In this week’s edition of First-Person Shooter we gave two cameras to Henry, a magician and clown who also manages the magic shop at the store Abracadabra in New York City. As a professional entertainer who’s performed all throughout the five boroughs during the last quarter century, Henry knows how to win over any type of crowd with his clowning and magic tricks.
On top of shooting two different birthday party gigs where he performed first as a clown and second as a magician, Henry snapped photos of his “pet room” where he lets his animals play and roam free in his house. He also ran into the Rat Man, a Times Square performer, during his work shift at Abracadabra. He even shared the best way to get a magician to reveal his secrets (hint: buy his magic products first).
VICE: What happened on your Friday?
Henry the Clown-Magician: I woke up at 8 AM to get ready for an 11 AM clown gig. After I finished, I went to Brooklyn for another gig as a magician. After both gigs were over, I headed over to Abracadabra to finish up some work. It was late by then, so I went home to wash my bunny and birds. They get a little dirty in the day from all the kids petting them.
How long have you been a magician/clown for?
Twenty-six years. I started when I was 14 years old in 1989. I was the class clown growing up and would play pranks on people, like put stink bombs in places and other silly stuff. I’d make everybody laugh in school, and make people laugh in general. I was a prankster. I would go to the magic shop to buy prank supplies, and, of course, I got into doing magic when the shop owner there taught me how to do a few tricks. I stopped buying prank supplies and started doing magic. When I would perform magic tricks for people, their reactions would drive me to learn more and more. That same year, I did my first magic show as a clown in my mother’s building. I made 25 bucks.
Who’s the guy with the rats in your photos?
He’s a random guy who walked into the magic store looking for flash paper—a paper when you ignite it makes a big flash without any residue. We get a lot of interesting people in here. I think he’s a street performer in Times Square.
Do you prefer performing as clown or a magician?
I like them both, but I prefer performing as a magician because it’s less work before and after the gig. When I come home, I don’t have to take off a bunch of clown makeup. That’s what people don’t see behind the scenes. I’ve got to take the whole costume off, which means I can’t do another gig right after. Everybody in this same field feels this way.
What kind of crowd do you usually perform for? Does the crowd differ for your clown act and magician act?
All crowds—as long as they pay, I will perform for them. However, my bread and butter booking is birthday parties for kids as a magician, clown, or balloon guy—92 percent of my performances are for families.
How do you store and transport your animals?
I keep them at home. I have a cage for my rabbits and birds to contain them. They also have their own room in my apartment called the pet room where I let them roam free and they can do their thing. My girlfriend is an Animal Patrol Officer and she loves to play with bunnies.
How often do you perform?
Every single day of my life I’m performing. At the shop and at gigs on the weekends.
Do you reveal your tricks?
A magician never reveals their secrets. But I do sell magic tricks at Abracadabra for a living. I will show someone how any trick works if they want to buy it from the store.
Have you ever experienced somebody being afraid of a clown?
There’s the Stephen King book (and movie adaptation) called IT, which is why I think a ton of people are scared of clowns. I hear “clowns just freak me out” a lot. But clowns are normal people. They are just doing a job and have a career like anybody else. The last thing I want to do is freak people out. Usually, when I start performing, people warm up to me very quickly, regardless of their past feelings about clowns. For professional clowns, their worst nightmare is to walk into a party and have a child or an adult be afraid of them. We’re hired to put smiles on peoples face and make people happy—not to scare them.