There are many impressive photos on the personal website of Dale Salwak, a professional magician who rose to prominence in the 1970s while also beginning a long and still active teaching and literary career at Citrus College in Glendora, CA. Among the celebrities pictured with Salwak are Johnny Carson, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart and Don Rickles.
Missing from the Web scrapbook section are keepsakes from trips taken by Salwak to Pyongyang in the springs of 2009, 2011 and 2012. It would be niece for example to see him pictured there with North Korea‘s greatest magician, Kim Chol.
“I know that Chol has been a magician since he was a little boy,” Salwak recalled during a 2011 talk about these travels sponsored by the US-Korea Institute at SAIS. “How he was first introduced to it, I don’t know. But I do know that he told me that he saw a video of a magician producing coins and dropping them in a bucket, and that inspired him. And lo and behold, that turned out to be me.”
“I was the first magician he saw on television, and here we meet, many, many years later.”
For Salwak‘s most recent trip to North Korea, part of the celebrations for Kim Il Sung‘s 100th birthday, he traveled with two other American magicians – Rick Block (D.C.) and Danny Cole (California). There are plans underway to hopefully return the favor and have a group of DPRK hocus pocus-ers visit the U.S.
During his middle DPRK trip, Salwak took in a performance by Chol at the gigantic Rungnado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang. Just a week in fact after former President Jimmy Carter had watched the same “Grand Magic” show. Here’s how he described the evening’s entertainment as engineered by Chol:
“I sat enchanted as the magician caused a motorcycle and its rider to vanish in a cloud of smoke, levitated and then vanished a Pyongyang city bus weighted with passengers, produced a horse and an elephant from two previously empty cabinets, and materialized from a four-panel cloth cabinet a fully operational 1.2 ton helicopter. Which lifted into the air, flew backward and later played a major role in the show’s finale.”
During the most recent visit, Salwak and his two U.S. colleagues performed on three separate nights at the 2500-seat Pyongyang Circus Theater. “North Korea wasn’t even on my radar a few years ago,” Salwak admitted via Citrus College news release. “But it’s funny how life sometimes leads us in paths we never predicted. I hope to go back, next year, at the latest, and maybe this autumn. Each time I leave the host says, ‘You’re always welcome in our country,’ and I hope to be the one saying that soon.”