Malibu teen makes magic

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Krystyn Lambert has been enthralled with magic since the age of four. She appeared for the second time on Fox TV's series, "Masters of Illusion: Impossible Magic" Monday night.

In a world typically filled with men, Krystyn Lambert holds her own in the world of illusion.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

In a world that has for centuries been under the exclusive purview of gentlemen dressed in tuxedoes, Krystyn Lambert is an anomaly.

The Malibu youth with long blonde tresses and a cheerleader’s smile was the youngest performing member of Los Angeles’ celebrated Magic Castle Junior Society at age 12. In 2007, she won the Best Teen Magician nod at the World Magic Awards, and was featured on America’s Most Talented Kids. And she made her second appearance Monday night on the Fox TV series, “Masters of Illusion: Impossible Magic.”

Lambert explained in an interview with The Malibu Times how a 17-year-old, who looks like she would be more comfortable at a junior cotillion than behind a magician’s table, came to make such a splash in a world where women are traditionally seen only as scantily clad assistants being sawed in half by a magician.

“Well, I’ve been fascinated with magic since I was real little,” Lambert said. “It’s true, women didn’t see any real commercial success in magic till the late ’70s. But magic is an art and you have to come to your audience with a vast knowledge of its history and very practiced skills. Everyone wants to see that.”

Lambert has had a few years to acquire that knowledge and skill set. Lambert’s mother, Ann Lambert, recalled one day when her daughter, at age four, was at Universal Studios and became utterly uninterested in the rides offered after she saw a white-faced mime pull a quarter out of her ear.

“Krystyn just kept following that mime around all day, asking him to show her another trick,” Ann said. “Kids usually have pretty short attention spans, but Krystyn started working on coin tricks right then. By the time she was 10, I got her some books on magic and she was off.”

Lambert said her daughter was always a “perform-y” type and into the craft of putting on a show. Her looks and showmanship got her an agent and some TV and film gigs, she said, but her mother finally told her she had to make a choice.

“It was either magic or acting,” Ann Lambert said. “I couldn’t drive her around to auditions and acting classes and magic events. Fortunately, she decided to stick with magic, because she got good enough to allow her to do children’s parties so that she could buy her own car. She paid her own way on a school trip to Europe.”

One of last year’s busiest documentaries on the international film festival circuit was “Women in Boxes,” which examined the lives of veteran magician’s assistants; the ones, most often women, who helped performing magicians achieve those cries of “How did he do that?”

“They interviewed me for the film because I was young and female, and in my act I put the guys in boxes,” Lambert said. “We [women] used to be sort of second-class citizens but I believe that perception is changing now. I find that the older magicians I meet at the Magic Castle are very supportive and encouraging. We truly are a ‘brotherhood.'”

Whereas magic is a real passion with Lambert, she admits she had to go the extra mile to win over older, more experienced skeptics. But a dogged display of effort, a startlingly self-possessed stage presence and an impressive knowledge of the history of performing magic (she’s done her reading) won her a protective circle of mentors.

David Minkin is a gold medal recipient of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and host of the popular “Magic and Wine” evenings at Malibu’s BeauRivage. He has watched Lambert’s career arc high over the past few years.

“Krystyn is one of the most promising young females in magic today,” Minkin said. “She’s a good kind with a lot of natural talent. In an art where women performers are rare, it’s refreshing to see a rising talent like hers.”

Performance magic has been around for a long time. The Egyptians were evidently practicing it for the amusement of pharaohs as early as 1,700 B.C. England’s Henry VIII jailed a court performer named Brandon after the magician stabbed a drawing of a pigeon with a knife, causing a real pigeon to fall dead from a tree. Apparently, Henry figured a king would be just as easy a mark as a pigeon.

By the 19th century, magicians were regularly part of the marquee at music halls and vaudeville theaters in Europe and America. French magician Jean Eugéne Robert-Houdin brought elegance and flair to his act and is generally recognized as the father of modern magic. His disciple, Harry Houdini, was an early 20th century equivalent of a rock star and spent much of his career debunking the claims of charlatan spiritualists by proving how their tricks were performed.

Lambert said the reason for magic’s enduring fascination is its escape from reality.

“People still want to know, how is it done,” she said. “If the magician does it well and really alters reality, he is an artist.”

At Malibu High School, Lambert is a varsity runner for the track team, plays the tuba, pens her own poetry and has developed a discerning taste in literature, from Voltaire to David Sedaris. While she plans to keep on with magic, she hopes to be enrolled at USC, studying linguistics next fall.

“A lot of magic focuses on semantics to create the right illusion,” she said, “and linguistics allows me to study philosophy, religion, evolution, child development and all those things that come under that umbrella.”

But when you ask her a straightforward question, she skips obliquely around an answer.

“How do I do the leaning illusion?” she asked. “Very well, apparently.”

More information about Krystyn Lambert’s work can be obtained online at www.krystynlambert.com