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By Kyle Munzenrieder
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Golden also cast doubt on Trixx's ritual of having a few drinks before getting onstage. "That's crazy," Golden howled. "Do you think David Copperfield has a few shots before his show? You can do magic drunk, but it wouldn't be good." He paused. "Maybe it's the heavy-metal thing."
Trixx talks about his burning passion for magic with the intensity of a recently converted Mormon. He has told the story of his epiphany hundreds of times. But eventually Trixx will concede: Magic is his back-up plan.
It's not difficult to guess his first career goal. You can hear it in his speech: "That's cool.... Dude.... Hot chicks.... Awesome." Then there's the hair, the tattoos, the drinking, the chain-smoking, the Mötley Crüe posters, the Aerosmith Christmas card. And, perhaps more than anything, there's the worship of Nikki Sixx, the Mötley Crüe bassist.
"I wanted to be Nikki Sixx," he says, like a high school football player remembering the dreamy days. That was before he began watching levitation instructional videos, before he knew how to produce rabbits. Back then Trixx had another name.
Michael Costa grew up the second of three children in Sandwich, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. His mom Betty worked as an aide at a school for the disabled, and his step-dad drove a cement truck. The name Costa is his stepfather's.
Back in the 1970s, young Mike was, from a very early age, "different," Betty Costa says. "Nothing like his brothers, Paul and Steve. He always wanted to be the center of attention." He quickly found a way of distinguishing himself: rock. He collected Kiss cards; he even started crude air-guitar maneuvers at age seven.
But his full-blown obsession began with Mötley Crüe's album Shout at the Devil. Costa became the first longhair in his school. (His mom jokes that his last haircut was in fourth grade.) He was also a precocious smoker who pushed the limits of his school's dress code. He wore spandex and ripped jeans. It was as a preteen that he picked up his interior design taste. "All rock," he says. All four walls and the ceiling in his room were devoted to Mötley Crüe posters. "One wall for each guy in the band," Trixx says.
Costa, though, wasn't content with being a look-alike or a rabid fan. In eighth grade, he buddied up with Blaine Perry, a fellow metalhead from another middle school, to form his first band. "I was like Tommy Lee," says Perry, a drummer. "And he was Nikki Sixx."
It didn't take long, though, for Perry to notice a problem with his best friend. "He looked right, had brilliant facial expressions. He partied like a rock star," Perry said. "But he just wasn't getting better.... Let's be honest. He sucked."
Still, Costa wanted to rock badly. He played with a Boston-area band, Cry 'N Out Loud. They toured New England and planned to record a CD. But that crumbled. Then he followed a girlfriend to Sarasota. There he got a job working the salad bar at an Outback Steakhouse and began jamming with local bands. "I wasn't making much money, but I was still a rock musician."
The night of Costa's magic epiphany was, he says, in December 1995. Shortly after finishing a jam session, Costa began winding down, as usual, with a smoke. He was joined by a fan whom he refers to only as the Kid. While they were talking, the Kid took his lit cigarette and with a quick hand gesture made it vanish. Moments later the cigarette reappeared. Costa was fascinated. "What was that? How'd you do it?" The Kid refused to tell him. But Costa persisted. He offered a bribe: "Ten bucks. Twenty." He even pleaded: "Dude, I don't wanna be a magician. I'm just a bass player who smokes a lot. I wanna do this at parties." Finally the Kid accepted $40 and then spent two hours explaining the trick.
The following day, the rocker and his new sensei went to Sarasota's only magic store. Costa showed his new tricks to some co-workers. They were amazed. "The reaction was unbelievable," he recalls.
By the time he returned home to Cape Cod just six weeks later, Costa had a new identity.
"Everyone was surprised. I mean, Mike the magician?" Perry says. "It was weird."
Costa's mom was amused by her son's new tricks, but admitted a tinge of concern when he declared so assuredly that he was going to be a magician. Also, a fear soon grew in the Costa house. The first time Betty saw her son perform, at a Cape Cod club, he struggled. "Oh my god," she says, recalling the sight. He was dropping props and did such a poor job concealing the magic that Mike's step-dad, Steve, figured out the secrets to the tricks. "We were very worried," Betty says. "I wasn't sure if magic was the right decision."
But Mike was committed.
Don't be seduced by David Copperfield's salary ($57 million), the extravagance of a Siegfried and Roy stage show, or the Monte Carlo Casino's lavish courtship of a magician (Lance Burton was given his very own $27 million theater there). Of the roughly 10,000 self-proclaimed magicians in the United States, an overwhelming number is part-time or does it as a hobby. In South Florida, of the roughly 100 serious magicians, Magic City Conjurers president Maria Ibanez estimates, less than ten make a living entirely on magic.