With a new Syfy series, Eden Prairie-bred magician Justin Flom has more than a few tricks up his sleeve. The TV competition “Wizard Wars,” which he co-created, premieres Tuesday.
On their first date, Scott Flom sawed his future wife in half. So it came as no surprise many years later when the couple returned home from the movies and their 7-year old son, Justin, announced that he was about to perform a similar stunt.
The youngster had recruited the neighborhood pastor’s daughter as his assistant. Both of the kids’ families gathered around a small stage with bright blue curtains in the Floms’ Eden Prairie basement. The girl took her place in a box and Justin began jamming kitchen knives into the cardboard.
One problem: The boy was using an ordinary box.
“I didn’t know there were secrets to tricks,” said Justin, recalling the incident some 20 years later and how his father halted the act before anyone could get hurt.
The young magician has come a long way since then. His YouTube videos have attracted more than 10 million views. He has appeared twice on “Ellen.” A TV competition, “Wizard Wars,” which he co-created, premieres Tuesday on Syfy. Some believe that his sleight of hand, boy-band good looks and contagious exuberance could make him the Next Big Thing.
But no matter what heights Flom hits, he’ll always be drawn to that basement, a fun house that goes a long way in explaining a young boy’s love for magic and a father’s love for his children.
The shelves are lined with signed basketballs and footballs. A vintage popcorn machine and a jukebox with 10-cent selections sit in the corners. There’s a Popeye music box, an Iron Claw machine, a bowling game, autographed photos of famous magicians, a “Wizard of Oz” poster signed by some Munchkins. A James Bond poster masks a hidden door that leads into a space where the young Flom fiddled with chemicals.
And that stage? It actually flips over to serve as a bar for parties.
“There’s some secret switch,” said Flom, 28, while absent-mindedly flipping and shuffling a deck of cards, a habit he indulges in roughly three hours a day. “I don’t even know where it is.”
That’s not all.
A spacious back yard overlooking Mitchell Lake features a trampoline that could handle a marching band, a new putting green and a small pond filled with koi. The family cabin in Park Rapids includes a zip line, go-cart track and boats. Not bad for an insurance salesman’s salary.
“My dad figured out the secret,” said Flom, dressed in a tight black T-shirt and jeans. “Don’t spend money on extravagant things like cars and big vacations. Spend it on things that are really fun.”
Flom, who was home-schooled, spent almost all his waking hours doing back flips on the trampoline or studying magic in the basement. All four kids got hooked and even performed together as the Flom Kids. But Justin was obsessed.
He memorized all of magician Doug Henning’s routines, recorded by Dad on videocassette tapes. He watched countless hours of magic lectures, long after his bored-to-death father went to bed. He put on stage productions almost every night for his parents, friends, neighbors — heck, anyone who was willing to watch a kid turn a handkerchief into an egg. He knew from age 10 that magic was his destiny.
“We dream pretty big in our family,” Scott Flom said. “One of my main goals as a father was to tell the kids not to believe the lies the world will throw at you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.”
Showing the ‘Show Me’ state
After high school, Justin decided to move to the resort mecca of Branson, Mo., which he compares to the time the Beatles spent in Hamburg, developing — and bombing. At one point, he was so broke he sneaked into a bar without paying the cover charge and a complete stranger named Jocelynn ponied up the cash.
The two just celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary.
Things started to turn around in 2006 when Flom, then the youngest performer on the Branson strip, opened the Imaginary Theatre and Magic Parlor, a three-room club that included a 108-seat theater. Flom was thinking big — gilded cages, large safes, giant boxes with fire spikes — until he made it all disappear.