The Philosophy of Juan Tamariz
(and how it impacts my life)
There is this magical little man, known as Juan Tamariz Martel Negron. I call him Gazpachito.
A fine friend, John Carey, asked me to write about Juan, his philosophy and how it impacts my life. Prior to a discussion with Juan, I decided that his philosophy on magic, performance and life can be summed up in one word:
(passion was a close second)
Simple, no? Yet it is the best way I can describe Juan. When you are around him, you feel the pure emotion of love.
Love of magic? Obvious.
Love of performing? Clearly.
Love of audiences? In abundance.
Love of life, food and laughter? Absolutely.
So I started to write about Juan’s philosophy of life and I hit the proverbial writer’s block. This article sat dormant for far too long on my Mac.
Then I realized what was missing. I hadn’t asked the man himself.
So, one night in Madrid, I asked him what his philosophy of life was. And the crux is that there isn’t a simple answer. I pestered him with simple questions trying to narrow things down. Getting to anyone’s core philosophy isn’t something that I do all that often. Here is what I got from him, filtered from my perspective:
I love magic and human beings.
Museums are wonderful.
There is magic, love, freedom, humor, joy, passion, magic (yes, again!).
The rest is nothing.
Art is like heaven on earth.
When you feel, the audience feels.
Share your love of magic!
What difference does a philosophy make?
When you are around Juan, you feel the love—it is palpable. When you engage him in a discussion, or as the Spaniards say, a tertulia, the words are passionate and vibrant. It doesn’t matter if you are discussing the newest sleight, paintings or a dinner from a dozen years past. The communication, from the heart, is inspirational.
Most card magicians have a slavish devotion to the Expert at the Card Table by Erdnase. The book is treated as the bible of technical card sleights, often obscuring the value of other historical masters of our art. If you get the chance, ask Juan about the books by Robert Houdin or Johan Nepomuk Hofzinser. Juan’s respect and love for the writings of these men will move you to dust off the pages and read them with fresh eyes and an open heart.
At one of the meetings of Las Jornadas de El Escorial, Juan performed a card routine that floored the room of experts. Each moment was inexplicable, but towards the end of the effect, the entire deck changed three different times—with no deck switches! Eyes and mouths and hearts were opened wide. When Juan explained that the effect was over a century old, we realized that the oldest books on our art are more than worthy of our love.
Of men and muses
During one of the times I convinced Juan to visit Magic, Inc. in Chicago, there was a Magritte exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. Juan heard about it and wanted to go. This was something that I would not have attended on my own, but I was happy to take him to the exhibit. I have an appreciation of paintings, but I did not know much of Magritte (I think I was aware of La Trahison des images (Ceci n'est pas une pipe) — although I didn’t understand it).
When Juan found out that I knew little of Magritte, he turned into a delightful docent. Room by room, painting by painting, concept by concept, he patiently explained the history of Magritte, the concepts of his art, and his impact on art and on the world. He spoke about Magritte’s perspective in a way that inspired respect and wonder in me. Finally, I understood and appreciated why a pipe is not.
Juan’s love of museums and magic have found a home, in, well, Juan’s own home. He has taken his garage and transformed it into a devoted space where the history of magic can be enjoyed and respected. Listening to Juan discuss historical details of the collected props, books and posters is an honor. If you ever have a chance to visit his magical museum, make your way there without hesitation!
Memories that last
Juan has a way of inviting you to memorable meals. One night, Juan invited us to dinner. There are a pair restaurants named El Faro in the south of Spain. One is in Cádiz and one is outside of Cádiz. When I pointed out that one is an “in” Faro and one is an “out” Faro, Roberto Giobbi responded, “Well, they are both perfect!”
I am not a fan of fish—I had bad experiences with it in my childhood. Juan convinced me to try the fish at El Faro. It is prepared in a bed of salt. This salt, either from local mines or the coast or Cádiz, is exquisite! Juan broke through decades of resistance, and I ordered the fish. Needless to say, it was the best fish I have ever eaten. The fish melted in my mouth—the texture, the gentle, yet powerful flavor, is magnified when you chew a grain of salt that survived the trip from the chef’s table to your plate.
