THE GOOD SAINT NICK

by Deana Murray

As a kid, NICK spent a lot of time with his nose pressed against the front windows of two stores… The Pet Store and the Magic Store. Ironically, the view from the inside – looking back at NICK – was just as magical, full of surprise, and twice as cuddly. And what he couldn’t find in the stores of his hometown of Wichita, Kansas, he found in books – on the shelves of the local schools and libraries. Today, he is equally at ease at giving a speech as the top Veterinarian for PetSmart, as he is interlacing magic to make a point. He has written books on both subjects. He’s published the definitive pictorial on the Desert Magic and World Magic Seminars. And he is the leading authority nationwide having written two books on KOI fish. It isn’t surprising to those that know him, that NICK SAINT ERNE – the man – has grown up into a reflection of all things…well, …KID!!! That is to say, he knows a lot about those things that make kids happy. Which is as close to my definition of SANTA CLAUS as you can get !

Martha and Joe Stevens had already hired a Saturday Magician, named Nelson Schmitt, when NICK came into the newly opened “Stevens Magic Emporium” in 1975 and asked Martha for a job. He’d do anything just to be around all the props and magicians and such a store full of magic provides. Initially there wasn’t much pay for ‘emptying the trash’ but what he could eat made up for it! He started by cleaning and organizing, then he swept and painted his way into the Stevens’ hearts and into the ‘land of magic.’ “He was the smartest kid I ever knew. He’d give you more than you wanted to know for an answer. And with a photogenic mind – he knew where to find things. He was quick to learn how to demonstrate whatever Joe showed him.” Martha laughs about it now. Since Joe always requires a story to go with each prop… “Nick was always thinking of ways to make the magic better or the story more interesting. As time passed, Nick’s skills improved.”

It wasn’t much later that a friend of mine, from the Wizards of Wichita, said he went by the Emporium. He was interested in a set of Linking Rings. Not only did he get a quick lesson from NICK , the kid, he also bought one of Nick’s first books on – (you guessed it…) “The NEW and IMPROVED Linking Rings”. Nick soon became a member of ‘the Wizards’ and still is.

Dr. Nick Saint-Erne

Joe, Martha & Nick Together Again!

Now, there are differing versions on how NICK got to college when the time came. But, when it did – he chose to become a Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine. He started at Wichita State University then on to Kansas State. In the course of his studies – he chronicled everything. Even surgery on a FISH ! NICK says, “The trick is to put anesthesia in the water.” Soon after graduation, NICK headed to Las Vegas “where there was an abundance of animals and magicians in need of his skills.” Needless to say, he was right for the time and the place. NICK handled all kinds of exotic animals and situations. He became a vet and volunteer, friend and advisor to the likes of Lance Burton, Rick Thomas and David Copperfield. He did the “pre-set” for Melinda’s stage. He took care of the parrots at the Tropicana, and a lot of private KOI ponds in the desert oasis. When NICK felt like his business was stable enough… he went looking for a house to buy. This is how he met JUDY. She was selling real estate and he saw her picture. It’s funny how life brings you love, when you think you’re not looking. Nick bought the house she liked best and asked her to marry him. Judy says, “When we lived in Las Vegas I think it was wonderful how Nick’s two passions in life were joined. He always enjoyed helping magicians with the animals and their acts.”

Nick has also put in a lot of time and effort championing the Teenage Competition for Joe and Martha during the Desert Magic Seminar years, and now for the World Magic Seminar. He has helped countless kids by introducing them to all of us – and to each other. He’s been available and interactive in that regard. Most of the planning and scheduling is in the ample hands of Bill and Becki Wells, with the extra efforts of Pete Biro, Jeff McBride, and Eugene Berger, not to mention Lance Burton who always hosts a party for the kids and sponsors the awards. This singular event has bloomed into an extraordinary weekend venue to both improve and showcase the talents of the next generation of superstars in magic. NICK keeps in touch with these kids and he follows their paths closely. The last time I saw him, he was playing a game of chess with Sterling Dietz… { in their heads!!!} He was checking on Chad Juros’ schedule, and congratulating the Reed sisters (Shayna, Jessica and Mandy) for their performances… all at the same time.

Today, NICK and JUDY live in Arizona where they are raising three beautiful girls of their own. Since thier girls were practically born at Magic Conventions and have grown up with access to all kinds of animals beyond rabbits and doves, turtles and fish… I had to ask. What’s Nick really like? You know, from a KID’S point of view. Here’s what they had to say, from oldest to youngest…

Victoria “I think it’s amazing to have my dad in the magic business. It’s always fun when he does tricks at home and for our classrooms and friends. I have to say though that one of my favorite parts is being able to go to the shows of the other magicians like Jeff Hobson, Lance Burton and David Copperfield and actually meet them and have my dad know them.”

Alexandra “The title of ‘Nicholas the Great’ definitely suits my dad. Getting to know famous magicians like Joe and Martha Stevens, and Joanie Spina (who babysat us when we were little) and Brad Zinn is great! And going backstage to meet the stars of the show is terrific. I honestly and truly believe that my dad is a WIZARD.”

Rachel “He does magic for my class. He starts with a paper cloth…and a bird pops out! The weirdest animal he brought home was a frog! He does stuff with us all the time.
*I gave the girls “Get Out of Vegetable Free” certificates one year for Christmas. NICK and JUDY have since devised ways that the girls can earn them back – once used. Recently NICK told me that they have to decide whether to re-print or laminate those certificates due to over circulation. Now that’s kid friendly!

To All… Nick has been a pal, a visionary, a volunteer, a coordinator, a driver and a driving force. He opens his heart and his Big Red Bag of Magical Surprises to those whose paths he crosses. And often, to those he’s yet to meet. His books, his advice, his smile, his knowledge – even his questions – invite others to energize their dreams. He pulls from his bag of tricks– streamers of imagination, information and inspiration – to make our world a better place. ….and to All a GOOD NIGHT.