Lefty’s Incredible Hat Trick – Magic Magazine

Post 14 of 60

BY RICHARD FAVERTY

You might know him in the world of magic as “Lefty” or as the “Red Gamester.” You might know him in the broader world of show business as an entrepreneurial nightclub executive or as a show consultant for the likes of Wayne Newton, Steve Wyrick, or Meatloaf. What you should also know is that in reality he’s the unflappable, enigmatic, and versatile Douglas Leferovich, who wears many different hats.

“I think of myself as not only a magician but much more,” Doug says. “Being a magician has opened the doors to doing many other things. I have learned a lot about lighting, staging, and sound, which I am able to use to help other performers. Obviously, when a new project comes up I often try to insert something magical into the mix, since that’s my area of expertise. I’ve learned over time to be able to switch hats quickly!”

Standing over six feet tall, when Doug makes an entrance, he always looks cool and hip. He carries himself with a mixture of authority and humility. He has an intense look in his eyes, closely observing and analyzing everything that is going on around him. His presence easily fills a stage like the one he currently performs on as the guest act in Murray Sawchuck’s show at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. Says Doug, “How many magicians who have their own show on the Las Vegas Strip would put another magician in their show? I’m guessing — only one! I feel very lucky that Murray has put me in and kept me in his show.”

According to Murray, Doug is the type of person who is very calculated. “He listens, doesn’t say much, takes it in. Then, when he does speak, what he shares with you is brilliant, intelligent, and right on the money. He’s a details man; he sees things most people don’t see.” Murray calls Leferovich his “secret weapon for success.”

Doug performs, without speaking, as Lefty the stagehand. He has worked hard on “the Lefty brand.” He decided his trademark color should be orange, “as it is synonymous with Home Depot” and is a complementary color to the blue used by Murray. His Lefty baseball hat, worn slightly off-center, has become a signature, along with a broom that he uses onstage to sweep up playing cards, which leads into his card manipulation act. Doug currently has four different Lefty hats, varying the styles and colors depending on where he is appearing. “I know the branding has worked,” he says, “as half the people I know call me Lefty, the other half call me Doug. And truthfully, I think there are some people who call me Lefty and don’t even know my real name.” Leferovich credits Murray as the one who really pushed him to clarify and refine the Lefty character, saying that Doug should always wear “a Lefty hat,” even if it was a different color from what he wore onstage.

Doug loves hearing someone say to him, “Your facial expressions were wonderful” or “I thought you were really funny.” Of course it’s nice to hear that they enjoy his magic, but Doug feels, “I’ve been doing that all my life, so when the audience compliments me on my character work, puts a smile on my face.”

Among several spots in the current show, Lefty does a Zombie routine with a beat-up old ball — a trick he’s had for thirty years, ever since his father bought it for him when Doug was thirteen. Doug loved doing magic as a kid, and says his earliest childhood memory is of performing his first show for his pre-kindergarten class. “Truthfully, my dad and big brother did most of the magic,” he admits, “and I just did one trick.” He passed a yellow silk tied to a green silk through his hands to turn the silks red and blue. When there was no reaction from his classmates, he ran over to his mother and started to cry. “Welcome to show business!”

He says he never planned for magic to turn into a career. It was just a fun thing to do with his dad and brother on the weekends. As General Counsel for the New York State Bankers Association for almost 25 years, the elder Leferovich spent lots of time at work; magic provided a break and was something to enjoy doing with his sons. The fun led to doing shows on holidays or for visiting relatives. “My father, however, always instilled a sense of professionalism in us. We each had a show order that my mom wrote out before we started. The foldout TV tables from our living room became our magic tables, with custom black cloths and silver trim that my mother sewed. Eventually, we performed for our neighbor’s son, and then word of mouth spread quickly to where we were doing up to five shows on a weekend.” The Leferovich father and sons billed themselves as “Magic by the 3Ls.”

