"My First Break In Magic."
by Tony Hassini
At age 16, I realized that I had to get out of the Island of Cyprus. This island was going through internal wars, first with the Greeks and the British, then with the Turks and the Greeks. We lost our home and ended up in a refugee camp. And the economy of the island was terrible.
Working through odd jobs, such as shining shoes, washing cars, and everything in between, I saved enough money to purchase a one-way ticket on a cargo ship from Cyprus to England. There, through my Cypriate connections, I got a job in a Cypriate restaurant as a dishwasher by day and taking English classes at night.
After six months of washing dishes and cleaning floors, my lucky day was when I accidentally stopped at a magic shop on the way to my job. I walked into the magic shop and the demonstrator behind the counter sold me my first trick, The Acrobatic Matchbox (this is the trick where you put a matchbox on the back of your hand and the matchbox comes alive, moving forward, standing up, and opening). I was so thrilled with this trick that I forgot about the job. I went back home to my little room and practiced the trick for 5 1/2 hours. Then I went back to the magic shop again and purchased my second trick, The Vanishing Lit Cigarette (this is the trick where you borrow a lit cigarette, place it into your fist, close your fist, blow on it, and the cigarette disappears). I went back home again and practiced the tricks until midnight.
The next morning, I went to the magic shop and began showing off my new tricks to the clerk, as I told him, "Look how well I'm doing these tricks! Is there a chance I can get a job here in the magic shop?" At that moment, a older gentleman who was setting up the cash register asked me, "Why do you want to work in a magic shop?" I thought to myself, "Well, this is an older guy. He must be the boss." And yes it was. He was the famous Tony Corinda, the owner of the magic shop and author of the famous book '13 Steps To Mentalism.'
I looked at Tony Corinda and I said, "I just bought these tricks yesterday and look how well I'm doing! I love magic! And I will work here seven days a week with no salary, just room and board." Well, timing truely is everything. At the time, it was two and a half months before Christmas. Tony Corinda needed extra help in the back room to maufacture and package the tricks for his other magic shops. So he hired me and gave me an opportunity of a lifetime where I can learn every trick and meet famous (as well as not-so-famous) magicians when they visited the shop.
My first day in the magic shop was an experience that probably laid the path for my future in magic. Tony Corinda wanted to test me whether I really loved magic or just did it simply to pay my bills. So he told me that I had to clean several stock rooms. As I was cleaning one of the rooms, I found a five pound note (which in those days was worth $20 US dollars). The five pound note was under the shelves covered with spider webs and dust. Clearly, whoever lost it didn't miss it, since it was there for a long time. I took the five pound note and put it into my pocket and began daydreaming about all the things I could do with the money. But as soon as these thoughts went through my mind, the guilt began to sink in. Here was a man who gave me an opportunity of a lifetime. And I should be ashamed of myself for putting the money in my pocket. So I took the money and went to the showroom, where I handed the five pound note to Tony Corinda. I told him I found it in the stockroom that I was cleaning. He had a good belly laugh. Then he took an envelope from his breast pocket and told me to open the envelope. In the envelope, there was a piece of paper with these words written on it: "I was testing you. Congratulations! You passed the test! The serial numbers of the five pound note are..." I looked at the serial numbers on the five pound note and they matched the ones written on Tony Corinda's message.
From that day on, Corinda knew that I loved magic and that he could trust me. He took me under his wing. Not only did he teach me magic, he taught me a lot of common sense, as well as business sense.