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"Saturday Night" -An Article profiled Mystery

According to Strauss's article, Mystery was "born Erik von Markovik"

That's close: Mystery's name at birth was Erik James Horvat-Markovic; he legally changed it to Erik von Markovik in his early 20s. He claims to be 2& actually he's 32. And his life has been considerably less glamorous than the-legend he's created around himself.

Mystery grew up in the lower middle-class Jane-and-Eglinton area o Toronto and attended nearby Martingrove Collegiate Institute. His late father was a welding-rod salesman, his mother a clerical worker. "He was a shy and withdrawn child," says his older brother, Rolf Jr. "A real computer geek. He was always reading, or on the Commodore VIC-20." The boy who would become Mystery particularly loved to take apart electronic devices, such as remote-control model cars, to "reverse-engineer" them: a method of deter-mining how something works. He also fought monsters in the imaginary catacombs of the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game.

When Mystery was 12, his father, Rolf, suffered a stroke. According to Rolf Jr., it profoundly altered the Horvat-Markovic patriarch's personality. "Before, [my father] wouldn't eat sweets. And after the stroke, he was ice cream boy... What came back was not my father. The new guy was a cantan-kerous grump." And Mystery didn't get along with him. "It got to the point that they just didn't like each other," says Rolf Jr. "They couldn't sit at the same dinner table. If Erik thought of something that would make my father crazy, he would do it."

Shortly after his father's stroke, Mystery discovered magic, which provided him with a way to garner the approval from others that he didn't get from his father. His brother says, "Magic allowed him to build his confidence?' Naming David Copperfield as a primary influence, the rookie illusionist performed tricks for his siblings, but after several years his brother and sister tired of their roles as Mystery's perpetual audience. Still, when the teenage Mystery won a spot as a finalist in a talent show at the Canadian National Exhibition, his family agreed to attend the special event. The performance's climax was an illusion that required Mystery to produce, seemingly from nowhere, a dove, which would then fly to freedom. But when Mystery brought forth the bird, it fell with a thud to the stage, directly in front of the judges. There was silence as magician, audience and judges all realized what had happened: wherever Mystery had had it sequestered, the dove had died—possibly of suffocation, according to Rolf Jr. "He's standing there onstage like a deer in the headlights... Needless to say, he didn't win."

The amateur illusionist chalked the experience up to bad luck. Undeterred in his quest for attention, Mystery, now 19, ventured to the bars and VIP lounges of Toronto, where bored drinkers were happy to witness his acts of levitation and ESP. Rolf Jr. explains, "Nightclubs became a place for him to perform, where people would actually watch him." Mystery had talent, and some managers began

paying him to wander their clubs, performing tricks. Consequently, Mystery grew adept at ingratiating himself. `Approaching groups of people at clubs was my job," he recalls. "That's how I really learned how to inter-act with others, because I was able to hide behind the magic."

Mystery also discovered something else: his stunts occasionally helped him to charm girls, whom he had previously found difficult to relate to. When he failed to engage a woman in conversation, Mystery used his considerable powers of logic to analyze what had happened, disas-sembling encounters the same way he had once examined remote-control cars. As his skill at magic developed, so did his ability to attract. Far from the awkwardness of his adolescence, Mystery was maturing into a man with a particular skill for charming women. His brother remembers how Mystery and a female friend would compete at lounges and nightclubs to see which of them could be the first to "make out" with an attractive stranger. At first, the female friend won, but eventually Mystery grew so adept at the pickup that his friend stopped competing. "It was remarkable," says Rolf Jr. "He could walk into any club and get any chick in the joint."

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