When he was a teenager, Doug went with his family to the SAM national convention in Stanford, Connecticut. There, he saw General Grant perform and lecture, and afterward told his father he had to get a Zombie. The prop came with a two-finger gimmick that was difficult to handle. After trying for a week, Doug was not as successful as he would have liked, so he stopped working with it. “My dad very clearly told me that if I was going to have him buy something for me and then, after a week, not use it anymore, he would stop buying me magic. So, I continued practicing until I mastered the trick — and discovered along the way that it is not just the actual trick that is the magic, it is how you handle and perform the trick that makes it magical. All these years later, every time I perform the Zombie, I really try to balance the ball on the edge of the cloth. When I am being very careful with the ball, it is because at any moment the ball and the gimmick could fall forward in front of the cloth and expose the illusion. This really keeps me engaged during the trick, and I don’t have to act like the ball is balancing, because I am actually balancing it.”

In the early 1990s, Doug went off to the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school where he met Seth Yudof. Doug recalls, “Seth was an incredible guitar player, and I was a semiprofessional magician doing small shows around campus.” He didn’t really intend to make a living from magic or to even use it to pay his tuition. Magic was a creative outlet. Doug recalls many late nights of “joking about how cool it would be if Seth played lead guitar in a group like Van Halen and if I traveled the world doing magic like David Copperfield.”

According to Seth, “When we were in college, I used to try to help Doug come up with new ideas for his act. I was an engineering student, so most of my ideas involved some sort of technology. We put together a crazy act for him that included manipulation balls that lit up, and then they would cause other props to light up. Given our budget — or lack thereof — everything was running off of bulky batteries and Radio Shack hardware, all held together by electrical tape. Everything weighed a ton and would barely last through a show. Doug has always been especially good at doing Zombie effects. His college act featured appearing parasols and a Zombie parasol routine — plus a snazzy bolero tuxedo jacket! When I told him that I could make the parasol spin as it floated, he got really excited. So we built this crazy motorized gimmick that was lined with nine-volt batteries. It must have weighed five pounds, and Doug had to support the whole thing with two fingers. He was a trouper, though, and he still made that parasol look weightless. I bet his fingers are still overly buff from that experience. Don’t thumb wrestle him!”

They began performing together while still in college. After graduation, they formed a company: Masquerade Productions. They had gone out to Las Vegas, while still living in Los Angeles, to help Tony Clark build his first show, which was opening in Lake Tahoe. Seth and Doug realized that they needed a good name to identify their act and discussed it with Tony. On the drive from Vegas to Tahoe, Tony was in a truck, and they followed in a car. “We would pull up alongside each other and roll down our windows and shout names back and forth. We had a lot of bad names, and some good ones, over the eight-hour drive,” says Doug, “At the end of drive, we all three decided that The Gamesters was the best name we shouted out.”

In 1999, The Gamesters was the guest act in Franz Harary’s shows at Resorts Casino in

Atlantic City. After one of their shows, someone approached and asked, “Why don’t you guys have your own show?” The duo replied that it takes a lot of money, thinking that was the end of that. “It turned out,” says Doug, “that this gentleman invested in our show. He came from the business world and gave us a lot of insight into how to market the show and how to deal with casino executives. He helped us on many different levels!”

They mounted a massive full-evening show, Manhattan Magic, for the Sands in Atlantic City. They did parts of what had become their signature act, including a Jumbo Three-Card Monte, a phone booth Metamorphosis as the end of the show, and a hat-and-shoe gag sequence in which Doug’s shoe would disappear and then reappear in Seth’s jacket, and Seth’s shoe would vanish and then reappear under Doug’s hat. The routine was magic, but it was almost like a well-calculated dance or juggling routine, in which hats and shoes would change places, vanish, and reappear.

They also developed some new material for the show, and all the illusions had a New York theme. They did an illusion made of pipes and bricks that took place underground in the sewers. Seth, no longer playing guitar, did a bowling ball production; but instead of a ball, he produced a bomb. They lit the bomb and passed it back and forth. Eventually, Doug’s head was blown off, then Seth made it reappear. A levitation started with Doug doing an homage to Donald O’Connor’s “Make ’Em Laugh” routine in Singin’ in the Rain, doing O’Connor’s bit with a dummy on a park bench instead of on a couch. They did a couple levitation gags that led up to an Asrah, with Doug later reappearing in a mailbox. In another piece, they built a fire escape that worked like a Vanishing Motorcycle cage, from which Seth vanished, then reappeared in the audience.

For the show, Doug and Seth took on the character names of Lefty and Sly, respectively, although Doug says, “We never really established our characters’ names in the show,” so most people referred to them as the Red and Blue Gamesters.

