Their coffee finished, dishes cleared, the young couple in the corner of the restaurant was standing up to leave when they were suddenly blocked.
"You're not going to leave now and miss my show, are you?" asked the earnest man in the baseball cap and tuxedo tails. "Why don't you stay for just a little bit longer? Please?"
Jack Julius brings a unique blend
of mime, magic and comedy to local venues.
Add powers of persuasion to Jack Julius' bag of tricks. The Annapolis showman has a way of convincing his audience to see things his way, and the couple at Aromi D'Italia was no exception. In an impromptu performance last Saturday, he pulled scarves and dollar bills, playing cards and even a dove out of thin air. But more spellbinding than the magic was the trick he played on that couple, who ended up applauding and assisting him throughout the show.
"He just pulled us in," the man said, finally leaving the shop. "It was amazing."
For a mime, Jack Julius is rarely speechless.
In fact, it's Mr. Julius' gift for gab that won him front-row seats to see his inspiration, Marcel Marceau, on stage at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C., last week.
"I just started talking to the woman selling tickets and ..." he says, tearing off on yet another mile-a-minute interpretation of the turns his life has taken to lead him one place or another.
From his childhood in orphanages and foster homes to an adolescence centered around impersonating comedian Robin Williams, Mr. Julius, 39, has spent two decades persuading audiences to love him, or, at the very least, laugh at him.
"I see Jack as someone who lives to entertain," said George Purring, 64, who took Mr. Julius into his Severna Park home as a foster child in 1979.
With a pair of rainbow suspenders and a more-than-passing resemblance to the alien hero of the sitcom "Mork & Mindy," the budding comedian was known at Severna Park High School as "Mork."
"I was an entertainer. That was my high. I would bring my tricks to school and do shows," said Mr. Julius, whose mother and father had both died by the time he was 8. "I was so well known that if I walked into a class late I'd have to do something funny because the attention was on."
Though introverted in his early years, Mr. Julius was such a hit as Mork that when the group home he had been living in closed its doors and transferred its residents to the western part of the state, Mr. Purring's sons begged their parents to take the "funny guy" in.
"When I first met Jack, he was a bit of a tragic character. He used the Mork character as a kind of alter ego. It was a way of gaining acceptance after having a not very stable childhood," said Mr. Purring, who still considers Mr. Julius to be "one of the kids." "He's a deep, caring person with a lot of talent who would do anything for family."
And not just for Mr. Purring's family.
Over the years, Mr. Julius has cultivated a network of families through his work as a magician, mime and comedian. Performing at more than 200 birthday parties a year has made Mr. Julius a central figure in a timeless tradition of cake and presents, friends and, most important, family.
"It's a family environment," Mr. Julius said. "I'm giving them something they can walk away and remember me by. And I remember them, too. I want to relate on a different level than some entertainer just off the street."
Sure, there are bigger gigs.
Mr. Julius has done those, too. In 1995, he went to a magic convention in Japan and performed in front of an international audience. He has also been a staple at First Night Annapolis and the Annapolis Seafood Festival.
"Watching him perform is just a joy," said Ruth Klein of Annapolis, who met Mr. Julius 12 years ago at a magic convention. Since then, he has performed at birthday parties at her home and taken the Kleins' daughter, Molly, now 21, on stage at various times as his assistant. "He is always on. Always ready to perform," Mrs. Klein said.Master mime
If his fast-talking sales pitch gets Mr. Julius in the door, his moves get him invited back.
"Since Jack did my son's birthday party this summer, the boy has fallen in love with magic," said Boris Ghazarian, owner of Aromi d'Italia. He has invited Mr. Julius to perform at his cafe on a regular basis this winter. "A magician doesn't have to spend time with the children the way Jack does."
Peppered throughout his show at the cafe were bits of pantomime and magic based loosely on performances by masters like the 76-year-old Mr. Marceau, whose weeklong show in Washington has been called his American swan song by some.
"He showed me that you have the world in your hands when you're on stage," said Mr. Julius, who has taught himself the art of mime, just as he has taught himself magic, photography and Web site design.
Someday, he says, he will tear himself away from the birthday party circuit and pursue dreams of making and producing movies.
But until then, Mr. Julius is busy turning audiences -- even the most reluctant ones -- into fans. And the grown-up orphan will go on encouraging them to draw him into the warm, familiar embrace of applause.
"No matter how close you get to a family, it's not really your family," he said. "But I don't dwell on anything negative. I try to stay within the entertaining mind-frame. Doing magic is part of who I am. It has helped me become who I am."------
To learn more about Jack Julius and his performances at Aromi D'Italia on Dock Street, check Mr. Julius' Web site at www.jackjulius.com, or call him at (800) 540-1482.
Published February 03, 2000, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Copyright © 2000 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.