If the 16th century philosopher Giordano Bruno was right in saying magicians do more by means of faith than physicians by the truth, Ed Millis is a doctor of enchantment.
The 35-year U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) veteran spends his spare time doing magic shows for kids of all ages.
He has delighted audiences on behalf of hospital patients at Yuma Regional Medical Center and has staged repeated performances of his show at the YPG Library over the years.
Michigan-born and California-raised, Millis first came to Yuma as a Marine in 1976, with his first job as a data collector at YPG in the 1980s. He had dabbled in magic as a child and dropped it, but never completely let go of his interest in the hobby. Then, a fortuitous temporary duty at a remote location gave him extra spare time to take up magic in earnest.
“In 2001 I was TDY for about five months at Twentynine Palms, Calif.,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of activity, so I started doing more and volunteered at the library.”
Since then, Millis has developed a variety of full-blown routines of different lengths and degrees of sophistication.
“My typical show is a birthday party or family gathering. I’ve also done stage shows for schools and civic groups. One thing I don’t do is restaurant-style, in-your-face sleight of hand.”
Millis incorporates common magician accoutrements like long, colorful handkerchiefs and large playing cards, but he has also constructed props himself, such as a pair of oversized dice. More important to him, however, is creating compelling routines to show off the magic.
“One of my signature routines is my little dog Ringo, a plastic ring about six inches in diameter, who never wants to stay on his leash,” he said with a smile.
Other routines for younger audiences include rope tricks with Millis dressing as a worker in a ‘spaghetti factory,’ complete with hardhat and safety glasses. Older audiences, of course, need more sophisticated entertainment.
“The older kids are not really interested in slapstick,” he explained. “For that age group up to the adults I try to get into their heads --mind magic, if you will.”
Millis is philosophical about his craft, investing a great deal of time into each scenario going into an act.
“If you are going to entertain, you have to engage the person,” he said. “There has to be something more than a thing disappearing. There has to be a story behind it: why does it matter?”
Millis has no grand ambitions to become the next Criss Angel or David Blaine, but does have goals nonetheless.
“I have a couple of goals as a magician,” said Millis. “One is to take an audience of adults and have them leave knowing they’ve just had an experience they’ve never experienced before. The other is to take a birthday party full of kids and have them laugh so hard they’re snorting Kool Aid out of their noses.”