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In often-pricey Vegas, magicians Penn & Teller continue a free tradition

In often-pricey Vegas, magicians Penn & Teller continue a free tradition
Following their shows at the Rio, magicians Penn & Teller hold free meet-and-greets in the theater lobby. (Penn & Teller)

Getting up close and personal with Las Vegas headliners can get pricey, with one big exception: Penn & Teller. Greeting their fans, for free, after their shows is something they've been doing for more than four decades.

Stick around in the lobby and you'll see the famously silent Teller – the diminutive half of the duo – actually speaking. Each evening, he breaks his silence as audience members surge around him in the theater lobby at the Rio resort.

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On Saturday night, he was urging people to form an orderly semicircle so that he could pose for dozens of selfies. Penn Jillette – the 6-foot-7-inch, hulking and vocal half – was doing the same nearby.

"I still bristle a little bit at it being called a meet and greet because it's not organized, it's not charged for," Jillette told me. "It's just if you want to talk to us, talk to us."

Penn Jillette, the talkative, taller half of the Penn & Teller magic duo, poses for a photo as fans wait their turn following their July 9 show. The pair have been greeting guests, for free, for more than 40 years.
Penn Jillette, the talkative, taller half of the Penn & Teller magic duo, poses for a photo as fans wait their turn following their July 9 show. The pair have been greeting guests, for free, for more than 40 years. (Jay Jones)

He added that the two have been chatting with fans after shows since they first performed together at renaissance fairs and carnivals 41 years ago.

In the entertainment capital of Las Vegas, fans generally have to pay to pose with the stars.

"People [at other shows] pay a hundred bucks to go backstage," he pointed out.

Jillette's observation is, in fact, low. My online research revealed that fellow magician David Copperfield, who performs at the MGM Grand, charges $111, on top of the highest-priced ticket, for a meet-and-greet. And singer Olivia Newton-John, a headliner at the Flamingo, commands a jaw-dropping $170 extra for a backstage photo opp.

Despite their incredibly long partnership, Penn & Teller's star continues to shine. The third season of their TV show, "Fool Us," returns to the CW Network on Wednesday. Contestants who stump Penn & Teller with their magic win a trip to Sin City to perform their trick before a live audience in the Penn & Teller Theater.

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