According to Doug, “Seth really worked hard on engineering all the new illusions before having Bob North at Splashes Creative in Las Vegas build them. I remember like it was yesterday, being on the porch of the house we were renting in Atlantic City and building a mailbox out of cardboard — to scale, that I actually could get in — before Seth finished the plans and sent them off to Bob to build. We also got permission from Gay Blackstone and Owens to do the Trashcan Monte illusion.”

The show had 9 dancers, scenery from a top Broadway scenery company, 13 major illusions, and 65 costumes — not to mention that Doug and Seth wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the show!

“I thought we did a good job for wearing so many hats, most of which were new to us,” Doug says. “I feel we never did the show long enough to make it really great. I have learned from working in Murray’s show the last three years, doing anywhere from six to twelve shows a week, that doing the same routines over and over again in front of an audience gives you the opportunity to hone and perfect your ideas and figure out what the audience likes and doesn’t like.”

Doug notes, “More often than not, when it comes up at a magic convention, or around a group of magicians I don’t know, that I was the ‘Red Gamester,’ the comment I usually get is ‘I heard about you guys but never had a chance to see you perform.’” One thing that really stood out about The Gamesters was their bright-colored red and blue zoot suits. “But I also think we tried to be original in our bits in the act, and I think our phone booth switch is still one of the most visual and unique in the business. Who knows, maybe some day Seth and I will dust off the props and do The Gamester act one more time. Of course, I’m not sure if I would still fit into the costume!”

Seth and Doug decided that the next logical thing to do was to move their business to Las Vegas, where they believed they would find more opportunities. They worked from time to time at The Magic Castle and created a unique act named Sferza, in which Doug did his card manipulation while Seth played his guitar. The first time they did that act was in the Spring of 2005 at the Bourbon Street Hotel & Casino in Vegas, in a small variety show called Spotlight. The first version of the act was only five minutes long. They sat on two bar stools; Doug did card manipulation, and Seth played some Sting and acoustic Van Halen on his guitar. They originally did it for fun, but show producer Will Roya loved it and booked them right after they finished their audition. Later, Seth and Doug opened for Nathan Burton for a week at the Flamingo in Vegas, and then twice performed the act at The Magic Castle. “When we did the Gamester act at the Castle,” says Doug, “we barely had enough time to reset between shows. But with our Sferza act, we had time to get changed and grab a drink at the bar. One thing we did learn was that this act was easy to sell, since it was straightforward — an amazing guitarist and a good magician.”

It wasn’t long until they were asked by an executive at the Luxor Hotel to create a new and different production for the hotel’s nightclub, RA. For Fall 2005, the two entrepreneurs developed a once-a-week three-hour erotic carnival show, which they named Exotique. They had four main acts on the stage. In the first show, they did a shorter version of their Sferza act. They also incorporated a fire eater, a Gwen Stefani impersonator, a cotton candy girl, a go-go dancer on a carousel horse, a girl in a bathtub blowing bubbles while sipping on a martini, a girl inside a chandelier hanging over the crowd and singing opera over techno music, a girl being body painted, Apollo Robbins doing pickpocketing and close-up magic, four professional dancers doing choreographed routines, and an overthe- top performance artist from Los Angeles. They created an immersive experience with entertainment everywhere, all of which just happened in the flow of the evening. A patron could watch, or just keep dancing and having fun and wait for the next thing. Every show was less than ten minutes in order to not stop the flow of the nightclub.

Although Exotique closed after only two months, it got good reviews and established Doug and Seth as Las Vegas producers, which led to their designing a string of shows for Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and other casino markets. One was called Sentimental Journey, a throwback to Motown and the early sounds of R& B. They also produced a variety show called Showtime that featured Mike Caveney, Tina Lenert, George Saterial, and later Dana Daniels, which played Atlantic City at Resorts Casino in October 2006.

Again, Doug and Seth got a call from an executive at the Luxor Hotel who wanted to discuss ideas for new nightlife ventures. They met him in a space that had once been a restaurant. He asked the duo what they would do with the space if they had control of it. Without missing a beat, Seth went into a rough pitch based on a concept he had for a show for Atlantic City. They talked for twenty minutes, bouncing ideas around, and when asked what would they call the venue, Seth said “CatHouse.” According to Doug, “It was perfect. Luxor was in the process of getting rid of everything Egyptian and wanted something sexy and edgy that pushed the envelope, and Seth’s name said it all.”

