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The International Brotherhood of Magicians

20 Aug

With a little help from my friends

Category: News   Posted by: I.B.M. Website Editor

William “Bill” Evans
International President 2013-2014
By Bobby Warren

Ask William “Bill” Evans how he rose through the ranks and became poised to serve as the next International President of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, and he has a simple answer: “I made a call to Eugene Burger in the mid-eighties.”

As with anything involving Burger, there’s a story behind it.

So, get comfortable and settle in for a spell.

When Evans was growing up, his father was a big magic fan and taught his son his first card trick. During a family vacation in Florida, he wandered into a local magic shop. Another time, when Bill was about ten years old, the family stopped at the famed Hollywood Magic on their way to Hawaii. A big wooden box with Chinese painted symbols caught the boy’s eye, but the magician behind the counter pointed him in the direction of two books by John Scarne: Scarne on Card Tricks and Scarne on Magic Tricks. “Those books affected the way I looked at magic,” Evans said. “I wish I knew who the magician was so I could thank him. I wanted that red box with the decals so bad and didn’t even know what it did, but it looked cool. Thankfully, the magician steered me toward books, telling me that they were a much better value. I have loved books ever since.”

After Evans’ father died in 1966, he turned to academics with a concentration on music (guitar, mandolin, mandocello, and harmonica) and magic fell by the wayside. But all that changed when he enrolled at the University of Missouri School of Law in 1974. One day he was walking through the bookstore. A large, paperback book featuring a series of illustrations depicting a French Drop on its cover caught his attention. Evans picked up Bill Tarr’s Now You See It, Now You Don’t!, and it re-ignited his passion for magic.

Although he was consumed with his studies, every few hours he would take a break and turn to his magic. From that humble beginning with Tarr’s book, Evans now has a collection of hundreds of magic books.

After graduating from law school in 1977, Evans moved to St. Louis to practice. There he met the late Gene Devoe, a member of I.B.M. Ring 1 and owner of Devoe’s Magic Den. “He recommended a lot of good books, and he recommended I join the I.B.M.,” Evans said. At the time, the Ring featured members like Chris Kenner and Brother John Hamman. “It was really a treat to get to see Hamman in action,” Evans said. “And Kenner, even as a kid, was unbelievably talented.”

After a few years, Evans tired of working at a large law firm and went back to school to earn a Master of Laws in Taxation degree, which he received in 1980. He moved back to Springfield to work as a tax attorney and in December 1981 formed his own firm which is currently named Carnahan, Evans, Cantwell and Brown, P.C. He also met his future wife, Pam, and they have now been married for thirty years and have two children. Blake (age twenty-eight) is a commercial insurance producer in Springfield. Kyle (age twenty-five) is a chef in Austin, Texas. “We all enjoy fishing, boating and canoeing together in the beautiful Missouri and Arkansas Ozark Mountain area,” Bill said.

As his law career developed, Evans continued practicing and pursuing magic. He faithfully read The Linking Ring. One day he saw an intriguing story about Burger – and his life has never been the same. “His picture on the cover really drew you into the article,” said Evans. He was impressed with Burger’s background and the fact that he became a professional magician after his impressive academic pursuits. “I thought he sounded like an interesting guy,” Evans said. “I called him up and said, ‘Come down here and do a workshop and lecture.’ I met him, we became good friends, and it was the start of a connection.”

Burger, who became a professional magician in 1978, said, “Bill became a wonderful friend and also one of my earliest supporters who helped me in my career in many ways. I have visited him in Springfield, and we have gone to Branson together. When he comes to Chicago, we always get together. And, best of all, I really love his music! I am a huge fan and play my favorite of his CDs at home more than you would believe.”

From that first encounter Bill’s passion for magic blossomed full bloom and his friendships grew.

Before Mac King began headlining a show in Las Vegas, for example, he was working comedy clubs. He was scheduled to perform in Springfield, and Burger suggested he give Evans a call. He did, and the two became friends. When David Sandy and Tom Mullica moved out to Branson, Missouri, to produce Mullica’s Red Skelton Tribute show, they were looking for an attorney. King suggested they call Evans. They did. “I got to know David, and we became good friends,” Evans said. “I had just started managing Tom,” Sandy said, “and Bill really helped us get things started on the right foot. Little did I know that only a couple of years later, I would start producing shows in Branson, Missouri, only thirty minutes from Springfield where Bill lives. Bill had become my good friend, and soon thereafter he became my corporate attorney.” When Sandy became International President (2003-2004), he appointed Evans as I.B.M. Legal Advisor, a position he continued to hold during the terms of Tony Wilson (2004-2005) and Roger Miller (2005-2006). “Even though he had been working with the I.B.M. through the Endowment and Development Foundation for several years,” Sandy said, “serving as Legal Advisor allowed Bill to get involved in the day-to-day operation of the organization on a much greater level. He served my presidency and the organization admirably.”

