Lance Burton

After 30 years of doing magic, Burton is about to disappear from the stage. We talked to him about his start, his legacy and how Las Vegas has changed.

It was a volunteer performance at age 5 that set Lance Burton on his path to becoming a magician. The young Burton was called onstage, had quarters pulled from his ears and was hooked. Less than 15 years later, and with numerous magic awards to his credit, Burton first performed onstage in Las Vegas in Folies Bergere. The young magician made quite an impression in Las Vegas, and in 1996 began what would become a 14-year run for Lance Burton: Master Magician in his very own Lance Burton Theatre at the Monte Carlo.

Burton has established himself as one of the world’s top magicians, performing for heads of state and being named Best Magician and Best Entertainer in local polls. Although Burton’s show ended with a farewell performance Sept. 4, he plans to continue performing magic and dedicating time to catching up on his neglected TiVo.

What are your thoughts about leaving the show?

It’s kind of bittersweet, I guess. We had a great run there. We’ve done over 5,000 shows there and we’ve had over 5 million people come in to see the show, and we’ve been there 14 years at the Monte Carlo, so I think that’s the record.

What do you love about magic?

I started doing magic when I was a kid and the first time I saw a magic show I was 5 years old and that’s all I ever wanted to do. I just didn’t understand why everyone wasn’t doing magic.

Do you have a favorite trick you perform?

That’s kind of like asking a parent who their favorite child is. All of the tricks in the show I like or I wouldn’t put them in the show. But if I had to pick I think I like the audience participation the best because that’s always different every night and always surprising because they don’t always react the same.

How has entertainment in Las Vegas changed?

My first job was at the Tropicana Hotel. I opened there on May 20, 1982, and I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. There’s a lot more people coming to Vegas, there are more hotels, there are more shows and there are more things to do. I think it’s gotten more diverse over the years. Back 30 years ago you had the French revue shows like the Folies Bergere, which was the first show that I was in, and then you had the headliners like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Wayne Newton, and that was pretty common. Now, it’s become much more diverse. You still have revue shows and headliners, and you have magic shows, then you have the Cirque shows and you have shows that are kind of hard to categorize, like Blue Man Group.

Who are your favorite performers?

There are a lot of great magicians. There’s Penn & Teller, Mac King and Criss Angel. Clint Holmes has always been one of my favorites; he’s a fantastic performer. Wayne Newton, I love seeing his show. I try to go see him every few years. There’s some great comedy shows like the Amazing Johnathan. I love the Blue Man Group. This is probably the best time to see shows in Las Vegas there’s just so much to choose from.

What’s your craziest performance story?

Everything you can imagine has happened. I’ve had ducks jump into the audience and I had to stop the show and go get them. I’ve split my pants a couple of times. I’ve fallen down. I broke a bone in my foot last year. That was the worst thing, I think. We’ve had people have heart attacks in the audience. We got rained-out one day; I couldn’t leave my house because of the floodwaters. The sound system went out one time. We got almost to the end of the show and for some reason the entire sound system crashed so we had no music and no microphone. We just got down to the last number and so the show sort of ground to a halt and my sound man was frantic trying to get it back up. I said, “Rob don’t you have the music on a CD?” We brought out a boom box and we set it on the front of the stage and my sound man sat there and put the CD on and hit play, so there’s a thousand people watching the last number and we had a boom box sitting on the front of the stage. We finished the show, and everyone was happy.

What will your legacy be?

I have no idea. I guess I would like people to say that Lance was a good magician and he entertained people and tried to make people happy.

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