Northern California - United States
I asked Mr.Biro to write up something of his background for his upcoming guest week and this is what he sent me, enjoy.
My name is Pete Biro. I was Born and raised in Oakland, California, in the year 1933, where the magic bug bit me early on.
I was working as a sign painter on weekends while going to Fremont High School.
My boss, in the sign business, was a guy from Minnesota named Bill Anderson. He was a great boss, and a terrific close-up magician. He would fool me badly with his magic.
I had to get even, so I looked in the Yellow Pages and found there was a magic dealer very near my home. It was Magic Ltd., Lloyd Jones’ company. Jones primarily dealt in books, so I bought a few.
The first one was Learn Magic for fun and popularity, by Henry Hay. I later found out his real name was Barrows Mussey. It didn’t matter, it was, and still is, one of the greatest books ever for someone starting out in magic. My copy was published in 1949.
Another major acquisition was one of the most practical books ever for a platform or stage performer, and one my first acts came from, Marvels of Mystery by John Booth. John signed it to me in 1976. The basic material in Booth’s tome was the foundation of the act I won the Grand Prix at the PCAM Convention, in 1968.
While in high school, I was walking around with a magic book in hand when another student asked me if he could look at it. I said, “No it’s private, it’s for magicians only.” He replied with, “I’m a magician, I have a copy of Greater Magic.” That day a friendship that still exists was created. It was Byron Walker.
We wound up doing several shows together. Another kid from that time, Bob Mackenzie became one of us, and we put a show together called The MadCaps of Magic. We (at this young age) four-walled the Foothill Theater in Oakland and presented our shows. (I wish I still had the poster we made for that show). Anyway Bob went on to be a writer for TV Guide magazine and a news anchor on KTTV in the San Francisco Bay Area.
When I reached the age of 18 the Korean war was going strong and I was part of the first 18 year olds ever drafted into the U.S. Army.
During training, to keep from going crazy I started to perform at the Officer’s Clubs and got to be well-known among the “brass” at Camp Roberts, in central California.
Funny, one day our First Sergeant said, “I hear you’re a magician. Fool me.” So I did the paper balls over the head and really fried him to the delight of the rest of the troops in our company. I don’t think he like being fooled, as the next day I was assigned KP duty and spent a few days pealing potatoes and washing dishes.
One day the Company Commander called me into his office and told me he couldn’t be specific but anyone that goes to the dentist tomorrow will not be going to Korea. Being pretty naive at the time I wasn’t sure why he was telling me.
The next morning our sergeant calls out my name and one other guy’s. He said, “Get over to the dentist’s office.”
“Yippee!” I shouted. The other guy said, “What are you so happy about.. going to the dentist?” I told him and he too shouted “Yippee!”
So, I figure magic literally saved my life.
Doing hundreds of shows in the Officer’s and Service Clubs in Europe was a great training ground.
I wound up making the finals for the All Army Talent Show, but screwed up in the final show (I had a juggling bit in the show and the lights blinded me and I dropped the balls and never recovered). The winner, Paul Desmond with a very funny record pantomine act, got to go perform on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Similar to another time when I got home from a week long photography assignment in New York, and checked my answering machine, there was a call asking me to come over to NBC right away, to be on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The call was three days old, and when I called back they told me they called the Magic Castle and the guy they sent over was terrible and that Carson said he didn’t want to see another magician for a year.
Oh well, I probably would have been so nervous I would have screwed up.
During my performing days, I worked a lot of conventions, won first prize, adult at the SAM Convention in Boston, lectured all over from Japan to France and places in-between, did private parties, hospitality rooms, corporate gigs, trade shows and my favorite, comedy clubs.
It was at the clubs I got to work alongside great acts like Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno, and become friends with them.
Although I was heavy into magic and performing, it wasn’t an area that I thought I could make a good living at. It was “pre” Doug Henning and magic had not yet caught on.
My real world career was related to my first experiences as a sign painter and photographer.
After discharge from the Army I moved into the advertising art field and began to design packages for Del Monte foods, worked on annual reports and billboard art, specializing in the lettering.
At the same time my hobby, other than magic, was photography and I specialized in auto racing. I wound up getting published in most of the major car magazines, as well as Time and Sports Illustrated covering auto racing, baseball and football.
For eleven years I was in charge of booking and producing all the shows for the IBM Conventions, working with Bill Wells, Jim Nagel, Bill Spooner and other members of the convention committees over the years.
And now I spend all my time surfing the Internet.
"Always be you because nobody else can" - Steve Brooks
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