In Los Angeles, it is cliché that many waiters are actors and everyone seems to have written a screenplay. Still, once in a while, this city of dreams offers a few surprises.
Last week, I upgraded my daughter's cell phone to a new Blackberry Torch (she is the only family member who is not an iPhone devotee). We needed to go to a local AT&T store to have her contacts and numbers transferred from her old Blackberry to her new one. We walked into the store on Santa Monica Boulevard at 5 pm on a Tuesday, confident we'd be in and out quickly. The line looked fairly short.
The man ahead of us immediately drew my attention. He was about five foot nine and appeared to be around 75 years old. Although he was nearly bald on the top of his head, the hair on the sides was fairly long, with patches of wiry, silver and gray strands. His look was disheveled but seemed oddly deliberate, nonetheless. I thought to myself, this guy is either homeless or he's a billionaire.
He turned to my 21-year-old daughter, Carly, and said, dryly, "It's an hour and a half wait."
"What?" we said together.
"I'm kidding," he replied. "Choose a card," he instructed, holding a deck in front of him. I then noticed another odd thing about this customer - his purple sparkle nail polish, which was badly chipped and spotty.
"What?" Carly asked.
"Pick a card in your head and tell me what it is."
"The Ace of Spades," she replied.
Then he looked at me and asked the same question.
"King of Diamonds," I said.
He then handed me the deck and asked me to inspect it, which I did. It looked like an ordinary deck of cards. While I held the deck, he motioned to his left front pocket and proceeded to pull out two cards - the Ace of Spades and the King of Diamonds.
Thus, began a fifteen minute personal magic show in the AT&T store. Soon, other customers were being dazzled by this odd magician's close-up skills.
Eventually, the sales associate asked his name and he said. "Paul Fegen." Under my breath, I told my daughter that I knew of a Paul Fegen who was a lawyer with a larger than life reputation.
"I am a lawyer," said the magician.
The attorney I knew was best known for his real estate dealings. In the 1980's he had controlled the leases of office buildings across the country. I explained to Carly that Fegen pioneered the concept of partitioning office space for professionals, primarily attorneys. He then sublet the space to solo practitioners and small firms who could not otherwise afford receptionists and large law libraries on their own. They were widely referred to as "Fegen suites."
"That's me," he said. "I used to have 250 buildings. I've been doing magic for about six years now and I am the best there is. I was just on Kathy Griffin's My Life on the D List. I was the guy with cat on his shoulder" (He was). He held up his phone and displayed a photo of him standing alongside the comedian.
Then he handed me a glossy purple card with gold writing. It read, "World's Greatest Psychic Magician - FANTASTIC FIG."
"I still practice law, you know, but I am also available for weddings and Bar Mitzvahs," he said with a smile.
After living here all my life, I don't know why any of this surprised me. But of course, it did. I love L.A.