A Night of “Chamber Magic” at the Waldorf Astoria

A Night of “Chamber Magic” at the Waldorf Astoria

Magic inspires. We all can become childlike in the wonder we exclaim when met with what seemingly is true magic.  Today’s blog marries the inspirational environment that is the Waldorf Astoria, and our legacy of hosting those practicing this fine art.

Walking down Park Avenue in the heart of Manhattan is a magical experience in itself. You can look up to see historic buildings rising high into the sky block after block, but be sure to look ahead when you reach 50th Street. There, real magic awaits in the landmark Waldorf Astoria hotel, the venue for Steve Cohen’s Chamber Magic show, held every weekend in an elegant private suite in the Towers of the Waldorf Astoria.

When I first met Steve Cohen, described by Forbes magazine as  the “Millionaires’ Magician,” he told me the hotel has a storied history of close-up magic, also called parlor magic, with performances dating back to 1902. As the hotel’s Social Media Manager, I was anxious to see Steve’s long-running Chamber Magic show, where guests in cocktail attire watch him combine legendary magic tricks with modern conjuring.  Steve showed me a quick sample of what I would experience at the show, the Pirouette shuffle and the Waldorf Waterfall, two of his trademark card shuffling tricks.  But there was much more, I would soon learn–his magic, as he described it in the New York Times, is a “thinking man’s magic” that challenges both the eyes and the mind.

In one of Cohen's tricks, he places a hat over a spinning coin and turns the coin into a brick.

Here, a surprised audience member finds that Cohen has turned a coin into a brick under his hat.

Chamber Magic has attracted a dazzling array of exclusive guests: notables, royalty, and celebrities that include Hollywood stars and other top magicians such as David Blaine and David Copperfield.  After 14 years of sold out shows, having entertained more than 500,000 guests, Cohen considers the Waldorf an important element in the magic experience.  Indeed, after hearing stories about his performances here at the hotel, one thing was clear: the venue as a backdrop for the show is critical.

“That’s one of the things I think people are excited about,” Cohen said, referencing the thrill his guests enjoy when they attend the performance in one of the Waldorf’s most luxurious private suites.

While that’s certainly true, attending Chamber Magic is more than just a fun first date idea or a memorable visit to an iconic hotel. It’s an experience that turns you into a believer, as it did for me and the other members of the audience at the show I attended last weekend.

Steve started the show with a few mind-boggling card tricks in front of a typically skeptical New York audience.  That skepticism faded quickly.  After miraculously linking and unlinking rings he borrowed from various audience members, he suddenly had a room full of believers.  My own favorite trick of the evening, Think-A-Drink, originally a 1920s vaudeville act, found him pouring different drinks that guests requested.  From the same silver teapot!

Cohen performing "Think-a-Drink" for a mystified audience.

Cohen performing “Think-a-Drink” for an incredulous audience.

There is a unique delight in having a magician provide a private performance in the Lyndon B. Johnson Suite at the Towers of the Waldorf Astoria and read your mind.  With just 40-50 in attendance, the participation is enormous. Cohen cites personal anecdotes about audience members out of thin air.

One is left to wonder, how did he know the color of one’s favorite nail polish or the date of their anniversary? And how could a man you’ve never met name the card you’re thinking of, and then make that card appear at a specific place in the deck? Can he really read my mind?

It is the Waldorf’s own Steve Cohen’s Chamber Magic that keeps this continuing circle of mystery alive at the hotel.

Later this week, be sure to return to The Waldorf Blog for a featured post that delves more deeply into the history of magic at the Waldorf Astoria. To experience the enchantment for yourself, come visit us in midtown Manhattan to make your own magical Waldorf memories!