Cesareo R. Pelaez, a/k/a Marco the Magi,
“Now in His 80th Spectacular Year”
Known worldwide as Marco the Magi, the founding producer and star of “Le Grand David and his own Spectacular Magic Company,” Pelaez died at the Kaplan Family Hospice House in Danvers on March 24.
Born on October 16, 1932, in Santa Clara, Cuba, Cesareo developed a love for theatre and magic by sitting on his father’s knee and watching magician Fu Manchu perform wonders on stage. He started his own theatre company while still a child, and his teenage variety revue, “Mirre’s Follies,” went on to play the same theatre, Teatro La Caridad, where he first saw his boyhood hero, Fu Manchu. Cesareo grew up to be a brilliant student and English teacher. At 28, following the Cuban revolution, he was chosen to be the Director of Psychometrics by the Ministry of Education for all of Las Villas Province, which included Santa Clara. Cesareo soon became disenchanted with Fidel Castro’s government. Under suspicion as a counterrevolutionary, he hid with the help of the anti-Castro underground, finally making his way to the Colombian embassy in Havana. He gained passage to Bogotá, where he was hired to teach psychology at the Pontifical University. Sensing that Colombia was ripe for revolution like Cuba, Cesareo emigrated to the United States in 1962. His passion for psychology led him to a long and rich association with Abraham Maslow, the father of humanistic psychology, at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where Cesareo studied and worked as a graduate teaching assistant for six years.In 1969, he founded and directed Cumbres (Spanish for “peaks”), a personal growth center similar to Esalen but also shaped by Maslow’s ideas, located at an old inn in Dublin, New Hampshire. He closed Cumbres at the end of 1970, and after extensive travels in Europe, Cesareo accepted an associate professorship in psychology at Salem State College in 1972. He taught there until his retirement in 1996. His dream of a resident stage magic company, forged as a child in Cuba, never grew cold. With associates, he bought the Cabot Street Cinema Theatre in Beverly in 1976, and in 1977 his extravagant production took off, headlined by Cesareo as Marco the Magi and David Bull as Le Grand David. Feature articles in TIME and Smithsonian magazines in 1980 led to seven performances at the White House, over 30 cover stories in magic periodicals, and international acclaim for the company and its founder.
Seven years after “Le Grand David” premiered, Cesareo and company bought the Larcom Theatre in Beverly, a historic 1912 playhouse in need of extensive restoration. Within fifteen months, a completely different two-hour production of classic stage magic opened there, prompting magic historian John Booth to write, “Two different luxurious magic productions of Broadway calibre playing in tandem theatres in one small city constitutes a miracle no other era in time has witnessed.”
On January 15, 2003, Cesareo received the Masters Fellowship, the highest honor awarded by the Academy of Magical Arts, during a special ceremony at the World Magic Seminar XXVI in Las Vegas, Nevada. Fellow illusionists Siegfried and Roy made the presentation. In May 2004, the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts Honoris Causa was conferred upon Cesareo by the Trustees of the Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts, recognizing “your outstandingly creative career as a magician, your founding and direction of Le Grand David and his own Spectacular Magic Company, and the important work you have done to restore and bring to life the two antique theatres in our city.”
Mr. Pelaez died peacefully after a long battle with congestive heart failure. He couldn't have known in his final days that he would pass on the birthday of Harry Houdini. No immediate members of his family survived him, but his legacy lives on in the thousands he inspired, beginning with his troupe in Beverly, headed by David Bull.
ARRANGEMENTS: A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at Saint Mary Star of the Sea Church, 253 Cabot Street, Beverly, on Saturday at 9 A.M. Relatives and friends are invited to attend. Visiting hours will be held at the Campbell-Lee, Moody, Russell Funeral Home, 9 Dane Street, Beverly (Downtown Location), on Friday from 4 to 8 P.M. Burial will be in St. Mary’s Cemetery Beverly. Information, directions, condolences at www.campbellfuneral.com.