When I arrive, Dewinter is already there. He’s ensconced in the shadows in the corner of a dark basement wine bar.
He says he’s too humiliated by his day job to reveal his employer. “It’s not illegal or anything. For me, it’s just deeply embarrassing.”
When his workday ends, he practices magic. Not voodoo. I ask for a demonstration. He shows both his hands empty and looks slightly off into the distance. His hand makes a grab and is now holding a silver dollar. The coin disappears and reappears several times, melting away at his fingertips only to return in a flash. At one point it appears on his open palm as you watch. He’s wearing short sleeves.
Dewinter performs his magic act primarily for audiences at corporate events, private clubs, schools like Phillips Exeter Academy and house parties, but occasionally entertains the public at area restaurants including Street and York Harbor Inn, as well as stages like The Kittery Dance Hall.
Does he have a goal when performing? “I want the audience to get goose bumps. To have the feeling that magic just might be real,” he says. “We lose that as we become adults and everything in the world has an explanation. I aim for that feeling I had as a boy when I believed in Santa Claus.” He thought for a moment and added, “There’s a scarcity of wonder in our world that magic can help to temporarily restore.”
Dewinter dreams of performing his act full-time, but admits that marketing is not his strength.
“Naturally, the business aspect is necessary and important. For me it’s also a burden. I wish I enjoyed that part more.” He performs both “close-up” magic for small groups and a stage act for groups larger than 20 people.
He first became interested in sleight-of-hand at age 9 when his father demonstrated a pocket trick that came inside a box of cereal.
“It was like the carpet had been pulled out from under me,” he remembered.
A couple of years later, his sister gave him a magic kit for Christmas. “I was in heaven,” he says.
As a self-described shy person, he laughs at the memory of practicing his skills alone in front of a mirror foryears, only to realize that his passion was a performing art. Without an audience to witness his miracles, they were incomplete.
“The shy guy had to stand up in front of a group of strangers and entertain them,” he said laughing. He did, and completing the circle was intoxicating.
During college he started performing in restaurants, which lead to bigger shows. After graduating, he moved to Paris with his now wife, searching for work performing his act in a cabaret. “I was so naive,” he said. “I ended up performing on the street.”
After about a year-and-a-half, he moved back to the U.S., settling in Portsmouth. Tired of life as a starving artist, he returned to school to get a bachelor's degree in graphic design from the Art Institute of Boston. Magic went on the back burner. He worked as a graphic designer and art director for more than a decade.
Then, after being laid off and unable to find full-time work in the design world, he picked up his wand and started trying to book his show.
I get up to ask the bartender for more water. He adds more ice and refills my glass. When I return to the table, Dewinter seems to have disappeared.
Like this week’s subject, this column will disappear with today’s story. After more than two years and 100-plus profiles, my work is done. Thanks to my editor, Jane Murphy for making my stories better, and to my subjects for their time and patience. I also sincerely appreciate all readers who have said kind words about this column during its run. Cheers.
Dewinter may be contacted through the author at email@example.com.