Magician Vinny Grosso is a wizard, and soon the Coxsackie native could be a true star.
Grosso appeared on an episode of the 12th season of “America’s Got Talent” that aired Tuesday night, proving he is not a disappearing act.
Grosso, 41, has been performing magic since he was 12. “Magic interested me because I didn’t know how it work,” he said.
Grosso moved to Las Vegas in 2014 to pursue his career in magic. He served as the National President of the Society of American Magicians from 2011 to 2012. Grosso was heavily involved with the society’s Albany assembly, he said.
Accomplished at an early age, Grosso’s magic performances were hits at Coxsackie-Athens Rotary Club meetings for years and he performed at area resorts in the summer, Grosso said.
“There was all sorts of support giving me the opportunity to perform,” Grosso said. “It was a helpful development for a magician.”
“Talent” contestants have to go through a series of auditions before making it to the air, but Grosso declined to go into the details of the process.
“‘America’s Got Talent’ is the biggest platform for magicians and other entertainers to showcase their talent,” he said. “It’s only natural to want to be a part of it.”
Grosso is usually not nervous when he performs, but the nature of his trick, created exclusively for television, made him more anxious. His solution was to be sure the audiences and judges were laughing, he said.
“Because I knew what was happening next and the audience did not I was much more nervous than I would normally be for a show,” Grosso said. “There was certainly a shock value piece to it and it was purposeful.”
One of the show’s judges, actor Howie Mandel, was invited onstage to assist with the trick. Initially, Grosso thought it could be a challenge because Mandel was ad-libbing during the routine, which was longer than what appeared on TV, he said.
“I had to roll with what he had — I had my routine and jokes ready,” Grosso said. “Watching the final cut of it, he [Mandel] added a lot to it.”
Grosso thought the routine would either go well or go bust and in his case it was the former, because the judges each gave a yes vote, he said.
“I had no idea how it was going to go,” Grosso said. “It was an incredible high.”
Simon Cowell, the judge known for his blunt and candid style on “American Idol,” conducted an onstage interview with Grosso, who enjoyed speaking with him.
“He was great,” Grosso said. “I thought we had some nice exchanges of questions, answers and rebuttals.”
The first two rounds of auditions were pre-recorded before the airing, while the third round is live, he said. Grosso declined to discuss what his future holds on the show and asked people to share a video of his performance on the official “America’s Got Talent” YouTube channel for the show’s audience participation vote.
“It will help with making a decision,” Grosso said.
Grosso announced on his Facebook page he would appear on the show and many people in Greene County from Palenville to Greenville tuned in to support him. Grosso returns to Coxsackie around six times a year and said he would be happy to perform a magic show for charity when he’s home again.
“There was quite a few people watching that were surprised to see someone from the area on there,” Grosso said. “When they asked me where I was from it was important for me to say Coxsackie.”
Grosso’s mother Sandra, who lives in Coxsackie, is proud of her son’s accomplishments and credited his work ethic for getting this far. “We always encourage the kids to follow their own path and what made them happy,” Sandra said. “I always figured if he wanted something he’d get it because he worked hard for it.”
Sandra doesn’t worry all that much about Vinny’s tricks, but some of them, particularly fire breathing and walking on glass, are too much for her to handle, she said.
“As a mother you always worry something bad’s going to happen,” Sandra said. “It’s nerve-wracking but it’s fun.”
Sandra has received many emails, phone calls and Facebook messages about Vinny’s TV appearance and is excited to see what happens next.
“It’s a lot of fun hearing from a lot of people,” Grosso said. “I’m looking to forward to it.”
Vinny’s aunt, Peggy Quigley of Coxsackie, is proud of her nephew’s efforts and said he has always wanted to be a magician. Sandra always encouraged her son’s talent but told him to have something to fall back on, Quigley recalled.
“He went to Villanova and got his engineering degree,” Quigley said. “He’s always been that kid at the party doing magic tricks.”
“The family is certainly proud of him,” Quigley said.
Quigley also takes pride in her nephew’s charitable work in Greene County, which she said is another kind of magic.
“He’s a really, really good kid,” Quigley said. “Even though I knew he could do it, I was just holding my breath.”
Christie Hazelton, of Athens, is an acquaintance of Vinny’s. She had the rare privilege of learning a trick from the master four years ago.
“He taught me how to walk on glass,” Hazelton said. “I’m very fond of Vinny.”
Hazelton loved seeing Vinny on TV and was not surprised to see him because of his kindness, she said.
“He’s a natural talent,” Hazelton said. “It was nice to see him out there.”
Vinny Grosso lives in an enclave of magicians in Las Vegas. “We’re all a close community,” he said. “It helps take your act to heights.”
Grosso offered advice to young magicians including finding a mentor or friends to help achieve the goal and to get involved with the Society of American Magicians’ young members program.
“If you’re really passionate about it, don’t give up on it,” Grosso said.
To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.