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Local magician makes illusion his life's work

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By Carly Besser

A good magician never shares his secrets, but a great one uses them for a good cause.

Despite performing in lucrative places such as Las Vegas, local magician Joseph “Dinky” Gowen stays close to home by performing his magic at fundraisers for places such as the Hardin County Animal Shelter, local schools and civic club.

Gowen has performed magic since age 6. His love for magic began when his mother, a regular attendee of his earliest shows, bought him a magic kit. He said it has been a pivotal part of his life ever since.

“In those days, I would put up magic posters all through the house,” Gowen said. “I would charge 15 cents admission. I would practice for months. The big day would come and only one person would show up to my show. My mom.”

At 76 years old, Gowen’s mother still stays involved in his magic career by ironing his silks, replacing his buttons and reminding him to pick up the doves and rabbit on the way to each show.

“If it was not for her, I would not have this crazy life,” he said.

Although his mother was one of his inspirations at a young age, Gowen said he also drew encouragement from his father later in life.

“My dad also inspired me in a very weird way,” Gowen said. “When I was young, he was an alcoholic. He did not understand the magic at all. Many years later, he became sober and went on many shows and helped me set up. He taught me, no matter what the circumstances, life is about change. You can do anything if you work at it.”

Gowen said he has grown as a performer and magician since his first gigs at his house.

“There’s so much that I love about performing magic,” Gowen said. “But one of the reasons I love it is because it can change peoples’ lives. You can take a kid and motivate them to do things in life because magic is so visual.”

Magic is commonly seen as something for children’s birthday parties, but Gowen manages to entertain and mesmerize skeptics at his shows regardless of their age.

“I really like the ones that come in, sit down and all they’re interested in is trying to figure out the secrets,” Gowen said. “After about 15 minutes, their arms are not crossed, they have let their guard down and they don’t even realize that they’re having fun. Magic is a way of being a kid again, even if it’s for a short while.”

Gowen has used magic to benefit multiple groups, but he said his favorite way of giving back is performing for anti-bullying and self-esteem causes. He has traveled to schools across the state, finding that his magic instills self-confidence in his younger audiences.

“If you have a child that is shy or an introvert, teaching him magic can change his life,” Gowen said. “When other kids come over to play and the child pulls out that trick and fools them, their eyes light up like no other. It’s great for building confidence, especially in children that believe they have no talent. It can give them what they need to try other things in life that they think they cannot do.”

It is age-old advice: If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. Through his determination and genuine passion for the art of illusion, Gowen has made magic his life’s work.

“Someone once asked me, ‘Do you ever get tired of working all those shows on stage?’” Gowen said. “I told them, ‘When I am doing a show, I can’t remember ever calling it working … Magic is my life. It has been very good to me. It kept me out of trouble when I was a kid, it has put food on the table and has allowed me to meet wonderful people and do things I never thought possible.”

Carly Besser can be reached at 270-505-1750 or cbesser@thenewsenterprise.com.