This week, Ira Sternberg spoke with Lance Burton.
Master Magician Lance Burton’s new film, “Billy Topit Master Magician,” which premieres on September 24 at Brenden Theaters in The Palms, is not a biography of Burton’s life, but a fictional character in a fictional setting that happens to be set in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas. It is produced and directed by Lance Burton with screenplay by Burton and Michael Goudeau.
Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Burton burst onto the national stage on October 28, 1981 by making his first appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. So impressed was Carson while watching the rehearsal that he allowed Burton to do an unprecedented 12-minute routine. Through the course of his career, Burton was invited back for a total of ten appearances while Johnny Carson was host, and another ten appearances during Jay Leno’s tenure.
Over the years Lance Burton has performed on a wide range of TV shows. He racked up appearances on David Letterman, Jay Leno, The View, Craig Ferguson, The World’s Greatest Magic, Hollywood Squares, and even acted in guest starring roles on Knight Rider, and Las Vegas.
In 1996 Lance Burton’s first TV special, Lance Burton Master Magician; The Legend Begins, aired on NBC. This was quickly followed by a series of annual TV specials.
He also hosted specials for The History Channel, Discovery, Animal Planet, The Family Channel, and many more.
While successful on TV, Burton’s greatest accomplishments have been made in live performance. Working primarily in Las Vegas he has performed an astounding 15,000 shows in his 30-year career. His first job in Vegas was as a featured act in “The Folies Bergere” at The Tropicana, a job he held for nine years. In 1991 he opened his own show, “Lance Burton World Champion Magician,” at the Hacienda Hotel, which ran for five years.
In 1996 “Lance Burton Master Magician” opened at the brand new Monte Carlo Hotel in the Lance Burton Theater. This was the first time any entertainer in the history of Las Vegas had a theater built and named for him. The contract at the Monte Carlo was for an unprecedented 13 years, the longest contract ever given to a live performer ever. Lance stayed at the Monte Carlo for a total of 14 years, performing over 5,000 shows for over 5 million fans, grossing more than $200 million. His last performance was September 4, 2010.