $50 birthday party. He’s a full-time worker with a full calendar. lecturing or performing to magicians — whatever the situation. kiosks. On the count of three. that Kostya was bitten by the magic bug after watching Jeff McBride and Bill Malone on The World’s Greatest Magic. it’s dotted with corporate shows and walk-around gigs as much as it includes engagements in front of the magic-minded masses. “Six of Spades!” This has to be a gag. his first name pronounced Coast-ah. the chosen-at-random spectator called out in a voice loud enough for the audience of 300 to hear it clearly. performing for the first time at a restaurant at the age of 14. personalized index of. Kostya immigrated to the Orlando. It wasn’t long before he cut his teeth as a demonstrator in various tourist magic shops.promised. At the same moment. By the time Kostya was a freshman in high school. No one seemed to believe what was happening. cozying up to a table at a restaurant. Michael Ammar. This must be a gag. create moments. Why? Because he is a seasoned professional. and destinations in and around the Orlando area. granting quick access to his favorite effects. the family fled their home when the nuclear plant accident struck. Kostya was the first child in two generations of his family to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah publicly. His parents wanted to raise their children away from communism and away from Chernobyl where. The Magic Express. which he not only devoured.

Kostya suddenly realized that he’d forgotten to reverse the pack. His mentor. coupled with visiting lecturers like Guy Hollingworth and Chris Power. Al Sharpe. You can’t help but be impressed by a 20something who loudly and proudly acknowledges the rich history that inspires. Reds separate from blacks. When the audience volunteer is asked if the selected cards mean anything to him.” The question is: what does a 17-year-old kid know about magic? What can he teach someone in a lecture? Enter the Roadrunner Cull. “It was the search for them that was of the utmost importance. and Jim Swain. He then asks if the letters and numbers that the spectator’s pen passed • M AGIC january 2006 53 . including a 25-hour ride from Richmond. also fanned the flames. In his lecture notes. he says. goes nuts. was something of an adventure. who invited Kostya to lecture at his Phoenix Kostya’s love of ideas. Dai Vernon appeared on his literary horizon. The crowd. his time — his free time. devised the bare bones of what is one of the most astonishing versions of Vernon’s classic ever devised. All of the cards are face up. not to mention his genuine attraction to and ability to interact with his crowds. fuels. Kostya spent Gathering convention later that year. all the while. Instead of driving or flying from place to place. Bill Malone. Kostya then invites the spectator to go wild. At the age of 15 Kostya found himself doing walk-around magic for five hours a day at a 21-screen movie theatre opening in Orlando. Running through all of the cards in no more than 10 or 12 seconds. and further inspiration. I gained respect not only for magic. Kostya took the next logical step any other magic-minded teenager would have taken: he delivered his first lecture. make up the digits of his phone number! Not bad — for starters. getting paid for it. “Whenever I wanted to travel to a magic convention. at the same time. Chad Long. seven cards are produced. the spectator shuffles the pack. face up and face down. information. The secret to this miracle of near-biblical proportions? What Kostya discovered that afternoon with Stripper Deck in hand was that he’d refined the traditional Hofzinser Spread Cull to such a fine degree — modifying it to suit his own purposes — and created The Roadrunner Cull. are what make his performances transcend the ordinary. but what to read and how to think. Then read it again. though he wears a slight grin in anticipation of the eye-popping finale that’s about to come. “Uncovering the methods behind those effects was the least important part. Kostya spreads the pack between his hands. Kostya squares it up and quickly recaps the situation. In less than a quarter of a minute. Read the following description. and motivates the magic he performs. As long as I called home. Virginia to Peoria. Illinois. Jon and Kostya met and talked at Magic on the Beach. that is — soaking up magic in every possible form. and returned to the pack. Walt Anthony. stripping the face-up and face-down cards apart with one deft move. and Eddie Fields. but also for teaching and learning. and on summer vacations. away from high school. there was never any question that they’d let me go — alone. ending each evening with a movie. things couldn’t get any better: he was doing magic. In Kostya’s mind. For good measure. Then they’re mixed together face up and face down. It is this good. The mystery Racherbaumer brought to Kostya was translated into energy in the form of his personal search for answers.” Kostya says. shuffles.Walt Anthony. After mixing the pack. and the movies were free. His first lecture tour. not only about what to perform. And this kid is this good. Then. the two stay in touch and Kostya cites him as a major influence in his growth as a performer and as a person. things changed when a meeting with Jon Racherbaumer in 1996 opened his eyes to a maxim that colors his work to this day. On occasion. He’d typically perform a Triumphlike effect with the shaved cards. and so did Paul Harris. he was instilled with a sense of enthusiastic reverence for his forebears. who suggested different ideas to Kostya. “My parents have always been very supportive. It was at that point that Kostya was devastated by two card tricks Jon performed — tricks that would send him searching for