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April 16, 2014

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Twenty-one-year-old Tommy Wind is a quintuple-threat: magician, musician, martial artist, comedian and dancer

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Leila Navidi

Magician Tommy Wind performs at the Clarion Hotel in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

Tommy Wind

Magician Tommy Wind performs at the Clarion Hotel in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 14, 2012. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

Magician Tommy Wind performs at the Clarion Hotel in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

Click to enlarge photo

Magician Tommy Wind performs at the Clarion Hotel in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

Click to enlarge photo

Magician Tommy Wind performs at the Clarion Hotel in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

No sooner do the curtains drop on Tommy Wind’s magic show than he grabs his parents and they head over to their usual table at the diner next door. Then, over Philly cheesesteaks and heaping plates of spaghetti, they dissect the evening’s performance – what went right, what went wrong.

It’s not just that the 21-year-old magician values his parents’ input. The fact is, they both have roles in the show, each bringing to the table their own backgrounds as entertainers. His father, Tom Riccardo, is a former bandleader and Wind's manager, while his mother is a former Broadway dancer who handle’s the show’s choreography.

“We’re perfectionists,” Riccardo says in the thick Staten Island accent shared by his wife and son. "We didn't get here because of our egos."

The trio launched Wind’s show “Impact” at the Clarion’s Wolf Theater in February and are preparing to move to a larger venue this summer; Wind performs his grand finale at the Clarion on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Billing himself as a “musical illusionist,” Wind incorporates the myriad instruments (percussion, violin, guitar, to name a few) he picked up from his father into his illusions. However, his talent with music is just what fits in the marquee; “Impact” also showcases Wind’s skill with martial arts, dance and comedy, which distinguish his original illusions and give a fresh edge to classic ones.

“If it’s not original, we find a way to make it original,” Wind says of his acts, which range from levitating a guitar to cutting an audience member into thirds. “The show is always evolving; we bring a lot of spontaneity into it. Sometimes mistakes we make onstage end up becoming part of the act.”

There’s no doubt that the illusions are impressive, but ultimately it’s Wind’s disarming, gently self-deprecating humor and subtle doses of the family’s eccentric chemistry onstage that ultimately win audiences over.

It's all a long way from the sleight-of-hand trick Wind’s grandfather showed him as a 7-year-old, and from that moment on Wind was hooked on magic. By the time he was 16, what was his favorite hobby had become a career goal.

“I was on a cruise with my family, and a crew member asked me to do some tricks for the passengers one night," Wind recalls. "When I saw the looks on their faces and heard a room full of people clapping for me, that was the moment I knew. It was some of the greatest joy I’d ever felt,” Wind says.

He devoted the next three years to performing at any gig he could find, from a summer stint at the Coney Island Zoo to back-alley magic shops in Atlantic City. By 2009, Wind was named “Teen Magician of the Year” at the World Magic Awards. He graduated from high school that same year, and his parents and he relocated to Las Vegas.

He started out as the middle act in a variety show at the Clarion and periodically returned to the East Coast for small tours.

"We focused on taking small steps because once you fail in Vegas, you’re not coming back,” Riccardo says. It was during one of those tours that Wind was approached by shareholders to open his own show in Las Vegas. The opportunity came far sooner than anyone expected, but it was one he couldn’t pass up.

Wind plans to stick around Las Vegas for a while. The adjustment hasn’t been easy; he says it’s hard to be taken seriously by other performers because of his age, and he misses his friends and family back home. Nonetheless, he has no regrets about passing up a “normal” life as a 20-something.

“Think about how many little kids say they want to grow up to be something like an astronaut or a racecar driver -- or a magician,” he says, grinning. “But how many of them actually do?”

Follow Andrea Domanick on Twitter at @AndreaDomanick and fan her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndreaDomanick.

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