Towards the end of the meal, Juan asked if we wanted to try something special. I was dubious, as in that moment, I couldn’t imagine anything topping the fish.
Juan orders the pâté de foie gras. For connoisseurs of fine food, one might wonder why a traditional French specialty is being ordered in the south of Spain. Suffice it to say, experts in French cuisine have confirmed that this pâté is beyond exquisite. I am not exaggerating. This is the type of food that your taste buds remember forever.
The experience then becomes even more remarkable. It hurts to type this, as this is a precious moment that becomes rarer each time it is served. This is due to the rarity of the wine, the vino de Santo Domingo. Let me explain.
Normally, the pâté is served on a tiny piece of bread or toast, with a bit of marmalade added for a hint of sweetness. Juan used to order the dish just like that, in the bar of El Faro.
An older gentleman, hearing him order, and having recognized Juan from television, leaned over and asked, “would you like to know a secret?”
The man then poured the wine onto a plate. Juan thought he was crazy. He took a piece of bread and gently dipped it into the wine. He turned it over, placed a spoonful of pâté delicately onto the bread and offered it to Juan.
And having personally had the privilege (the honor!) of experiencing this gourmet delight, I have to say that those words are authentic.
The taste, the explosion of flavor is beyond anything I have tasted in my life. This experience is heaven on earth.
El Faro has saved the last few bottles of this wine specifically for Juan. Newer vintages are not the same. The absolute joy of this experience is tempered by the simultaneous sadness that this is one of the last times this special moment can be shared amongst dear friends. Juan has a way of creating moments that you will remember for the rest of your life.
A three month long convention
Many such moments take place at a gathering of magicians in his home. Where most magicians might have friends over for a night, or possibly a weekend—Juan’s passion can’t be contained in such a short period. Juan jovially calls it a three month long convention!
For me, it is so much more than a convention. It is a gathering of dear friends—ones who love magic as much as you, and they love you for being you. They share your passion for magic and creativity. They are honest and playful and enthusiastic about helping you improve your art. Sitting at the table with these artists is something that I treasure.
When you walk down the streets in Spain with Juan, you will be accosted by people who exclaim, “Tam-ar-iz!” Juan has lifelong fans gained from a lifetime of performances done in theaters, television in general and on his own series. The thing that moves me the most? No matter how busy he is, or how late he may be to dinner, he always has time for a smile, a autograph, a photo or a kiss.
I would be remiss if I gave you the impression that Juan is always full of love and kindness. There have been moments where he has been an outright monster to me.
One of the worst was in a small venue named El Pelícano MúsiCafé in Cádiz. He approached me and punched me squarely in my stomach. This was no lighthearted punch—this was a gut-renching punch that sent me reeling to the floor.
Well, it wasn’t actually a punch. But what he did to me felt like Muhammad Ali had unleashed his unbridled fury.
Juan asked me to perform on his show.
I don’t know if I can express how shocking this request was. Juan is the epitome of the consummate showman. His shows are alive—they are special beyond words.
In the moment, I was stunned. On one hand, I didn’t want to disrespect the maestro by declining. On the other hand, lay an uncharted journey of raw terror.
If you have never experienced a live performance by Juan, well, it is hard to describe. You have to be there. You have to feel the power of his performances. It is this wonderful mix of passion and energy and humor and love that is like no other. Juan’s magic truly puts people on the proverbial edge of their seats.
And this is what I had to follow!
If it wasn’t for his prodding, his kind words, his support, I wouldn’t have done it. But somehow, I did. The reactions and applause were real. Juan helped me face my fear head on and succeed. Afterwards, a feeling of elation glowed in my heart.
What impact does it have on me, my life snd my audiences?
Well, Juan has taught me how to be more expressive, both in performances and in life. To not be embarrassed by my love of magic. To fully express my joy of performance. He is a true friend—one that helps me thrive.
My shows, my methods, my timing, my theories, my magic—all are better for having met him.
Quite an impact, no?
For the above, and so much more, Gazpachito has my everlasting gratitude.
¡Muchísimas gracias, mi querido amigo!
When you have a moment, write to me and tell me about your philosophy of life, and its impact on others and the world at large.