Cutting your sister in half in front of 11,000 people at the Capital Centre is not necessarily any different from doing the same trick at Shakey's Pizza Parlor.
But as Fred Aaron learned a week ago Wednesday night, it may mean he'll have to bring along a handsaw as well as an electric saw the next time he performs on ice.
Aaron was in the middle of his magic act at the Ice Capades intermission, part of the grand prize he had won in a talent contest sponsored by the Wheaton Plaza Businessmen's Association. His assistant (and stepsister), Beth Neilberg, was lying on a folding table, a wooden cutting partition snug around her middle.
Aaron raised his electric jig saw in mid-air to show the fans it really worked - but it didn't - no power. Electricians fumbled in the black-ground, Aaron, kept his calm, and the power went on. Rumble, rumble, he cut through the girl. She screamed; we waited. It was all an illusion and she survived.
Aaron a 16-year-old junior at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, had earned his act on the ice by winning a contest for area magicians at Wheaton Plaza on Jan. 28.
The contest was a promotional gimmick for Wheaton Plaza and the Capital Centre, which is sponsoring the Ice Capades through Sunday. It was no accident that the theme of the Ice Capades this year is "It's Magic Time."
Forty-two kids came out in 50-mile-an-hour winds and 10-below zero temperatures to complete in the outdoor mall for free tickets to the Ice Capades and the grand prize of a sky suite and a chance to perform at the Capital Centre.
Aaron, who had been performing magic at Shakey's pizza Parlor at University Boulevard and Riggs Road for two years and had played for soldiers, church groups, nursing homes and private parties, came up the winner.
On the night of the performance, Aaron was all decked out in a new red tuxedo jacket with black lapels, black pants and shiny black boots. He sat up in the stands with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Aaron, sisters and friends and tried not to be nervous.
"I've done the show before a lot of crowds before. I pretent that there is just one person out there," he said before the show.
The arena was full of kids and when intermission time came and Fred and Beth came sliding out onto the ice, no one moved, except to get down closer to the front to watch.
Aaron made turning a wand into a scarf took easy, and after the mike and power problems were worked out, he sawed his assistant in Two. Then he got down to business.
"I'll attempt to warm up a bit by eating fire," he said as he licked the flames from two blazing wands. Earlier he had told a reporter that eating fire is not too bad. 'It's only hot when you swallow it," he said with a little smile.
After the fire trick, he changed his scarf back into a wand and then he and his assistant disappeared - backstage.
"I don't think it went too well," he said, analyzing the show.
"That five minutes seemed to be over in 30 seconds, I tried to slow it down, but then the mike didn't work. What seemed wrong? I couldn't see anything. I was 'Blinded by the Light,'" he joked in reference to a popular song.
"I'm not really satisfied. It didn't feel right. When they introduced us, we weren't ready. And then we couldn't get across the ice."
But now Aaron was really in his element. A small crowd gathered as he proceeded to do the fire trick again. Then he pulled out some cards and started changing eights into acres.The crowd was fooled, completely.
He became interested in magic about four years ago when he walked into a magic shop in Atlantic City. "He was continuously doing tricks on the family," said his mother, Carol.
A year and a half ago he discovered AI's Magic Shop, a local hangout for amateur magicians on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. "I used to go down there every week and usually wound up spending $60 or so. My father never knew about it.
"It's a very expensive hobby. And some illusions can cost up to $2,000 sometimes."
He is busy now planning a new trick. "I'll put my assistant's head in a box, then stick spears into it and then make the head disappear," he said.
Aaron plans to go to college, "probably the University of Maryland," he said. But his real goal is to be an "all-round magician."
"It isn't the trick that counts. The magic is in the showmanship, in the presentation. You can turn a simple trick into a miracle if you've got it."