As a creative director, Doug came up with many ideas that became part of the signature look that helped brand CatHouse as a unique nightclub. Perhaps one of his most memorable creations was a “lingerie window” on the restaurant side of Cat-House. A real girl throughout dinner service hours would “appear” in the lingerie window and would try on various pieces of lingerie, put on her make-up, and get ready for a night out.

As word of his magic and producer talents spread around the Vegas entertainment community, Doug began to do consulting work. He remembers consulting with Seth on Wayne Newton’s show Once Before I Go at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. “After taking notes on transitions from one scene to the next, lighting, sets, video, and staging, with numerous other people from Wayne’s team giving notes, Wayne commented that it was hard to know what suggestions were good or not, since he was onstage and found it difficult to grasp the scope of the production. So Wayne suggested that I stand in for him and run the show so he could watch from the audience and take his own notes. I did not sing, but I stood onstage in front of his orchestra and ran the show, introducing video clips and songs, and walking through the transitions in real time. It was an incredible feeling, being onstage in front of a full orchestra when they played his songs. Wow! For me, that was a real career highlight!”

Over the last few years, Doug has worked with Steve Wyrick, Frank Marino, Boyz II Men, Meatloaf, The Jacksons, Human Nature, Greg London, and more. He helped create and produce The Sapphire Comedy Hour in a theater attached to the world’s largest strip club. It started off as a Las Vegas comedy show with a couple of comedians, then when Doug performed there it became a full-scale variety show, featuring local comedy and variety acts.

Because of Doug’s diverse past, he can help with everything — from branding and marketing, to show production and photo shoots. Given his background, he especially enjoys working with magicians. He says, “I really try to understand who the magicians are, what they think their image is, what they want their style to be. Then we work to make the magic fit into their vibe. For example, if Tommy Wind and Murray both had an illusion like the Twister, the routines, music, and costuming would be completely different, since their styles of performance are very different. My goal is not to change someone into another magician, but rather take an existing persona, change things, refine things, and make things better without losing the person’s identity.”

Doug always comes to a client meeting or photo shoot with lots of ideas. At a recent photo shoot with Jarrett & Raja, he figured out how to convey their image in one shot. “Raja is the musician, and Jarrett is the magician,” he says. “In a modern twist on the classic Sawing in Half photo, I wanted Jarrett and Raja to clearly represent who their characters were onstage, as well as their relationship to each other. I had Raja lying on top of a piano, both cut in half, while Jarrett holds an oversized chainsaw.”

As creative director for Tommy Wind’s first show in Vegas, Doug worked with Tommy to help develop the theme and overall concept, combining Tommy’s talents as an illusionist and his ability to play a multitude of instruments. After a couple of weeks of kicking around different ideas, he created the tagline “Musical Illusionist” for Wind. To this day, one of the real highlights of Tommy’s show is not a magic trick but a dueling drum sequence that Tommy and his dad perform. There is also a moment when Tommy shares the stage with both of his parents, magically produces various instruments, then plays each one.”

“In the end, I don’t care if I get credit for an idea,” Doug says. “I just want whatever show I am working on to be the best it can possibly be. There is something gratifying for me when a performer gets applause or laughs from something I have suggested they do or say. I feel like part of the applause or laughs is for me, and that makes me smile inside.”

While Seth and Doug haven’t worked on any projects together recently, they remain good friends. Seth is the owner of UD Factory, which produces shows and manages music acts. Recently, he and his company produced Jason Alexander’s one-man show, An Evening with Jason Alexander and His Hair, at Harrah’s casino in Vegas. Seth is also managing the well-known music group Blues Traveler.

Doug feels that as he gets older his focus will be more on the creative process of working on other shows, because that is where he sees more possibilities. With a college degree in marketing and advertising, and having worked in Vegas for twelve years, he brings to the table a creative expertise and knowledge about how sell tickets. Who knows? In ten years maybe he’ll be an entertainment director.

“Whatever I do,” says Doug, “I will never lose my love for magic!”

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Douglas has worked on many shows up and down the Las Vegas strip. He has worn many different hats, from being a creative director, lighting designer, set designer, and production / technical director having worked with Wayne Newton, Frank Marino, Human Nature, and Recycled Percussion to name a few.

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