In 1997, Syd Beckman was your average mild-mannered family law attorney, who just happened to pass by a magic shop every day on his way to the courthouse. Then, one day, his curiosity got the better of him and he went inside. “I talked to the guy behind the counter and said, ‘Can you show me something that’s easy to learn?’” Beckman recalls.
An inauspicious beginning, to be sure, but everyone has to start somewhere. Eight years later, Beckman is an award-winning magician –– not to mention a successful, board-certified family lawyer at Fort Worth’s Goodman, Clark & Beckman.
Beckman is a practitioner of close-up magic, which focuses on sleight-of-hand tricks performed right in front of a spectator, as opposed to stage magic, which includes grand illusions like the classic cutting-the-attractive-woman-in-half trick. “I do a variety of different effects,” Beckman says. “Real well, a few dozen. Not so well, many.”
He may sound plainspoken and modest, but it’s all part of the illusion. When he’s working his magic, Beckman is a consummate entertainer and showman, as evidenced by his victory in the prestigious 2002 Senior Close-Up Contest held by the Texas Association of Magicians, the third largest such association in the world.
“I had been attending conventions for a number of years,” Beckman says. “I would always watch the contests, and in the close-up contest, it bothered me that people would do the same coin tricks and card tricks over and over again.
“Those were impressive, but I wanted something unique, something that had never been done before,” he continues. “So I thought, ‘Why not do a stage act in miniature?’ The most obvious stage trick is cutting a girl in half. So I took a Barbie doll, cut her in half, and then restored her in whole. And at the end of the act, the climax was that I turned the Barbie doll into a real live human being dressed just like the Barbie doll.”
Beckman’s magic may seem amazing, but don’t ask him to tell you how it’s done –– unless you’re a fellow magician. “We have a code to not reveal how things are done to non-magicians,” Beckman says. “There’s a corny line that magicians use, that I used to say. ‘Can you keep a secret? Well, so can I.’ Now I tell them, ‘It ruins the mystery.’”
The man is serious about this. So serious, in fact, that even wife Allyson is left in the dark. “It drives her crazy that I can’t share my secrets, and that can cause some conflict,” he laughs. “But she enjoys [the magic] and she’s very supportive.”
Beckman’s skills in magic aren’t just for fun, though –– they also help him in his law practice. “The presentation skills I’ve developed have helped not only in the courtroom,” he says, “but in speeches I give to lawyers for continuing legal education,” and in the classes he teaches as an adjunct professor at the Texas Wesleyan University School of Law.
Beckman’s clients also benefit. “I’m a divorce lawyer, and every day I deal with people in the worst part of their life,” he says. “Magic is a diversion. It can bring a little joy or put a smile on their face.”