At twenty-five, I embarked on an unconventional journey
Hi, I'm Eileen McFalls. This memoir is about my adventures street performing with Jim Cellini, beginning when we first met in 1980 on Jackson Square in New Orleans. After meeting this charismatic street performer, I stepped into his world of magic without hesitation. But I was still in search of my self when I fell under his spell and into this outsider culture that was foreign to me.
No Ordinary Magic is a picture of our roller-coaster life of busking, the adventures and the mishaps we experienced, and the love we had for one another. Cellini's philosophy espoused having the freedom to go anywhere at anytime without depending on agents, managers, or club owners. In spite of myself, I was the recipient of a rare gift from Cellini—seeing society from a uniquely different perspective.
I've recounted bits and pieces of Cellini's entire magic act from coin, card, and cigarette effects to the linking rings and the ropes. He was most known for his featured trick, the Cups and Balls. For magicians who visit this site or purchase the book, there is one effect performed with a hidden clue—see if you can find it!
We met a slew of personalities during our travels, starting with a cast of characters in the French Quarter: Noel Rockmore, renowned artist and terror of the Quarter; George Price the Mouseman; Sonny Holiday, a quirky street performer who learned magic from Jim; Sebastiano Lomanto, a Sicilian balloon artist turned magician; and Chris "de Pyss" Lynam, an English comic clown. We were privileged to spend time with Lord Peregrine Eliot, founder of the Elephant Fayre and Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall and Heathcote Williams, poet, actor, playwright, and activist—both huge magic enthusiasts. In Los Angeles, we hung out with Michel Polnareff, a popular French pop singer and magic devotee. We wined and dined with numerous magicians throughout our travels—the famous and the infamous. Frank Garcia, a magician known as "The Man With the Million Dollar Hands" and a well-known authority on gambling, often met us at Slydini's apartment in Manhattan. Quintino Marucci, better known as Slydini, was Jim's mentor in magic. Considered by the magic society as the foremost magician who revolutionized the art of close-up magic, Slydini traveled the world, appeared on the Dick Cavett show a number of times, and taught celebrities—both actors and directors—in the art of misdirection. I felt honored to spend time with this legend in magic.
We trekked across America, Canada, Great Britain, and Europe, first in a step van, then in a converted school bus, and finally by car. We busked on street corners, plazas, and at festivals. Armed with instamatic cameras and a small Nikon, I took thousands of pictures during our years together performing on the streets. Despite a major catastrophe with the bus and a house fire some years later, happily, a number of photo negatives survived—faded, scratched, picked, but usable. The two photos from the 1983 Piedmont Arts Festival in Atlanta are posted courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Fortunately, I also kept bins of letters we'd received over the years. I remember Jim telling me, "Save those. They'll come in handy one day." I'm glad I did. Enjoy the history these photos and stories represent.
Eileen McFalls has lived and traveled extensively as a busker, club owner. medical technologist, and graphic designer. A background in design enabled her to lay out the entire book, and to restore 35-year-old photos she'd taken on the road in order to show readers what her partner Cellini looked like—and herself—performing on
the street. A 30-page color insert in the memoir includes these photos as well as artwork of street performers by Noel Rockmore.
Eileen's role in writing the memoir also played out as a chronicler of street performing in the eighties, a little-known niche of society chock-full of quirky characters living this life on the fringe. During the time that she worked on her memoir, Eileen revisited old busking haunts in New York City and the French Quarter in New Orleans.
Eileen does pro bono design for individuals and nonprofits, and works on writing projects. She resides in Greensboro, North Carolina, home to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum.