Magician Michael Chaut: A Look Into The Mind of Forest Hills’ Own
by Michael Perlman
Jul 23, 2012 | 10492 views | 0 0 comments | 76 76 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Magic is in the air in Forest Hills, thanks to Michael Chaut.

A professional magician for over two decades, as well as a mentalist, magic advisor, and entertainment consultant of fifteen years, Chaut is a 1976 graduate of Forest Hills High School. After graduating from college in St. Louis, he lived in Kew Gardens and Manhattan, but in 1987, he decided it was time to re-cultivate his Forest Hills roots.

Chaut characterizes himself as a generalist, who specializes at sleight-of-hand routines, mind reading, and mentalism. He is available for high-end private and corporate events. His goal is to make audiences laugh, and hopes they will ask “Gosh, how did he do that?” He seeks a sense of wonderment, and is a non-believer of themes resulting in a successful performance.

He feels he is most fortunate because he immerses himself in an occupation he loves. Confidence, creativity, humor, and an understanding of marketing and promotion are his ingredients for success. He accredits FHHS and his undergrad business school background.

“If you don’t get the word out about who you are and what you do, no one will call you,” he recently told the Forest Hills Times.

A wide range of personalities have witnessed his talents, including Paul Newman, Sheryl Crow, Julia Roberts, Ron Howard, and Michael Douglas. He has also appeared on a number of television shows, including Good Morning New York, Good Morning America, CBS’ Early Show, and NBC’s Today Show. He has consulted for numerous television shows including some on Comedy Central.

Magical Nights, Inc. is Chaut’s company. He has intrigued audiences in signature New York City venues including Dangerfield’s and The Rainbow Room. Magical Nights is his treat at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency. I attended his June 24th show, where the audience witnessed Chaut’s close-up magic over dinner and cocktails in an intimate and elegant space.

Chaut’s comedy-based stage show featured grand illusions, audience participation, and specialty performers. His act included pick-pocketing, card tricks, predictions, magic by numbers, mentalism, and comedy. Todd Robbins was the master of ceremonies, and also performed on stage. People could return weekly, and enjoy completely different routines.

Greenwich Village’s Players Theatre is home to New York’s longest running Off-Broadway magic show, Monday Night Magic, which Chaut produced with Todd Robbins, Peter Samelson, Jamy Ian Swiss, and the late Frank Brents. June 25 marked its 15th anniversary.

Chaut has a long list of memorable performances. Recently, he performed at a premiere event center called Keep Memory Alive, where he honored the birthday of host Robin Leach of Lifestyles of The Rich & Famous.

He also proudly recalled his act for the World Presidents Organization in December in Philadelphia, where he received one of highest ratings for any event at that chapter, and performing for the Pennsylvania governor and Philadelphia mayor at the Four Seasons Hotel in March. He performed at NASCAR's Daytona 500 for top race car drivers, the Museum of Natural History, The Intrepid’s annual ball on New Year’s Eve, and at SUCCESS Magazine's Entrepreneurial Conference.

One outstanding memory from his 20s was performing at a comedy club in Forest Hills called Danielle’s, which would later become Heskel’s on Austin Street. Years later, at his show Monday Night Magic, he would reunite with of the same performers he performed with that evening.

Professionally, he has been enchanting Forest Hillians, New Yorkers, celebrities, and audiences worldwide for over twenty years, but his interest magically emerged at age eight. Chaut is grateful for his first-hand experiences.

“My father took me to Macy’s, and I saw a magician performing during Christmas, doing a magic pitch with a Svengali deck of cards,” he recalled. “I vividly remember pushing my way to the front of the crowd, and I begged my dad to buy it. I thought it was the coolest in the world. I have that deck to this very day.”

In his early teens, he met a magician who told him about the famed Louis Tannen’s Magic Shop, which is where he would spend many of his Saturdays. At closing, he joined his magician friends at a nearby restaurant, where they would demonstrate more tricks. He spotted everyone from Doug Henning to Harry Blackstone, Jr.

Jim Moody and the late Frank Brents are some of Chaut’s major influences.

“When I was in college, Moody was the busiest of professional magicians, but taught me more about the business than anyone alive,” he said. “He is still a mentor today.”

Moody greatly influenced Chaut’s original act and character on stage. As for Brents, Chaut explained, “He was my brain trust of magic ideas and presentation, my Yoda of magic and one of my best friends.”

Customization is a successful tool. At corporate events for example, he presents a wide variety of ideas and concepts using a technique called magical metaphors. He defined it as “thought-provoking and memorable magical presentations, which illustrate and motivate creative and innovative thinking, and where each show is tailor-made for the audience and the subject.”

“I appear to make the impossible possible, which is an incredibly strong tool to have as an entertainer,” he added.

The power of the mind and a window to youth is also important.

“Everyone wants to believe the world is filled with magic, and I have the ability to make people feel like they are children again,” he said.

His co-producer Peter Samelson often says magicians cannot really do magic, but can help people experience magic.

“Think about how powerful it is to help people experience the feeling of magic,” he said. “I remember that feeling at least five times in my life.”

Some people may question what is in a magic trick, but in the world of magicians, magic offers effects. In Chaut’s world, such effects are inspiration and interpersonal characteristics.

“Magic is a way for the shy child to be brought out of their shell,” he said. “The shy becomes the outgoing. When I was a child I was extremely shy, but magic was the vehicle of change.

“The difference between adequate and great magic is the magic you perform,” he added. “If people leave remembering the effect, I know I did my job and made it memorable.”

After 20 years, Chaut seeks to keep performing, becoming a better person, and learning new things daily, while continuing to bring enjoyment to audiences. He offered advice to tomorrow’s magicians.

“Learn your craft, present tricks, and perform as much as you can,” he said. “Don’t neglect magic’s business side. It’s not called ‘show,’ but show business. You don’t have to be a starving artist as an entertainer.”

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