Tricks of the trade
KOHALA COAST — Opening his own comedic magic club on the Big Island wasn’t something in Kozy’s bag of tricks five years ago. But with a little magic and a little faith, he watched it all happen right in front of his face, much to his own surprise.
The world-renowned magician, whose real name is Paul Kozak, has displayed his impressive sleight of hand tricks at shows for nearly 40 years, with stints in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and other places around the world, before making the Big Island his home four years ago.
Known on the mainland as Kozak the Magician, nowadays he’s recognized as Kozy, a nickname he’s had since childhood. One of his friends growing up in Pittsburgh was notable comedian Dennis Miller, who is still marveled by Kozy’s tricks.
“We grew up together and his brother is my manager,” he said.
Kozy feels his move to the Big Island was almost inexplicable, similar to one of his magic tricks.
“Four years ago I was tired of traveling. It wasn’t my plan to be here but I got a call from a higher power and then I saw the opportunity,” he said. “I’m a magician experiencing verifiable magic.”
During his first year on the island, he opened his show in Kona and performed the last three years at Waikoloa Resort.
“I found I almost had to reinvent myself here and not be the Vegas guy I was,” he said. “I’m a magician now in one of the most magical places in the world. I’m still overwhelmed with a sense of awe.”
Recently, he set his sights on a permanent location, and poof, on Sept. 9 Kozy’s Tiki Palace — a comedy club and art gallery — opened at The Shops at Mauna Lani.
“I signed a 10-year lease and I’m in the perfect place now,” Kozy said. “It’s a great venue for dinner and a live show, with five restaurants to service my guests.”
Working in partnership with Tiki Shark Art Inc., by day Hawaii vintage pieces and decorative tiki art are the store’s main attraction, while at night Kozy draws the crowds for his show — a mix of comedy and magic.
The Gallery brings together art inspired by 1950s tiki bars, including artist Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker’s “lowbrow pop surrealism” paintings. Artwork by Trey Surtees, Jin An Wong and Jacob Medina are also displayed there, along with original pieces from world-famous tattoo ink artist Rockwood. Collectible cigar box guitars handcrafted by Michael Zack decorate the walls in one room.
“I’ve always been a tiki guy since a little boy. My father, who worked in the steel mill, would occasionally bring home a pineapple and it was an exotic ritual to cut it open together. We grew up with surf movies, too,” Kozy said. “Mainland tourists have a misperception that tiki is what Hawaii is still all about, but that’s not really true anymore. My goal is for this to become the premiere tiki art gallery in the world. Lowbrow tiki art is now a category of fine art. It’s on the upswing for collectors.”
Throughout his hour-and-a-half night show, audience members engaged by Kozy’s commanding personality and amused by his outlandish costumes. One night this week he wore a formal lava lava from Tonga accompanied by a fluorescent green tuxedo jacket.
Kozy’s tricks are truly mystifying.
“The highest compliment from others is that I’m a very well-read magician,” he said. “I’ve studied the fine art of magic. It has a very rich history. Magic is the perfect blend of science — all technology including electricity, laser and film. I’m even using NASA technology in my show now. As magicians, we’re the ultimate wonder finders”
Guests also participate in Kozy’s shows.
“There’s no live entertainment like this in the area,” he said. “Audience members interact with me and the magic, making it a magical experience for them.”
One of Kozy’s fans attending the show on Sept. 20 was Steve Spill, a friend, fellow magician and author of the book, “I Lie for Money: Candid, Outrageous Stories from a Magician’s Misadventures,” during a visit from Santa Monica, California.
“It’s the first time I’ve been to his show,” he said. “We both perform but our shows have always been at the same time. Kozy is larger than life, mysterious and hilarious. There are just a handful of people as talented as him.”
Kozy is no stranger to TV either. Over the decades, his performances have aired on everything from HBO, Showtime and MTV to “The Tonight Show,” Comedy Central and international shows. Even royalty have been among his fans, including Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
“I was in London on a live TV show in 1986 and Charles and Diana saw me on television,” Kozy said. “They liked my show so much they asked to have me be a part of The Prince’s Trust Rock Gala concert at Wembley Arena,” where he shared the stage with music icons Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Elton John and Sting.
Kozy’s hard work has been recognized with four Merlin awards from The International Magicians Society, the world’s largest magic society.
His new club can seat anywhere from 15-150 people, and beginning Oct. 1 Tommy Bahama staff will cater pupu and drinks at the bar there. The nightly show is open to adults 18 and over. Tickets start at $59.99 per person, but locals can see it for half off.
“I’m a part of the community now and want the kamaaina to enjoy the show, too,” Kozy said. “My joy as a magician is to make the audience feel the awe of wonder.”
The art gallery is open daily from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; the magic show begins nightly at 8 p.m. Info and tickets: Call 430-1957, visit www.konakozy.com or email Kozy@konakozy.com