It’s a Tuesday evening, and the newly-opened Montana’s restaurant in Airdrie is packed, with more than a 20-minute wait to be seated. The air smells of barbeque sauce and burgers. The room is stuffy with the crowds of people.
The overhead music is masked with the loud chatter of families enjoying their dinners, asking their children to sit politely and discussing their daily encounters. The lights above the booths give a warm glow as hostesses and waiters move through the restaurant, serving steaming hot plates of food.
Underneath one of those glowing lights, a family of four celebrates their son’s birthday. Their eyes are all on magician Chris Lovely as he blows up a purple balloon and twists it into a cat. He makes jokes, performs a couple of magic tricks and ends by presenting a magic kit as a birthday present. As the birthday boy clutches the box, his face lights up with joy.
Thirty years ago, that boy could have easily been Lovely. Ever since he was a child, Lovely dreamed of being a magician. Despite it being a risky career move, he’s turned his passion into a full-time job.
Magic as an opportunity
When he was younger, Lovely chose magic as a way to make friends.
“I’ve always been really small for my age and the last picked for any sports team and that kind of stuff,” he says. “Every time I would come to school, I had this thing that got people interested in me right away.”
Lovely’s younger brother, Jeremy Lovely, says his passion for magic started as young as his early teens.
“Imagine being 13-years-old, and instead of playing video games or being outside with your friends, you're sitting in your room reading a book on card tricks that’s 300 pages long.”
He says Lovely would spend hours at a time cutting decks of cards.
“He would just do that over and over until he mastered it.”
Magic as a career
Having a career in the magic industry can be a risky move. Lovely says that there were people who doubted his ability to make magic his only job.
“Some people just didn't know if it was going to be able to become something you could do as a career,” He says. “It's very hard to do [and] it's very hard to maintain.”
Even though he tried to get a normal job, magic was always what Lovely wanted to do.
“When I got out of high school, I got a little bit of pressure to go to college. I took a year in electrical engineering,” he says. “After about a year I realized, you know, that I can make this magic thing work and I'm going to go after it, and I did.”
Pursuing a job in magic has its difficulties, especially when first starting out. Lovely says making money as a magician can be rough because of inconsistent jobs.
“You don’t know where your next paycheck is coming from, because bookings are coming in, and if they don't come in, you don't make any money,” he says. “Getting to a point where everybody knows you and trusts you is very difficult.”
Even Jeremy had worries on how Lovely would be able to sustain his career in magic.
“My worry at first was [that he was] getting older,” he says. “So, my worry was [if he was going to] be okay later in life if he had to go back into the workforce.”
Despite these concerns and the possibility of failing as a magician, Lovely has flourished in his career. Working at four restaurants a week, Lovely now uses his magic to create something valuable and strives to make people laugh.
“I really love the feeling I get to give to people — [that] happy feeling,” he says. “And I think that’s what's missing in the world is wonder. We have to do more of that.”
Magic as a passion
Sylvie Myers and her family are regulars of Lovely’s, spending many Tuesdays and birthdays at Tony Roma’s along 130th Avenue S.E., watching him perform. Myers says that Lovely is a genuine and caring person.
“He's touching a lot of people's lives in a positive way,” she says. “I think he does spread a lot of magic and happiness.”
Jeremy Lovely says that his own passion for the things he loves came from watching his big brother follow his dreams.
“He took something that, [for] most people, [would be a] hobby and he made it his career,” he says. “I think that's where I got that life lesson from. I'm proud of him.”
As someone who saw magic through despite the hardships it brought in the beginning, Lovely has one thing to say to aspiring magicians: never give up and follow your dreams, no matter how hard.
“Do it because you want to [and] because you love it. I love my job. I wake up every day and I can't believe I get to do what I do,” he says. “Stick with it, love what you do and everything else will fall into place.”
- By Gabrielle Pyska