Occupation: Entertainer, magician, comedian and balloon artist
Family: Three children -- Bradley, 16; Jonathan 13; and Jennifer, 11.
Tom Vorjohan, a native of Cincinnati, is known around Blount County for his stage work as a magician and balloon artist.
On May 23, Vorjohan celebrated 34 years as an entertainer. It was 34 years ago that he presented his first “show,” as a seventh grader. The magician says his interest in magic started because he wasn’t a good reader.
“I read slow, even now. When I was little, I figured out that when I went to library with my class, I could always grab a book on magic. It had lots of pictures.”
When the teacher told the class to do an oral report on whatever they were reading, she challenged him to do a magic show. “I think it was that start in front of that class. It was the lure of the crowd. We call it being bitten by the magic bug for a reason.”
Vorjohan is always looking for ways to improve his act. That’s one reason he enjoys doing shows at restaurants like Palanchos, El Jimador and El Sazon.
“That is a really cool way to try out a new trick. Once I get a new trick, I can take it to restaurants and do close-up stuff 20 times in one night,” he says. “If it didn’t go over at one table, I’ll try it at another.”
But magic wasn’t his first career. After graduating as salutatorian from Madeira High School in 1982 and from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Vorjohan said he worked as a chemical engineer at Texas Instruments and later at Alcoa, Inc. The personality he honed as a part-time magician helped him in working with people and helped him earn positions as a supervisor and meeting facilitator.
Vorjohan says he enjoyed the technical side of being a chemical engineer, but he loved the people side, too. In 2000, Vorjohan decided to quit as an engineer and pursue magic full time.
“I thought, ‘If it works, it works.’ I do 250 shows a year now. That was 11 years ago. It’s much more fun to make people laugh and have fun.”
Here is Tom Vorjohan:
Who are you most like, your mother or your father and why?
“My father, Frank, was a great person and businessman; rather serious. He was my straight man. But I believe I am most like my mother, Barbara. She passed away last September, and not a day goes by when I don’t feel her still encouraging me and supporting me.”
What are you guilty of?
“I eat on the fly. I am getting ready to go somewhere, and then I realize I need to eat before I go. It makes losing weight a bit of a struggle.”
What is your favorite material possession?
“Almost 20 years ago, I was contacted by an auction company because they had about 500 magic books coming up in an auction. I attended, and left with nearly all the books. As I went through them, I found a mint-green envelope with the word “Satchmo” in the upper-left corner tucked in one of the magic books. In it was a letter from Louis Armstrong to the owner of the books I had bought. I have it framed and hanging in my home. It is signed, ‘Am Red Beans and Ricely Yours, Louis Armstrong.’”
What are you reading currently?
“My headboard always has magic books on it. I try very hard to keep my library current, and I will purchase several comedy and magic books every month.”
What was your most embarrassing moment?
“While performing, it has all happened. I’ve had my zipper open; I’ve found the wrong card; I’ve had one kid pee on stage on New Year’s Eve; and I’ve magically made a $20 dollar bill reappear when someone had let me borrow a $100.”
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
“I have three great children, and seeing each of them through graduation from high school and college is first on my list. I would like to perform on David Letterman’s show and also do a week at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.”
What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
“Connected. I have spent more than 25 years in magic trying to make the contacts and connections that allow me to be the go-to-guy.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“I wish there was an easy way I could lose a hundred pounds.”
What is your passion?
“I simply love to make people laugh.”
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“My engineering background and love of science still is in my bones, so I would love to be able to enjoy a meal with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, and Walt Disney.”
If you could go back in time for a week, what time period or year would you visit?
“I’m thinking I’d like to go back to the week of my dad’s 35th birthday in May, 1963. I’d like to go to his party.”
What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“The braces on my teeth was the best thing my parents ever did for me. My teeth were an absolute mess. But they didn’t come in a box. So that would have to be my first magic kit at the age of about 7.”
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
“Mom died this past September after battling cancer for the third time. I have had to reflect on her life to see that the greatest advice she gave was in how she lived -- surrounding herself with friends and being a friend, always giving to others unselfishly, supporting what she believed in and facing death without any fear or regret.”
Other than your parents, who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?
“Teachers, grandparents, friends, and my children all shaped and influenced my life. But I think the biggest influence has to be television. Every night was capped off with Johnny Carson, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that he has had an effect. That’s where I learned the power of making people laugh even when they had a bad day.”
What irritates you?
“There is a list: poor tippers, slow drivers, curmudgeons, close-mindedness, the safety speech before every airplane take-off, single-ply toilet paper, estate taxes, mean people, movie releases on Tuesdays, pistachio ice cream, over-salted French fries, too much ice in my drive-thru cup, hypocrites, pennies (we should just round up), the scoring system in tennis, haggling on a car, humidity, computer crashes and the fact that I have hundreds of VHS tapes that need to be transferred to DVD.”
What’s one place in Blount County everyone should visit?
“Everyone in this area should have the chance to meet and talk with Ralph Ogle at Ogle’s Auto Center. He’s like a historian and ambassador, and he always has a joke and a trick for you.”
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at 18?
“Do what you love, and love what you do. Work so you can live, but don’t live just to work. Have fun and make life fun for others.”