West Mifflin’s own Michael Grandinetti doing his best work ever on ‘Masters of Illusion’
Magician Michael Grandinetti attributes his success to his Pittsburgh-area roots.
“I honestly feel I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the tremendous support I had growing up,” says the West Mifflin High School and Duquesne University grad, who says he’ll be doing his best illusions yet on the fifth season of “Masters of Illusion.”
The new season starts at 8 p.m. July 6 on the CW network.
“On the first episode, I cut myself in half. It’s done standing up, and there’s no box and no cover,” says Grandinetti, who has appeared on the show since its 2014 premiere. “Every year, my goal is to compete with myself.”
He’s been perfecting his craft for a long time.
“I knew I wanted to be a magician all my life,” says Grandinetti, who now lives in Los Angeles.
He received his first magic kit as a Christmas gift at age 5 and soon was going around town performing.
‘Nobody treated me like a kid’
“I was a 14-year-old carrying everything in a trunk from show to show. People hired me to do corporate holiday parties,” he says. “Nobody ever treated me like a kid doing magic; they treated me like a professional magician.
“I always tried really hard to do a good job, but they didn’t have to hire me. That acceptance gave me confidence,” he says.
Confidence led to ever-more complicated and challenging — maybe even death-defying — tricks and illusions.
In 1999 at age 21, Grandinetti appeared on NBC’s “The World’s Most Dangerous Magic,” performing an original feat of derring-do called the Spike Tower.
The biography on his website describes it this way: “While covered with a mixture of gasoline and kerosene and secured by chains, Michael had only sixty seconds to escape before two walls of flaming steel spikes were thrust towards him at over 50 mph.”
“My parents thought I was crazy. I had to bring them in and show that I had taken safety precautions,” he says. “But the danger is real.”
A hectic pace
Nowadays, between TV gigs, he tours the U.S. and Canada with a live stage show that requires a crew of about 15 people.
He’s performed during NFL and NBA halftime shows and with symphony orchestras around the country — including a show in Heinz Hall with the Pittsburgh Symphony and renowned composer Marvin Hamlisch.
He recently ended a two-month co-headlining stint of “Masters of Magic” nightly shows at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nev.
It’s a hectic pace he’s kept up since he headed to Los Angeles six months after his 1999 college graduation and “hit the ground running.”
“Everyone out here is in the entertainment business, so I ate, slept and breathed magic to keep pushing my career forward,” he says. “I still wake up early and push incredibly hard.”
Magic actually paid for his education at Duquesne, where he majored in business and marketing.
“That’s because Duquesne doesn’t offer a magic program,” he says, jokingly. “Actually, I knew (that major) would come in handy in making it in the entertainment business.”
Grandinetti says he has a special place on his gratitude list for former West Mifflin band director Ed Hancsak, who invited the then-16-year-old to perform illusions during football halftime shows.
“I made a girl disappear from the field and reappear in the stands,” he says.
The following year, Hancsak suggested that Grandinetti do a show in the school’s auditorium as a fundraiser for the band.
“I was nervous, thinking, ‘I hope people show up,’” he says. “Then my dad came in and said, ‘You won’t believe this — there are people lined up around the building waiting to get in.’”
Small wonder he tries to get back to Pittsburgh twice a year, in the summer and for the holidays. His parents, Pat and Marijule Grandinetti, still live in West Mifflin.
“When the plane lands, I take a deep breath and just relax,” he says. “I always say LA is where I live, but Pittsburgh is my home.”
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750, email@example.com or via Twitter @shirley_trib.