Evans joined the Executive Committee, and one thing led to another. He will become International President at this year’s I.B.M. Convention, July 17-20, in Phoenix, Arizona. A member of the Order of Merlin Shield, Evans has belonged to the I.B.M. for more than thirty-five years. He has served for many years on the Audit Committee and is on the committee of the I.B.M. Endowment and Development Foundation. Other stints include chairman of the Ethics Committee and Chairman of the Grievance Committee. He also helped organize the I.B.M./SAM 2008 Combined Convention, LLC, and served as legal advisor for that organization. He is doing the same for the Combined Convention in 2014.

As Evans prepares to lead, he wants to expand the value of being a member beyond just the social connections, as valuable as they can be. He wants to increase tangible benefits associated with membership. For example, Evans is excited about the new I.B.M. program steered by Terry Richison that allows members the opportunity to purchase health insurance at lower rates than they could obtain on their own. He is also pleased with the arrangement he worked out with Roberto Giobbi who created an interactive ebook – free to I.B.M. members – teaching card magic. Giobbi is the award-winning writer of the famed Card College series.

Evans and Giobbi met for the first time at a Card Clinic that Giobbi conducted with Jamy Ian Swiss in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Little did I know what a big shot he was already at that time, and now I’m told he’s going to preside over the I.B.M. for a full year,” Giobbi said. “Well, I cannot think of anybody more qualified than Bill for this complex task.”

“In a true sense, I am an amateur, as I am a student of magic,” Evans said. “I practice everyday, and I try to be better today than I was the day before. Eugene Burger is my biggest theoretical influence. He really understands the ‘why’ in a magical performance that can take an effect to an entirely different level for the spectator.”

“I immediately noticed how profound Evans’ knowledge of magic was in our first discussion in Cincinnati,” Giobbi said. “And a few months ago he conducted an interview with me for the February issue of The Linking Ring; rarely have I been asked more intelligent and to-the-point questions.”

That is likely due to his training as an attorney, but Giobbi said Evans has other traits that will help him lead the I.B.M., including having a vision for the future, possessing the creativity to identify problems and work out practical solutions, and having the ability to motivate the right people around him. Above all else, “He is a gentleman and an approachable individual. He has it all in well-balanced proportions, and I have no doubt that with his sense of innovation, his contagious enthusiasm and his immense likability he will be an International President to remember for a long time,” Giobbi said.

Mac King likewise is enthusiastic about the Evans presidency. “I honestly don’t know of any magician as supportive of other magicians as Bill Evans,” King said. “He’ll make a great president.” David Sandy agrees: “He not only has a passion for magic and magicians, he also has a passion for the organization. Bill loves to talk magic and ‘session’ with other magicians and can do it for hours on end. I very much look forward to Bill’s expert leadership over the upcoming year and am 100% confident that he’ll do a stellar job as International President.”

Where Burger was an influence on Evans’ theoretical approach to magic, the late Michael Skinner was a big influence on him as a performer. “We were the best of friends,” Evans said. For sentimental reasons, Skinner’s SentiMental Aces is Evans’ favorite effect to perform. “I have memories of him teaching me this and many other effects,” he said. “We spent many a late night session together. I don’t know when he ever slept. Michael’s deliberate performance style along with his incredible technical chops and vast repertoire made him one of the most sought-out performers around. Michael was the master of the ‘magic moment,’ the most important part of the performance. I see a lot of his influence in John Carney today.”

Because of his schedule, Evans does not perform as many magic shows as he once did. He specializes in card magic, and if someone is interested in a close-up magician, he will perform but “the venue has to be right for my magic,” he said. Even though the number of shows is down, he is ever the student of magic and reads, studies and practices every single day. He also remains busy with his M-Dock Band.

If anyone is contemplating becoming a magician, Evans has some advice: “Decide whether you like practicing as much as you like performing. Magic is a performing art, but if you don’t enjoy practicing, then you won’t be good at performing.”

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