By Christopher Buonincontri| August 18, 2010 |
EVEN AS A BOY in Tel-Aviv, Shimshi knew that he wanted to be a magician. “I did my first paid gig when I was 13 years old,” he relates, enthusiasm in his voice as he recalls his favorite trick from the show. “I took a silk handkerchief and made it disappear in my hand. It was the first trick I ever saw, and it took me two weeks to figure it out. Once I did, I couldn’t stop doing it.”
Now, half a world away from his birthplace and that life of simple illusions, Shimshi’s dazzling magic has landed him a gig as resident magician at the Wynn and Encore, engaging patrons and gamblers with his sleight of hand at the tables, lounges and clubs across the properties.
The way he tells it, Shimshi just followed his dream. “I was in Israel until I finished high school,” he says, but he felt the Strip calling to him. “I bought a plane ticket and told my parents, ‘I’m going to Vegas. I’m going to make it in Vegas!’” And make it he has, having performed at the Sahara, Planet Hollywood and the Clarion Hotel and Casino (the old Greek Isles), where he opened a new show this summer. In a city of magicians, Shimshi’s found his niche. He also broadened his repertoire to encompass everything from playing songs on his guitar (as audience members think of them) to stabbing a selected card in the air with his foot while doing a backflip.
“Creating new magic is what I love to do,” he says as he describes new illusions in the works, including one involving a bungee jump. “I take my passions in life and put them into my performance.”
New York State of Mind
"HOW YA DOIN'?” says Vinny, hair slicked back and half-grin in place. Since late last year, when he was named host and spokesperson of New York-New York Hotel & Casino, he’s gotten to know practically everyone on the property, and if you saw him strolling through the slots, meeting and greeting, shaking hands with high rollers and winking at passing showgirls, you’d almost think he owned the place.
Not quite, but he sure captures the spirit of the property, which is obviously inspired by the Big Apple. Born in New Jersey and raised in Manhattan (he calls it “the City”), Vinny bounced all over the country, doing everything from performing with a Tony Bennett cover band to professional sports betting before ending up in Las Vegas eight years ago. But no matter where he is, he says, he loves his hometown. “I’m very proud to be from New York,” he boasts. “I’ll probably end up back there at some point in my life.”
Yet Vinny relishes bringing the boroughs to the Valley—after all, making New York-New York feel like the real deal is part of his job description. “I mean look, I don’t even realize I have a New York accent,” he says in an accent thicker than Grandma’s meat sauce. “But I think people get a kick out of it. It brings an authenticity to the whole experience for people. The property is very faithful to New York… it captures the essence of it very well.”
“Let me give you an example,” Vinny says. “Garry Marshall was making a movie in New York with an LA crew, and they were shooting on the street. A ground-floor apartment window was open and there was a guy moving around there— somebody from the crew sticks his head in and asks, ‘You live there?’ and the guy says, ‘No, I’m robbing the place.’ That’s New York. If you ask a stupid question like that, you’re gonna get an answer like that. I try to give people a little bit of a New York attitude, and I mean that in a nice way.”