Anyone who has attended the Aquadettes’ Aqua Follies over the past five years will remember Jerry Langford, the master of ceremonies, who also happens to be a radio show host, an illusionist and a mentalist.
“They invited me to their show because of my radio work and my voice,” Langford said in a recent interview, his voice deep and resonant. “It feels natural for me to speak for the Aquadettes.”
Langford is the morning host at KSDW Radio in San Diego and Riverside County and K-Wave in Orange County. “Radio opened the door for me to do magic because I am also very creative,” he said.
To promote his radio shows, Langford set up booths at concerts, conferences, beach events and county fairs.
“I would stand in our booth and people would walk right by,” he said. “Then I thought of a creative way to make them stop by doing close-up magic (card tricks, sleight-of-hand) and kept expanding my repertoire.”
He learned his craft at online magic shops, hanging out with other magicians, learning and exchanging new tricks and approaches on how to present them.
“It started out as a hobby and is now a bigger business than my radio work,” he said.
Along with emceeing the Aqua Follies, Langford has done magic shows in the Village. His next one is for the Saddleback Church of Laguna Woods on Monday, Nov. 14. He’s up for hire for more events in the Village. Contact him at 949-292-2624 or [email protected] His website is jerrydoesmagic.com.
Langford, who can best be described as an extrovert driven by high-octane creativity, was more than happy to show off a few of the tricks up his sleeve at the 19 Restaurant recently.
In one trick – more mentalism than sleight-of-hand – he handed patron Julie Dickman a book of roughly 600 pages (“The End of the Hunt,” by Thomas Flanagan).
“Rifle through the pages randomly, see that it’s a real book, no tricks,” he told her. Then he asked her to pick any word out of the book, write it on a piece of paper and then crumple it up. Dickman watched as Langford did some writing of his own, coming up with the word “lead” – exactly the word she had picked out of the book.
In another trick, Langford asked this reporter some questions about pets – before correctly guessing the name of the reporter’s miniature schnauzer mix.
“This is actually more magical, more mentalist,” he said. “It packs a more powerful punch than pulling a dove out of thin air and requires no equipment.”
Langford starts his shows with stage magic to amp up the crowd and then circulates among the audience. He’s got enough tricks, he said, that he can do two or three shows without repeating any.
His audience has included people from every walk of life and all ages, from kids to seniors, and he tailors his material to keep them all enthralled.
“I’ve performed for groups from 50 to 200, altogether 3,000 to 5,000 people … I’ve lost count,” he said.
Venues are as varied — he’s played at churches, synagogues, corporate events, bank openings, city events in places like Fullerton and Laguna Niguel, everything from nightclub events to kids’ birthday parties.
“I don’t hesitate to include some corny jokes for families or events like Aquadettes,” he said. “I like to leave people smiling and laughing and trying to figure out how I did it.”
At the beginning of his magicianship, Langford traveled throughout California, he said, but found that transporting equipment proved a drawback.
“I do a lot of stuff with fire, and those materials couldn’t be brought on a plane, and it became too big a challenge to get equipment from one place to another intact,” he said.
These days, everything has to fit in his car. That switch, he recalled, led him to perform more mentalist demonstrations such as the book/word trick.
“Mentalism appears simple and straightforward, but it has power,” he said.
Some of his most memorable shows were the ones he performed in Tanzania, where one of his daughters once was a social worker.
“When my wife and I visited her, (the daughter) lined up magic shows in a prison for juveniles, a couple of schools, orphanages and even a village church. I was kept busy for two weeks,” Langford said. “She knew that I enjoy meeting and entertaining people, and she reminded everyone that (my) magic was not witchcraft but illusion. She told them in Swahili that illusion is a trick of the eyes.”
Langford, 63, was not to the manor but to the magic born, so to speak.
“I’ve led a pretty bizarre life. I drove limos and met celebrities and worked as a stand-up comedian,” he said. “I had left home at 16, and when you leave home at an early age, you have to survive.”
He got into the radio/news/talk business inspired by his grandfather, Ernest Bennett, an Associated Press photographer.
“My grandfather took me along to the San Francisco Chronicle building where I got my love for news,” he said, adding that he started his 30-year radio career in Texas and moved back to California in the 1990s.
Langford developed an interest in magic while in his 40s. He attributes his happy 44-year marriage to the fact that his wife is supportive of his many stints on the road and on stage, which has numbered more than 100 shows this year alone.
“My shows are booked into January of next year,” he said.
Father of a son and two daughters and grandfather of four, he’s also an avid poker and blackjack player. Playing poker two or three times a week and trying out new magic tricks on his buddies got him through the pandemic, he said.
“Magic is a device, a means to an end to entertain people, to make them laugh, to connect,” he said.