To make it as a full-time magician for 20 years, you’ve got to be good at keeping secrets.

In a matter of seconds, David Casas can somehow make your card — whichever one you just picked — appear in a paper clip on the table without you noticing. He’ll have about 10 doves on stage, but can make them disappear or appear in a moment’s notice.

And when somebody asks how he did that trick, he convincingly says, “That’s the magic of it.”

There’s one secret Casas, a 37-year-old Davenport resident, will share: No audience is too small.

That's why Casas has performed magic just about everywhere since 1997: at area coffee shops or theaters, high school dances around the country, Las Vegas casinos and to the occasional group of friends at a party.

And that's why he performs weekly at Applebee’s in Davenport, where he does tricks while people wait for their meals.

“When we’re at a table like that, the magic happens right in front of you,” he said. “They can watch my every move.”

Even so, those watching are left guessing.

The magic guy 

When Casas walked in the Applebee’s on Elmore Avenue last Wednesday, he looked for two customers sitting in their usual booth. He didn’t want to miss them.

For the past year, Todd Kowalke and his 8-year-old daughter, Gina, have had dinner at Applebee’s every Wednesday to see Casas perform a free, personal and quick round of magic tricks.

“You don’t know how it’s happening or how he does it and you just want to know,” Gina, a second-grader, said, after finishing a burger and fries. “I want to see him every single time.”

Casas says restaurant magic, most of which relies on sleight-of-hand techniques, is a sure way to keep his close-up skills sharp.

“It’s a good way to try out a new trick because by the end of the night I’ve done it 30 or 40 times,” he said. “That’s good practice.”

And it’s a good way to spread his name.

Andrea Gonzalez, assistant manager at Applebee’s, said customers come specifically to see Casas on Wednesdays and ask for “the magic guy.”

“It keeps the kids engaged, so they don’t get bored,” Gonzalez said. “A lot of kids are sitting and waiting just for him — he’s known here.”

His signature trick

Casas has waited a long time to be “known” for his craft.

His passion for tricks started when he was 17, after meeting two magicians doing tricks at a NorthPark Mall kiosk. He stopped going to high school parties and spent hours taking lessons at Robert’s Magic Shoppe, which closed in 2012.

After some practice and a one-year-stint performing at casinos in Las Vegas, Casas figured out he didn’t want to be one of those magicians linking rings or levitating or trying to chop someone in half.

He wanted to make birds appear and disappear. 

“To me, that was real magic,” Casas said. “Some of those other things are cool, but the prop is the trick. This takes practice." 

Despite the question he gets almost every show, the birds aren’t robotic — he has the mess from about 10 doves in his home “bird room” to show for it.

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“It takes a lot of work and clean-up,” he said. “You got to train them and take care of them, because they pay my bills.”

Today, any tricks involving his “pets and coworkers” are his favorite.

“I’ve been doing it the longest, so it’s kind of like my baby,” Casas said. “No one else does it around here, so it’s a signature thing.”

He won’t give too much away, but he says it’s a “very technical, skillful and focused act."

“Things could go wrong," he said. "But I’ve never messed up so much that people notice."

Best job in the world

Casas’ wife builds some of his props and she doesn’t even have all the answers.

“I’m still amazed at how smooth he is,” Leslie Casas, who works at Northwest Bank and Trust, said. “He tells me how he’s doing it and I’m watching him the whole time, but I still can’t see it because he’s so skilled at it. He’s on that level.”

After 20 years, Casas is thankful to still be making magic and a living. Along with performing regularly at venues such as ComedySportz, festivals and private parties, Casas teaches magic classes at the Davenport Junior Theatre and sells magic kits.

“You can tell he’s fulfilling his dream,” his wife said. “And he’s worked so hard to do that.”

And David Casas’ favorite part, no matter the size of the crowd, is entertaining people. 

“Some people say it’s a dying art, but I see how kids react when they see a trick and I want to keep that alive,” he said. “People come up to me and say they were having a rough day and I made them forget about that. I love having that effect on people.”

“A lot of people can’t grasp the concept that I do it for a living. It’s the best job in the world.”