Dal Sanders: Our New President

Jul13 coverIn The Book of Secrets, John Carney says, “Creativity is play.” If you accept that as truth, then Dal Sanders is playing at life. I do not know of another person so full of creativity. While most of you may know Dal as a magician, he is constantly working on creating magic, writing books, and designing routines for himself and others; he is even a songwriter. He loves to write. In fact, if I hadn’t said I wanted to write this for him, he would have written it himself. Says Dal, “Creativity is like a muscle: the more you use it the stronger it gets.” And he does this in what spare time he has, working over six hundred gigs a year. (By Dal’s definition a gig is not just one show; it can be a week-long event for a client at a mall opening or even the Texas State Fair, performing five shows a day for twenty-four days.) Dal is the only one I know who seems to have a thirty-six-hour day.

Dal Sanders is a busy man, but early on success didn’t seem to be in the cards. As a child, Dal had obstacles to overcome – he had trouble breathing and talking. Born in San Antonio while his dad was in the Air Force, the family was transferred to Memphis where his sister Shan was born. Once out of the Air Force, Dal’s father moved the family to Nashville, where Dal developed severe breathing problems. His father followed a doctor’s advice to get the boy somewhere warm; at age three, his family moved to Miami, Florida, where his sister Fauve was born.

 

While most two- and three-year-olds are chatting away, Dal was not. A speech impediment made his conversation almost incoherent. Quite simply, he couldn’t talk. It wasn’t until he was five that doctors realized it was a problem with his tongue – it could not move. Minor surgery corrected it, but then Dal had to re-learn to speak. He was taken to the Easter Seals clinic in Miami, where Mrs. Stein became his speech therapist. For many years, he worked with her, even though her appearance was off-putting. Says Dal, “She was blind, but did not wear dark glasses that concealed her eyes. She had a hunchback and was not much taller than I was. She also walked with a cane. For a five-year-old she was the embodiment of the witch from Hansel and Gretel; my mom left me with her for two hours every week.” Mrs. Stein’s kindness and expertise soon won Dal over, and he learned to love her. He added, “Even though she couldn’t see my lips she knew exactly what I was doing wrong; she made me learn to think about each syllable before I said it.” Mrs. Stein spent five years working with Dal, having him read Shakespeare aloud while most kids were reading Dick and Jane.

Dal saw his first live magic shows while living in Florida, but for the longest time he thought it was two shows by the same magician. It wasn’t until he became a magician himself that he realized they were different. “I saw Willard the Wizard do a tent show when we were travelling for vacation. I also saw one of Harry Blackstone Sr.’s last theater shows.” The Willard show was a bit of foreshadowing of what was to come, in that the assembly to which Dal belongs is the Willard the Wizard Assembly 13 in Dallas; Dal’s home houses the assembly’s collection of memorabilia and props from the Willard show.

Dal did some magic as a child but it wasn’t a life-changing passion like it is for many magicians. He watched The Magic Land of Alakazam every Saturday, but he was also drawn to puppets; Howdy Doody and Kukla, Fran, and Ollie were favorite shows. Seeing the musical Carousel made him want to perform. Dal made some puppets, built a puppet stage, got his magic together, and hosted a show for the neighborhood kids, charging them a nickel each. When his mother found out, she was furious and she
made him return all the money. By 1968, Dal’s family relocated to Atlanta. While he doesn’t remember doing magic in high school, he says he must have done some. “I just had my fortieth reunion; they had the old school newspaper and it talked about me doing magic for other students, I have no real memory of that. Magic still wasn’t a passion; I was more interested in playing guitar.”

Read Dal Sanders rise in magic to become the S.A.M. president in the July issue of M-U-M by Clicking HERE.

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