Meet Breckenridge’s magic man
The orange-clad street magician known as Mooncalf has one question for any passersby who might notice the odd, portly fellow standing around downtown Breckenridge.
“Want to see a trick?” he abruptly baits strangers before opening his mouth again, this time extra wide, to wrench a spread deck of cards from his gaping maw.
“It’s an initial shock,” he said of his go-to trick to get people to stop, even if it’s only for a second. “Everybody is like, ‘Wow,’ and then they come watch.”
The magician has been working out of the Blue River Plaza, by the Welcome Center, in the heart of Breckenridge for a little over a month now, and he knows that getting 10 minutes of someone’s time is not always an easy sell. Still, his deck-from-mouth maneuver seems to find success often enough.
“The show gets better,” Mooncalf promises people once he has their attention. “But not much,” he adds, dropping a punch line that reveals the self-depreciating humor that’s become a hallmark of his act.
Mooncalf’s real name is Daniel Jackson, and during a recent interview the 44-year-old street magician readily admitted he lives out of his mini-van as he travels the country looking for good places to set up, be it in San Antonio, Aspen or now Breckenridge.
“(Breckenridge) is really cool,” he said of the town, adding that he plans to stay here as long as he can and that it might be his favorite place so far. “Every time I see it, it’s amazing.”
Jackson grew up in Kansas City, and he found his passion early in junior high theater. “But I didn’t really figure it out for a long time,” he said, explaining that, instead, he went into nursing.
Being a registered nurse, Jackson said, offered him financial security, but he quickly found out the profession wasn’t a good fit for him and quit nursing in 2010 to pursue his career as full-time magician, a move that would take him a couple years to make but one that he doesn’t seem to regret at all.
Saying, ‘I do’ in his mid-20s, Jackson was also married at the time.
“I was in Topeka, Kansas, and my wife was going through law school,” he recalled of the moment he decided to do magic full-time. “It was at the very end of the marriage, and I just got into my van and drove. I hit Aspen with $12 left.”
It wasn’t enough to cover parking, Jackson said, but that day he worked the streets and had more than $180 in his pocket by nightfall.
“And I felt better about myself,” he added.
Finding his way to Breckenridge took another random series of events, as after landing in Aspen, Jackson needed to access his bank account, and the closest location he could find with ties to his Kansas City credit union was in Breckenridge.
“I just happened by (the plaza) and was like, ‘That might be a good place to perform,’” he said.
And as it turns out, he was probably right. In fact, Jackson said the best day he’s ever had as a magician came two Saturdays ago when he managed to pull in $726 in tips.
“I’m still happy about it,” he beamed, while explaining there are lot of days he makes nothing, especially throughout the winter.
For Jackson, a good act builds on itself, and getting one family to stop is the first step to a larger crowd. From there, if more people continue to stop, Jackson might go into his rope tricks or make oranges appear seemingly out of thin air.
If the crowd continues to mass, Jackson might reward their numbers by “doing a little freak show stunt,” where the man from Kansas City hammers a six-inch nail into his skull through his left nostril.
Jackson’s presence on Main Street over the last five weeks hasn’t gone unnoticed, and the orange magic man even came up during the most recent Breckenridge Town Council work session on July 27, sandwiched between discussions over concerns about passing out free helium balloons at an upcoming bike race and complaints of human waste piling up on Hoosier Pass.
“I just have to ask about the magic man,” Councilwoman Elisabeth Lawrence said, adding that she saw him out there performing for five or six hours one day.
However, town personnel had few answers. Although Jackson does set up a small table in the middle of the plaza and there were mentions that his crowds could block foot traffic, because he’s not actually selling anything, it appears there’s no need for him to obtain a business license or permit to perform his magic tricks.
In fact, Jackson says it’s illegal to try and run him off, as he believes he’s simply exercising his First Amendment rights, even as he expresses his sincere hopes for “a good donation” following his performances.
“It doesn’t feel that way, I guess, but it’s protected by the First Amendment,” he said, adding that five bucks is pretty good tip.
While Jackson recalls police hassling him in San Antonio and Austin, he said that hasn’t been the case in Breckenridge, and he’s highly complimentary of the town’s law enforcement.
“In fact, the cops welcomed me (here),” he said, “which is rare, incredibly rare.”
And if he has it his way, Jackson will keep performing in Breckenridge for as long as he can.
He said he likes it much more here than he does in Aspen, and he doesn’t want to ever go back. For this winter, he’s considering heading to California to see what that season brings down there, but if anything, he’ll be pulling decks of cards out of his mouth somewhere because at this point, there’s nothing else he wants to do.
“Yeah, I’m not going to change,” he said. “There’s no way. I might change the show up a bit, but I can’t image doing anything different. It’s amazing, and every day is fun.”
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