answers in the works of Ed Marlo. where the mishmash of backs and faces are further mixed. The cards are dovetailed together in the usual fashion.” he asks the spectator to make random marks with a pen on a piece of paper on which Kostya has written out the alphabet and the digits one through nine. By the age of 17. Once the spectator is satisfied with the altered state of the deck. one that would last for the next year and a half. except for one: the spectator’s selection.” Kostya’s eyes were opened to the magic world at large and. blocktransfer work. a card is selected. the Roadrunner Cull allows Kostya to cull multiple cards incredibly quickly. which he booked on his own by simply calling up one magic club after another. He was forced to think quickly. While demonstrating the finer points of a Stripper Deck at one of Orlando’s magic shops. is completely hands-off. Then. He took dozens of routes from city to city. As if guided by Vernon himself. Kostya’s close-up shows often involve petty larceny. he served as an assistant to John Calvert. and of magic. too. the spectator does all of the shuffling. Finally. and thousands of thoughts that still inspire me to create to this day. that is. with no strip-outs. and with no fishy funny stuff. had booked him for the Oakland 75th Anniversary Convention and introduced him to Alain Nu.” explains Kostya. hundreds of methods. Both for magicians and lay-audiences. It happens faster than you can believe. In that time. Nothing could be more certain. with those varied experiences under his belt. they were happy to hear of my adventures on the road. In that year and a half I slowly came to hundreds of ideas and conclusions. and through the literature in general. PREPARE TO BE CULLED For the next two years. Racherbaumer phrased it simply and succinctly: mystery is energy. The pack is tossed on the table or floor. a sense that’s apparent whenever he discusses their magic or his. Kostya will invite a prominent spectator to assist in a card effect. in fact. the trick is referred to as Cull-igula. To this day. The Hardcore Triumph. As usual. To follow up that strange “coincidence. For one month. there’s no question that the cards have been hopelessly mixed together. and in the process. too: The set-up is extremely fair. no matter what the condition of the cards. they are revealed to. All of them. wherever it happens to have congregated on this particular occasion. a convention held in Florida. noted. and under the guise of what appears to be a casual stroll through the pack. Kostya. the pack has miraculously righted itself. Face-up cards melt apart from the face-down ones. In fact. Meetings with Florida magicians like Paul Cummins. Kostya made the trip by Greyhound bus. Not this time. of history.

the kid has corporate clients. and he has wowed the magic set with them at events like Fechter’s. and SunTrust Bank. performing his first show.” he says. the kid works trade shows. He graduated from walk-around gigs and family shows to corporate cocktail parties and trade shows. The Virtual Magician. ever-evolving stand-up show include classics from Malini. After hitting the magic circuit and lecturing. preparing for his famous license plate miracle. However. working at conventions. The spectator is usually at a loss. two areas of his business he continues to develop. All of these. before he got too far down the turnpike. NEW TRICKS. it was discovered that the client had driven off. So.through hold any significance to him. and MAGIC Live!. designed illusions for a dance company. tricks that he has used successfully in closeup settings. including his Cull-igula Triumph and the license plate trick. Kostya has traveled the country working for clients that include Absolut Vodka. Yes. IBM. and yes. RaceTrac. In one instance. In the last two years. and Corinda. entering contests. “I’m surprised how well some of my close-up effects work on stage. his work for the lay public includes a wide range of material. the prediction turns out to be the license plate of the volunteer in question. which has been sitting on the table throughout the lecture. and Hank Lee have all fallen victim to the license plate trick. and last year he made an appearance with Marco Tempest in an episode of his TV program. Tarbell. in an effort to jog their memories. and publishing his effects. are carefully interwoven with material that Kostya has developed on his own. Yes. Luckily. Along the way. YOUNG DOG All of this gushing about Kostya’s finger flinging in the cull department shouldn’t lead readers to believe that he’s merely a one-hit wonder. after the plate had been stolen off the car of a corporate client. This month he’s [Top] Kostya caught in the act. sealed in gift-wrap. and has had his hands featured in a nationally televised calling-card commercial. 54 MAGIC • january 2006 . often find their way into his real-world work. Kostya was able to reach him via cell phone and coax him back to the show. none the wiser that the plate was gone. David Oliver. Other favorites of his ever-changing. removed off the back of their car! Bob Elliot. pasteboards are both his first love and his strong suit. At age 14 [above]. CVS Pharmacies. and more modern effects inspired by the likes of Eric Anderson and Barrie Richardson. Kostya brings into play a prediction. where he concluded the trick. Kostya amazing patrons at The Garlic [below] and posing with his latest book of lecture notes [facing page]. from closeup classics like the Chop Cup to a Mentalismheavy stand-up act geared toward corporate clients. When unwrapped. however. Kostya began building his client list. This means that card effects. he has consulted for theatre groups. and presenting his first lecture [left] just one year later. The Magic Castle.

