, Salem, MA

Local News

March 27, 2012

'I considered him a miracle man'

Beverly: Founder of famed magic show dies at 79


"It takes a genius to put on a show like that," said Raymond Goulet, who runs a magic museum and art studio in Watertown. "Very few people can do everything, but Cesareo could. I considered him a miracle man. There hasn't been a show in the history of magic that ran so long and had such a successful run."

With Pelaez's health declining, Le Grand David has been on hiatus since the 35th anniversary show last month. Bull said the show will resume April 15 with the first of six previously scheduled performances, but he is not sure if it will continue beyond that.

"That is really a question that needs to be answered," he said.

Pelaez was born in Santa Clara, Cuba, on Oct. 16, 1932. As a boy, he attended the traveling magic shows and music revues that came to town. In high school, he formed his own theatrical company, using a chicken coop as a stage, according to the 2007 book "There Will Be Wonderful Surprises" by Avrom Surath, one of Le Grand David's original cast members.

Pelaez won a scholarship to the University of Kansas and came to the United States for the first time in 1956. He returned to Cuba and got a government job with the Ministry of Education, organizing intelligence tests for public school students. The country was rising up against dictator Fulgencio Batista's oppressive regime, and Pelaez worked secretly with the local underground movement to defeat Batista's army, according to "Wonderful Surprises."

In 1959, Pelaez helped direct traffic as Fidel Castro and his men passed through Santa Clara on a triumphant march to Havana.

Pelaez remained in his government job but soon became fearful of persecution under Castro's Communist government. According to "Wonderful Surprises," Pelaez's best friend was shot to death while standing by his side.

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