A 3-year-old climbs into his father's old Chevy station wagon and the pair head out on the road. The rear of the car is packed with props for their magic show, one they will perform in city after city as they make their way across the northeastern United States. The Jewish boy from New Jersey with the dark, curly hair has just lost his mother. By his father's side, both in the Chevy and on stage, he will receive the education that will set the course for his lifetime.
“He had a puppet stage that looked like a coffin, and he had a suitcase,” said Alan Sands, the boy in the real-life story who is now a man. “He would do Kiwanis or Knights of Columbus or a Blue and Gold dinner for Cub Scouts. We went to school programs, hotels and resorts, summer camps. People would say 'Wow that must be really cool to have a magician for a dad.' Well, yes, he was in the limelight but that was normal in that was what he did. He entertained. I didn't know a different world apart from that.”
At 51, Alan Sands is still climbing into his truck loaded down with equipment and a duffle bag of tricks as he traverses the country, performing in one town after another. It's the only life this Mississippi magician/stage performer, knows.
“I actually prefer entertainer,. It's in my blood and soul,” said Sands, who moved to Meridian in the 90s to be nearer to his daughter and who still mainstains a home there while on the road.
Sands, known by fans as The Sand Man, is a third-generation performer. While his grandfather was a dentist by profession, he found a hobby in magic. It was Sands’ father, George Sands, who turned that hobby into a profession. He was responsible for inventing the basis for all rope-based tricks used by magicians and illusionists today. He also published 17 books on magic, all of which the younger Sands grew up reading.
Sands’ mother had been a performer as well, an amateur ventriloquist. When she died, his father took his young son on the road, bringing him in constant contact with the performance. Sands would assist his father on stage during the act, as well as help set up and tear down their sets with each performance. Before he began his formal education, Sands could perform basic coin and card tricks.
“But he never shoved it down my throat,” Sands said. “It was a sort of osmosis between working with him on the show and spending long hours in a car with him on weekends.”
Sands said he learned best by imitating and innovating what he saw. He started with balloon tricks and began “real magic” as a teenager. Attending college in San Francisco, he found support everywhere for his art; the Bay area alone hosts almost ten comedy clubs, he said. He teamed up with his college roommate for a time, and the two worked as street performers to pay their way through school with the tricks laid out by Sands’ father. However, what gave Sands an edge was his father’s savvy insight into the business of entertaining.
“My father had two interests: magic and chess,” Sands said.
George Sands had a knack for identifying potential markets – fairs, amusement parks, schools and malls, places where many different types of people would be present. These types of venues helped shape his act into a versatile and universally appealing presentation, Sands said.
Sands has remained faithful to his father’s strategy, and has expanded his repertoire to include casinos and corporate events. Equally at ease in a bar or a conference room, his fun, informal attitude is contagious and spreads quickly. His shows are faced-paced and quick-witted; while younger audience members are captivated by the tricks, Sands includes enough word play and double-entendre to keep the attention of adults as well.
“I used to make a balloon dog, put it inside a balloon heart and say ‘look, a heart with a dog on,’” Sands said with a laugh.
In fact, business strategy is what led Sands to his biggest claim to fame: hypnosis. He first began dabbling in hypnosis to draw in more money, but as he continued his practice with it, he became more interested with the nature of the human mind. Sands became certified in clinical hypnosis as well as stage hypnosis and uses techniques and material one might find in a college psychology course to befuddle not just one, but a dozen audience members at once.
“I also found that the audience enjoyed it more to see its members involved, to see their friends get on stage and become the stars,” Sands says.
Because he completed college classes in computing and accounting, crafts and wood-working, he builds his own stage props, keeps up with his own finances, and does his own taxes, making him an independent one-man show.
Being Mississippi-based forced Sands to maintain a national-touring show.
To date, he has performed in 46 states.
“I might wake up in Nebraska one day, in Iowa the next, or on the beach in Florida, the mountains of Alaska or on a golf course in Hawaii,” he said.
The well-traveled Sands seems to connect most with the types of audiences Mississippians in particular appreciate. He remembers performing for a family-owned car business, handed down from father to son much like his own. He remembers a local bank that hosted a reception for its employees, thanking them for their loyalty and hard work. He particularly recalls performing for a crew of construction workers after a hard day’s work of laying pipe for a natural gas line. He said the nature of their work as mysterious to Sands as his work to them.
“They were big, bearded, intimidating men,” Sands says with a laugh, “but I had them in stitches; one came up to me afterward and said he laughed so hard his face hurt.”
Sands likes to see how long he can hold their rapt attention with hypnosis and parlor magic - sometimes for two and a half hours without so much as using the restroom or ordering a drink. The true intrinsic reward for Sands, he said, is to distract them, to take them to a place where their problems no longer exist. The biggest payoff to him is when someone approaches him after a show and tells him how much better he made them feel.
“I love entertianing,” he said. “It's a drug, and there's nothing else out there like it. I love making people laugh and bringing them on an emotional roller coaster, removing them from their reality and having them transfixed, then holding them there.”
Want to book him?
Contact Alan Sands via www.alansands.com or call (800) 892 2287