“Okay. when I go on stage. Who could stick a thought-of card to the ceiling of a theatre with 300 well-posted magicians watching the proceedings? Apparently this young man was about to do it — or he was putting everyone on. Yes. theology. the genuine smile and joie de vive emanating from him while delving into philosophy. or any of the other varied topics he touches on while discussing card tricks. and then scanned the eyes of the crowd. But no less important was his manner. But the gentlemanly part of his personality. It’s a philosophy that seems simple enough to write about. “Wait. as a spectator like him because he likes you. Each card was in place. handing them to the spectator. releasing the built-up tension. already in his career. a smile came over his face and you could sense an idea had materialized. are what make his performances transcend the ordinary. The same went for the Clubs and the Diamonds. too — very strong. “When I first decided to perform professionally. creating not just new magic and sales presentations. And when he’s not on the road. he came to the Spades. and of magic. Kostya picked the deck up from the floor and took off the rubber band holding it together. ‘People like to feel they’ve been fooled by a gentleman. Or had it? Kostya stared at the card. he performs at The Garlic. as this clearly had been a put-on. family-owned Italian restaurant in New Smyrna Beach. The card looked down on them for the rest of the show. doesn’t come across as mere patter or part of a script. As the deck thumped against the ceiling and fell toward the floor. he will continue to share his thoughts and his magic with the magic fraternity.” Then. where he both lectured and performed in front of 30 members of the glitterati. that indeed only one card was missing from the pack – the Six of Spades. in new deck order. You. To say that the group of magic celebrities was impressed with Kostya’s work would be a gross understatement. The crowd was convinced that the six was stuck up there. it’s the most pure and wonderful experience. And for his audiences. house parties. What Kostya had proposed. For Kostya. You will act as the eyes of the audience. And if time allows. the magic is strong. Yet Kostya. Everyone breathed a deep sigh of relief. looked at the spectator. x M AGIC • january 2006 55 PHOTO: MICHAEL CAIRNS . and yet the mystery remained. but he’s also learning how to think. When it comes to running with the right crowd. magically speaking. He ran through the first block of cards. At the same time. “Now I’ve found that although I spend a large portion of my week taking care of business.working at the Magic Castle and will lecture at the inaugural Session Convention in England. As Leipzig used to say. But it was stuck with its face toward the ceiling. where’s the deck? We never shuffled the deck! Sir. Florida. and the technical foundation he bases his tricks on is strong. Kostya was invited to 31 Faces North. a playful reminder that the beauty of magic is in mystery. He hopes to find a quiet time in the near future where he can perform art for art’s sake and develop this show outside of a business environment. Penn & Teller. He’s neither cloying nor arrogant. Not even with the most complicated of apparatus (unless a gaffed ceiling were involved). That is the Six of Spades. he’s in good company. art. you have to believe me. Finally. could such an impossibility come to pass. and was apparently going through with. has learned this lesson well. but entire marketing campaigns for his clients. The crowd exploded with laughter. that the unknown can be both captivating and entertaining. They were all there.” says Kostya.” John Carney echoed Maven’s thoughts: “I was impressed with his clear effects and clean routining. There was a solitary pasteboard stuck up there. that mystery is highly contagious. a beautiful.” Recently influenced by Juan Tamariz. he’s also getting ready for another busy season of trade shows. where I think of nothing but the moment at hand. Kostya’s love of ideas. The audience erupted in a burst of applause and cheers. but isn’t nearly as easy to put into practice. and numerous musical and theatrical acts. please come up here and help me out. that mystery is his energy. His sincere enthusiasm demonstrated what Max Maven likes best about him: “Kostya has chops. as the crowd had both been hoping and dreading. seemed to be the ultimate effect.” With that.’” Carney’s sentiment is perhaps the best way to describe the manner in which Kostya goes about fooling a crowd. The following months are already filled with corporate events and a host of stand-up engagements. the Hearts. it became obvious. I was afraid it would become too much of a job and I would get burned out. He spread through them slowly — too slow for any funny business — and revealed. This past summer in Toronto. not to mention his genuine attraction to and ability to interact with his crowds. AND NOW BACK TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED CARD ON CEILING… It seemed ludicrous to the crowd that the trick had gone this far. of history. He genuinely connects with people. Kostya is writing his oneman show.

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