I am very sad to report that Brian Staron passed away suddenly yesterday. Brian spent almost 10 years performing at Disney’s Boardwalk, before settling into youth ministry.
I first saw Brian while visiting Walt Disney World, watching him perform on the boardwalk. At first, I saw a man performing what appeared to be fairly common tricks, along with some common stock lines. I probably saw Brian perform 10-15 times on the Boardwalk, over a period of 3-4 years. The more I watched, the more I began to watch his audience. I began to see Brian’s larger than life personality connecting with his audiences. Families were laughing together and having a great time. The magic and lines were merely the vehicles that allowed him to entertain his audiences and have a fun time.
After seeing him perform a couple times, I was attending a youth rally in Tennessee and saw that Brian was scheduled to perform. I asked him if he had been hired to perform, but he said he’d been coming to this rally with his church for many years. Thus, we discovered that we had something else in common; we were brothers in Christ and were part of the same fellowship. We had him come to our church to speak, and we would meet up with him at the youth rally each year. My family went to Disney World about once a year, and each time we’d stop by to see Brian’s sets out on the Boardwalk, and we’d usually meet him and his wife Carol for lunch.
In 2012, I hired Brian to work the Columbus Magi-Fest. I had him do his Boardwalk act out in the hotel lobby. I wanted the attendees to see how someone could take some of the tricks that many of us own and turn them into a vehicle to entertain a crowd.
He told me that one time he was performing the tossed-out deck out on the Boardwalk. He used a long pole and a bucket and extended it out over the audience. One time, the bucket stopped at a blind man and his companion, and they participated in the trick, so Brian found a way to work that into the show. A few years later when we were visiting, I had one of those camera poles with me. Brian didn’t know I was coming. I stood at the back of his crowd with my camera pole, with sun glasses on. Brian finally scanned the crowd and saw me standing there; he did a double-take and recognized that it was me. I broke the rhythm of his show for a moment, as he stopped to laugh and then called me out to the audience as the blind man at the back of his show.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around this. Brian was on the board of a group who produced a conference for youth ministry workers, and I was planning to see him there this fall. My sister-in-law called me yesterday afternoon; I knew it was bad news, but never fathomed it would be about Brian. My brother-in-law, who is a minister, talked to Brian just a few hours before his death regarding the planning of this event. It’s a sobering reminder of how fragile life is.