By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
It's not often I walk up to another man and utter this declaration:
But after watching David Magee floor Texas Rangers president Nolan Ryan and wow Cowboys offensive lineman Flozell Adams, I had to experience his mental phenomenon first-hand.
Simply put, Magee is a psychic.
"No," he contends, "not a psychic."
He's a magician.
"Everybody knows there's no such thing as real magic," he says.
Okay, he's a mind-reader.
"I'm intuitive, but I can't read minds one drop," Magee says over dinner before entertaining a crowd at a charity function at Lone Star Park last month. "If mind-reading was possible, every Gomer Pyle would be doing it. Now, there is sleight of hand. There is engaging. There is mapping. Remember, 90 percent of our communication is non-verbal. I'm in touch with that."
Fine, then you explain it. Because after watching him undress a couple rooms full of elite athletes, Magee's brain seems every bit as impressive as Tony Romo's touch, Dirk Nowitzki's range and Elvis Andrus' glove.
Right, Roy Williams?
In LSP's Silks Restaurant, Magee tells the Cowboys wide receiver to write the initials of any famous person, dead or alive, inside a circle on a piece of paper.
"So," Magee says within seconds, "I see you envisioned him just like the logo: Tongue out."
Scrawled inside Williams' quarter-sized circle: "MJ" for Michael Jordan.
"I don't know man, that kind of freaks me out," Williams says afterward. "I mean...how?"
Minutes later Magee has Adams stack four coins on a square wooden table. He places one hand under the table and a shot glass over the coins. With Adams' wide eyes merely inches from the glass, a gentle jingle by Magee and suddenly there are only three coins under the glass and one in the hand under the table. Each time Magee talks slower, jingles less and still comes away with another coin in his hand.
Until the last one. This time the last coin literally vanishes from under the shot glass. But it doesn't appear in Magee's other hand, but rather under Adams' wristwatch.
"What?!" says a bewildered Adams. "He was doing it in super slow-motion, and I still can't figure it out. I have no idea what just happened to me."
Sports celebrities are a difficult lot to impress, but Magee has perfected freaking them out. He's nailed the famous person inside Tiger Woods' circle ("CB" for Charles Barkley), slipped the coin under Ryan's watch and driven six miles from Garland to Dallas—while blindfolded, mind you—with a very nervous passenger named Mark Cuban.
"I never went under 45," Magee recalls, "and all I did was hit one curb."
Says Cuban, "He was great...I freaked out the whole time."
Magee, 48, is blossoming from an underground entertainer into a hot commodity attracting interest from neighboring states' casinos and even Las Vegas. He'll be busy at next year's NBA All-Star Game in Arlington and is in negotiations with a local TV station for a variety show.
His coolest trick: Not being a bit cheesy.
Instead of sequined tuxedos, dramatic smoke and rabbits out of hats, he's a teetotaling nonsmoker who cherishes tranquility with his wife and 14-year-old son in Argyle and who despises prime-time peers such as Criss Angel ("Completely and totally edited crap."), David Blaine ("Great concept but after that last lame stunt I doubt if we'll ever see him again.") and John Edward ("Bogus. All done with a team of meticulous researchers.").
Says Magee, "I want to bring a Vegas-style show to Dallas."
Born in Louisiana, he was never a serious athlete. He constantly misplaces his keys. Refuses to text. Didn't discover his calling until Interstate Batteries CEO Norm Miller kept making his favorite salesman do "tricks" at corporate meetings. And he didn't fully accept his unique wiring until 10 years ago when he had his attention deficit disorder diagnosed and medicated (via daily Adderall).
He's a common man with an uncanny gift.
"If I drink a pot of coffee at 9 p.m., I can fall right asleep," Magee says. "I can be totally listening to three conversations at once. But, of course, I can't ever remember where I put anything."
Behind flying and maybe X-ray vision, isn't the ability to read minds always on your super-power wish- list? No wonder Magee made a living in Vegas for 11 years.
"I consider my skill an advantage; the casinos call it cheating," he jokes. "We never quite see eye-to-eye."
He says sometimes his talent even works into the future. Before Week 1 of the upcoming NFL season Magee will give me a sealed envelope I won't open until Super Bowl Sunday.
"I'll have the two teams playing, the combined score within one point and one of the team's scores exactly right," he says. "I'll have a key play or major injury in there too."
If that comes to fruition come February, my mind will be blown and I'll be sick that my wallet isn't fat.
Until then Magee will continue dazzling local teams, athletes and corporate big shots. Like he did recently during a party at the home of WFAA-Channel 8 sports anchor Dale Hansen. Magee correctly read a Mary Kay executive's circle person as Ronald Reagan, but then added a twist.
"He wrote down RR," Magee told the party, "but at first he was going to write JFK."
"I'm too cynical to believe he's psychic," Hansen later said. "But I swear to God that he is. How could he know your thoughts?"
In 2005 he so entertained the Mavericks at their team tip-off luncheon at the W Hotel that players requested him for future gatherings. Except for center DeSagana Diop—born in Senegal—who scurried from the room, fearful that Magee was a witch doctor.
"I've never in my life experienced anything like him," recalls Mavericks' general manager Donnie Nelson. "We go in expecting some guy to show up in a cape with a wand and within minutes he's got us in the palm of his hand. It's like he's a modern-day Jesus."
Says former Cowboy Charlie Waters, "Everybody owns a skill set. Dave's is just beyond comprehension."
At LSP I watch Magee read the mind of KXAS-Channel 5 sports anchor Newy Scruggs, Ryan and a random waiter with whom he'd had no previous interaction. As he walks within 50 feet of our table, Magee whispers to me "10 of clubs."
Calling the waiter over, Magee tells him to flip through a standard deck of playing cards and remember one card. He and Magee write the cards on separate napkins and reveal them simultaneously:
Ten of clubs.
But could David Magee really do me?
He hands me a paperback book about 400 pages thick.
"Flip through, as slow as you want for as long as you want," Magee tells me. "Stop when you feel like it. Now find a word on the page. A long word. Not 'an' or 'the' or 'it.'"
My word, from the middle of the page, two-thirds down: "Curiously." I look him in the eye. I picture my word.
"You're a writer," Magee says, "so you're naturally curious. Right about now you're cur-ious-ly wondering how I knew your word."
No doubt he's also sensing my goose bumps.