The Amazing Johnathan dies at 63


For years, The Amazing Johnathan pulled a quick one on death. But in the end, even he couldn’t escape his reality.

The longtime Strip headliner died at his Las Vegas home on Tuesday night. He was 63 years old.

Johnathan, whose legal name was Johnathan Szeles, died around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. Johnathan’s wife, sideshow stuntwoman Anastasia Synn, confirmed her husband’s death about half an hour after his death.

“The last thing I said to her was, ‘I love you, honey, I’ll be with you when you get up from your nap,'” Synn said around midnight Tuesday night. “We fed him oranges and strawberries. He was so peaceful. He said, ‘Yay!’ He had the purest, sweetest look on his face.

Johnathan didn’t wake up from that nap.

“For the next 36 hours he was unresponsive,” Synn said. “We spent that time snuggling up to him.”

Synn and caregiver Stephanie Castellone of the non-profit medical assistance organization BurlyCares were with him at the end. Castellone is a performance artist herself, a contortionist, and attended AJ and Synn’s wedding in June 2014.

Since 2009, Johnathan had suffered from cardiomyopathy, a degenerative disease that weakens the heart muscle. In November 2014, he told an audience at an ENTSpeaks event at the Inspire Theater in downtown Las Vegas that he had one year left to live.

That night, Johnathan stunned the audience by saying, “The best time of my life has been spent here. I’ve won millions of dollars, I have two beautiful houses and everything has collapsed… collapsed. And I was told that I had one year left to live.

A single laugh came from the crowd. But AJ said, “It’s not a joke.”

His voice was shaking.

“So. Um…I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry, but, this is very scary. My heart is failing. My wife says he failed a long time ago. But it’s actually a failure , for real.

AJ survived more than seven years after this announcement, with Synn providing constant care.

“I tried my best to keep his meds in his system, clean his foot wounds, do everything a nurse would do and I’m not a nurse. But I loved him so much,” Synn said. “He wanted to come home. For the past six months, I’ve begged him to go to the hospital, but he absolutely hated going.

Born in Detroit on September 9, 1958, Johnathan developed an act peppered with drug references and gruesome/funny bits, such as pretending to swallow his own eyeball, skewering his tongue with an oversized fingernail, and taking sips of Windex .

AJ started out as a street magician in San Francisco. He appeared on several variety specials and talk shows from the mid-1980s through the 2000s, including Fox’s “Late Night With David Letterman” and “Comic Strip Live.” He was a national name on Comedy Central and hosted an hour-long special, “Wrong On Every Level.” He also wrote a tutorial on magic tricks and practical jokes, “Every Trick in the Book”.

AJ arrived in Las Vegas in 2001 and was the top selling headliner for several years at the Golden Nugget, where he enjoyed his greatest success. He’s been to Sahara, Koval Theater at Miracle Mile Shops, Bally’s and Rocks Lounge at Red Rock Resort. His last public appearance was on Jan. 13, at a roast by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman at Oscar’s Steakhouse at the Plaza.

Johnathan’s acerbic spirit came out that night. Zowie Bowie’s Chris Phillips was among the roasters and commented to Johnathan, seated across the table: “I’m so nervous. I don’t know anything about being a stand-up comedian.

AJ, looking in his notebook and going back to his jokes, didn’t look away. He just replied, “You better learn fast.”

Prior to this appearance, Johnathan performed with Synn at Wonderground’s Magic Showcase at Olive Restaurant in October 2016. In January 2016, he last reunited with Penny Wiggins, who played daffy Psychic Tanya for over 15 years, to host a midnight variety show at the Baobab Stage in Town Square.

At the top of the show, Wiggins greeted AJ with a line he actually wrote: “Weren’t you supposed to be dead two years ago?”

Wiggins, a fabulous comedic actress, wept on Tuesday night as she remembered her stage partner, saying, “He was the nicest man and one of the funniest people I know.”

Magic icon David Copperfield shared a message via Anastasia as Johnathan went unresponsive. The magician’s wife whispered Copperfield’s words: “Tell him how much I cherish his incredible talent and thank him for the boundless laughter.”

Mac King, who currently performs at Excalibur and is currently the longest serving headliner on the Strip, posted: “So sad to lose my friend Johnathan, absolutely one of the funniest guys in the world. Thanksgiving will never be the same again. AJ was a frequent guest at King’s Christmas party.

Friends remember Johnathan’s penchant for pranks. The magician was an unbridled prankster.

Carrot Top, legal name of Scott Thompson, referenced a prank Johnathan pulled off at a pool party at his Las Vegas home years ago. The magician asked Thompson if he wanted to see his new Hummer, referring to his new off-road vehicle. The two walked outside, all around Thompson’s neighborhood, eventually finding a friend of Johnathan’s sitting on the sidewalk, humming.

Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller, headliners for 21 years at the Rio, said Wednesday, “Vegas has gotten a lot less crazy and for Vegas that’s not a good thing.” Jillette also posted on Twitter, “Just a beautiful nut. We will miss him and our hearts go out to @Siasynn (Anastasia’s Twitter account). Y’know, it’s not like we weren’t warned, but it’s still so sad.

Planet Hollywood headliner Criss Angel, a friend of AJ’s for decades, has posted photos of the two together over the years. “He was a trailblazer who paved the way for comedy magicians in so many ways, but more importantly – from day one (in the 90s) when I was unknown – he showed me so much kindness and support. We became friends immediately and remained brothers until the end.

“I remember when I was broke and he was headlining his own show in Vegas, he was taking me out to eat hibachi and taking the bill – he made me feel like someone…He didn’t There will NEVER be another… May you rest in peace… and don’t play too many pranks up there.

AJ has been the subject of two documentaries in recent years: Ben Berman’s “The Amazing Johnathan Documentary,” which premiered on Hulu, and “Always Amazing,” which went to YouTube.

AJ attempted to coerce Berman into smoking meth, as the magician claimed it helped his overall health.

Berman then asked Johnathan if he was pranking the public with his serious health assessment.

Johnathan angrily said he didn’t. But in a later interview, he explained that he had sought to fool the public in a different way.

“That’s the deal: I wanted to fake my death. I met my management and a team of lawyers when I was living in Los Angeles,” said Johnathan, who arrived in Las Vegas in February 2001 to cover the Golden Nugget. “No one has ever done this and come back, and I wanted to be the first to do it. I wanted to disappear for five years, minimum, and then come back and show the whole process of what I had to do, in documentary form, what I should do and how I should manage my bank accounts Who did I talk to, who did I not trust.

AJ’s lawyers put the brakes on.

“They told me I would watch it in jail if they showed it,” AJ said. “There were so many illegal ramifications. Even the people associated with it would have gone to jail for things like tax evasion. People would complain for all kinds of reasons.

Johnathan was also known as a vintage car enthusiast, owning over 25 restored cars at the top of his collection. His garages were filled with classics such as a 1932 Pierce Arrow, a 1967 Pontiac GTO and a 1972 Dodge Challenger. He had sold several vehicles over the years, donating a portion of the profits to charity.

Johnathan is survived by his sisters, Nancy Rogers and Gail McGuire. AJ had been saddened by the recent deaths of his mother, Doreen Szeles, and his cat, Dodger.

Regarding plans for her memorial, Synn said she hopes to secure a large theater in Las Vegas for a public celebration of life. Plans should be in order within three weeks. In lieu of flowers, donations to BurlyCares are encouraged.

“He was so loved. I want him to have the biggest party, with everyone who loved him telling the stories of the pranks he pulled on people,” Synn said. others like him.”

John Katsilometes’ column airs daily in Section A. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at Contact him at [email protected] To follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.


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