Local physician/magician pens book about his life-long passion

"The type of magic I do is close-up magic, not the death-defying [stuff you see on T.V.]" Ungar said. "It's done across a desk, for one or two people, or for small groups," like his JGS patients. Reminder Publications submitted photo
By Debbie Gardner

PRIME Editor

To his patients at JGS Family Medical Care in Longmeadow, he's Dr. Jay Ungar, caring internist and geriatric specialist.

To his audiences (wshich also regularly include his family, friends, staff members, roster of patients and pharmaceutical salesman), he's Ragnu the OK, amateur magician extraodinaire.

And now, this lifelong afficionado of the slight-of-hand has added another title to his collection author.

Ungar, a.k.a. Ragnu the OK, recently published his first book, Bringing Magic to Life, a work he calls "a unique mix of prescriptions for infusing magic into one's life and life into one's magic."

Reminder Publications recently sat down with Ungar in his offices at 70 Converse St. to talk about his new book and his life-long fascination with the magical arts.

And yes, I got to see a few tricks. (I particularly liked the $1- becomes -$50 "driving cashiers crazy" trick listed on pg. 92 of his book!)

A lifelong passion

So, Reminder Publications asked, how does a physician become a magician ?

In Ungar's case it seems the proverbial cart came before the horse.

"I've been fooling around with magic since the first or second grade," Ungar said. "The father of one of my friends [back then] pulled a nickel from behind my ear and ... shazam ... I was hooked."

A young Ungar scoured his hometown library for books about magic, devouring every one he could find.

A persistent Ungar dragged his family to Tannen's Magic Shop in New York City's Times Square during a vacation to the city in the late 1950s.

His passion for magic followed him through school, through medical school in Philadelphia, right into his internship and residency at Baystate Medical Center, where Ragnu the OK did one of his first western Massachusetts performances a December 1976 holiday show for the kids in the pediatric ward.

Today, he admits to having a "huge library of magic books" and attending training seminars where he's learned from master magicians such as Slydini and Roger Klause.

And, when asked, he shares his magic with other magicians at seminars.

Up close and personal

"The type of magic I do is close-up magic, not the death-defying [stuff you see on T.V.]" Ungar said. "It's done across a desk, for one or two people, or for small groups,' like his JGS patients.

When the medical matters have been covered, Ungar said the magician in him comes out.

"People can never feel short-changed, [the doctor-patient relationship] is a sacred trust. After we've addressed what they came in for, it may be appropriate to ask them 'Would you like to see something]?' Most times they do."

Ungar said the magic is his way of making an uncomfortable situation seem less threatening.

"In magic there has to be a connection," Ungar said. "The real magic is not in the tricks, but in the connection they create [between the magician and his audience]."

Bringing Magic to Life

It's creating those connections, getting the wows ... of making, as Ungar puts it, magic happen between people ... that led him to write the book.

Divided into two sections Magical Thoughts and Act-ions the work gives Ungar/Ragnu an opportunity to share some of the "sights and insights" he's collected along his dual path of physician/magician.

In "Magical Thoughts," he shares a bit about himself, what he's learned about life, and about making connections with people through pursuing his passion to be a proudly amateur magician.

"It's written not just for magicians, but for magicians and non-magicians to get something out of it," he said. "I've tried to write on two or three levels on every page."

In the "Act-ions" he pays homage to two dozen of his favorite tricks, including ones called "for Josh (his son)" and "My Wife's Favorite Trick."

"A magician will have to go to other references and videos [to master the tricks shown]," Ungar said, "I'm not giving away the placement of the fingers and such.

"The accent in this book is on the presentation - 'the Shtick' the storytelling that connects the magician to his audience," he added.

Ungar said it took him the better part of four years of writing, "I think a lot between two and four in the morning" to complete the book.

And a week after it came off the press, he was proud to report that he'd sold 175 of the 1,000 copies ordered.

"Magic is a metaphor," Ungar said. "You don't have to be a magician to make magic."

Bringing Magic to Life is available in the gift shops of Baystate Medical Center, Mercy Hospital, the Jewish Nursing Home gift shop, Edwards Books in Tower Square at at www.bringingmagictolife.com.

Reminder Publications, Inc. 280 North Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028 • Tel: 413.525.6661 • Fax 413.525.5882

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