Erie magician Harry Kellar’s legacy will be honored at new Erie club.
We could all use a little magic right now — a break from reality, space to wonder and marvel.
That is what Erie native and magician Bobby Borgia and his partner Kristi Lewonas promise to deliver in their new magic club and museum dedicated to legendary illusionist and Erie native, Harry Kellar.
A company led by Borgia bought the former Jr.’s Last Laugh Comedy Club, 1402 State St. in 2019.
In a story published Saturday, Borgia detailed his plans in depth to reporter Valerie Myers. The club, Kellar’s A Modern Magic & Comedy Club, will feature nationally known magicians and comics in an atmospheric setting that recalls Kellar’s legacy.
Kellar, born into a German immigrant family in 1849, grew up on West 13th Street. He left Erie when just a child after a mishap involving chemical experimentation at the druggist’s where he worked.
He studied the craft of magic by working with a series of magicians and eventually worked up to top billing in shows around the world. He was famous for spectacular illusions conjured with equipment, including his version of the Levitation, in which a girl mysteriously rose from a couch and floated across the stage to the audience and disappeared. He was known as the “dean” of American magicians, was a friend and inspiration to Harry Houdini and is thought to have been the inspiration for Frank Baum’s “Wizard of Oz.”
But Borgia –who himself has appeared on television and performed illusions around the world — is correct: Kellar is a hometown secret who has been lost for some 100 years.
The new club will feature Kellar posters and tribute walls recalling his most famous tricks. The magic won’t take place just on stage. At the Performance Bar, a sleight-of-hand magician will levitate and vanish cocktails and other potions.
A Kellar museum is planned on the second floor featuring letters and magic props, photos, posters and other memorabilia from Kellar’s family estate. Borgia has hosted magic camps for children and teens in Los Angeles and plans to do the same here.
Kellar died in Los Angeles in 1922. This new venue is an overdue homage to the influential entertainer and could also serve to add new interest and vitality to Erie’s resurgent downtown. It is aligned with the Erie Refocused plan, which recommends strengthening the city’s core and capitalizing on its historic assets.
That will be more important than ever as the economy claws its way back from the pandemic, which we hope does not cramp for long the club’s prospects.
The club, as Borgia envisions it, should not just be a local attraction but, potentially, a national draw.