Stuart L. Buchwald, a former Baltimore professional prestidigitator who performed under the name of "Stuartini the Magnificent," died Oct. 21 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer at his home in Hollywood, Fla.
He was 67.
Mr. Buchwald was born in Baltimore and raised in Forest Park. After graduating in 1962 from City College, he earned a degree in psychology in 1966 from the University of Baltimore.
"Stuart and I have been friends since we were 9 years old. He lived at 4021 Cold Spring Lane, and when my family moved into a home around the corner on Garrison Boulevard, he was the first friend I made, and we've stayed friends for 57 years," said Stuart J. Snyder, a Baltimore lawyer.
"He was raised by his grandmother and several aunts," Mr. Snyder said.
During one of his college summers, Mr. Buchwald traveled to Mexico City, where he learned to play guitar and speak Spanish.
After college, he held a variety of jobs. As an advertising account manager, he sold radio spots for WKTK-FM. Then he worked for two years as a probation officer for the State of Maryland, before going to New Jersey, where he sold dinettes.
"I think he felt those jobs were too confining," said Mr. Snyder.
"He had learned to play guitar and ukulele. He went to New Orleans to perform, and while there, he met a well-known magician named Donald Lehn, who introduced him to magic, and he became a legend in magic circles."
Mr. Buchwald was providing musical background for Mr. Lehn's magic shows when he decided to try his own hand at magic.
"I got tired and bored of my jobs," he explained in a Baltimore Sun interview in 1980. "Performing is my real passion. I wake up in the morning with a big smile on my face because I enjoy what I'm doing."
Mr. Buchwald said he chose New Orleans to work because it was a "big street-performing center," and other performers were willing to share tips on how to survive while performing on the streets.
"I enjoy talking to people. I'm real interested in getting laughs," he said in The Baltimore Sun interview. "Magic is really my career. It gives me everything I need. I'm good for the short time I've been doing it. I think I can be top-flight in a couple of years."
Early in his career, he was known as "Knuckles the Clown" before adopting the name of "Stuarti the Magnificent."
Mr. Buchwald divided his time between New Orleans' Jackson Square and Baltimore, where he shared the bill with Vincent Cierkes, better known as "Dantini the Magnificent," and "El Duko," at the old Peabody Book Shop & Beer Stube on North Charles Street, which was owned by Rose Hayes.
"There were two bars there, one upstairs and one in the back by the fireplace. 'Dantini' would be doing magic in one room or 'El Duko' and Stuart in the other," said Mr. Snyder.
At the end of his 40-minute magic act, Mr. Buchwald would announce to his audience, "Ladies and gentlemen, this show has been brought to you by your own generosity" — and then pass the hat.
Mr. Buchwald's other performance venue, in addition to private parties and club dates, was Harborplace, where he entertained lunchtime crowds, day trippers, tourists and other passers-by with 40 minute shows that displayed his juggling skills in addition to swallowing fire and other feats of magic.
"During his performances in Baltimore when he ate fire, he would assure the audience that he was 'Insured by Lloyd's of Glen Burnie,' '' said Mr. Snyder, with a laugh.
Other tricks he had mastered included piercing a balloon which he had "hypnotized," he explained to The Baltimore Sun, moving it from side to side with a needle without popping it.
"He'd select a beautiful girl from the audience to do the old rope trick. He'd tell her to run her hand down the rope and when she stopped, he'd cut it and then magically restore it," said Mr. Snyder.
Mr. Buchwald took his act on the road, performing in open-air venues in New York's Central Park, Miami, Key West, California, Texas and at Jazz Fest in New Orleans.
In the 1990s, he purchased a home in Spain and performed in Madrid and in London.
From 2004 to 2005, he lived in the Dominican Republic, where he managed a bed and breakfast. Upon returning to Baltimore, he worked regularly as a substitute teacher at Randallstown High School and Milford Academy.
Since 2008, he had resided in Hollywood, Fla.
"If you consider yourself an entertainer, you have to be out performing. And that's what's great about street performing. It's almost a free and open audition hall with pay," he told The Baltimore Sun in a 1981 interview.
"Something like this is one of the last bastions of free enterprise," he said. "And there's something about working the streets that keeps you sharp."
A celebration of Mr. Buchwald's life will be held at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at the Village of Cross Keys Club House, 111 Hamlet Hill Road.
Surviving are two half-brothers, Robert Mower and Thomas Mower, both of Atlantic City; and a half-sister, Joyce Herberding of Gales Ferry, Conn.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times