Inside the Mind of Kevin James
By Christopher Broughton
The Linking Ring, June 1999
When you first meet the soft spoken, gentle giant, you find yourself asking questions like: "What made him come up with that, or is he just twisted? How did he grow up and where? Does he have parents? What inspires him to invent and how did he start?"
If you dare to read on, I'll give you a peek inside the mind of the inventor, performer, creator, and proud father, Kevin James.
Kevin James Lowery was born April 28, 1962 to Darrell and Mary Lou Lowery in France. This was due to his father serving as a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. The family then moved to Jonesville, Michigan, population 2,000, where everybody knew everybody and you could leave your doors unlocked at night. This was a great place to raise kids, and where we can trace some of the influence at least partially responsible for Kevin's creativity.
Some say it all began one wild Halloween with a wonderful, loving father (Darrell Lowery) who wanted to share the element of surprise with his son. Kevin's dad would decorate the long front porch and turned it into a mini haunted house. This quickly turned their home into the most talked about and visited trick or treat stop in town, year after year. Could it have been the living, severed head sitting on the table, surrounded by candy, daring visitors to take a piece? Maybe it was the vampire coffin that opened up behind the unsuspecting trick or treaters, trapping them on the porch, screaming their lungs out? Could this have influenced a young, impressionable mind? You bet it could.
Once Kevin's career was underway, his grandmother took the promising young magician aside and explained to him that he was actually a blood relative to the great, late P.T. Barnum. Maybe it is in the genes.
In the small, isolated village of Jonesville, Kevin's annual hunger for shock value and macabre humor grew into a year round obsession. This is where magic became as natural as breathing air.
Something drew Kevin to the local library where he absorbed all he could on this mysterious art. He found a real bond between himself and the masters he read about. Names like Houdini, Thurston, Blackstone, and Chung Ling Soo sparked his imagination. There was no magic shop, no magic club, and no other magicians in town. Let's just say that Kevin had that birthday party market cornered.
Then it happened, no, not puberty, Kevin's big breakthrough. He discovered the new world, he discovered Abbott's catalog! He held it in his hands and memorized every page! It was his Bible. It didn't take long before he realized that he was under an hour away from the freakin' Magic Capitol of the World! The angels sang! From then on, for birthdays and Christmas, his parents got the shopping list from the Abbott's catalog (including page numbers for easy reference) well in advance to allow for the four to six weeks delivery time. Skip the underwear and socks, Kevin needed magic and he needed it bad. He did everything possible to earn money for his magic habit. He was a bag boy; he mowed lawns in the summer; he shoveled snow in the winter; he cleaned the butcher shop (a particularly disgusting job, but good research). Hey, he was making his dream happen and he was focused.
The year was 1992. Kevin was a third year drama student at Western Michigan University and still as focused as ever. He decided to drop out. This didn't sit well with mom and dad. Their argument was that you need something to fall back on. Kevin thought that if he had something to "fall back on," then he would.
He decided to further his education in Los Angeles. As mom cried at the airport, Kevin boarded the airplane with two suitcases, $600 in his pocket, no job, no car, a place to sleep for two weeks, and a one-way ticket. This was the beginning of the "Top Ramlen" years. He slugged it out trying to find strolling work in restaurants. This was not easy but this is where he fell in love ... with Mexican food. The deal was tips plus a meal, you get the idea. He jumped in with both feet.
He became a card carrying member of the Long Beach Mystics and the Magic Castle Juniors. The Mystics gave Kevin a safe environment to have his act ripped to shreds and rebuilt better than before. They stressed creativity and getting in front of an audience.
The Magic Castle provided Kevin with a place to watch many professional performers over and over again. He could learn from all of them, even if it was what not to do.
Now it's the mid-80's. Kevin is trying to build a stage act and find a character that he can sell. Winning the Grand Prix at P.C.A.M. was a highlight of this time period. He tried many characters, there was the Mad Max of Magic to the Glam Rock Magician (those pictures were burned) to Comedy Club Guy, finally settling on just himself. With a dash of P.T. Barnum, it was inside him all along.
Kevin likes strange and bizarre images. Like sucking a midget into a vacuum cleaner or having a tug-o-war with an amputated arm. One of his greatest pleasures in life is to see what began as an idea become a finished illusion that is performed on stage and thrills an audience.
One of his latest creations is a very unusual Sawing in Half illusion called the "Operation." It takes place in a neon emergency room. A nurse is placed on a simple stainless steel table and she is halved with an ax. Her top is slid from side to side. Then her legs bolt away and run around the stage. Her torso chases her legs around the stage, She is reassembled with a staple gun and life is good!
Kevin has a softer side as well, like his poetical "Floating Rose" or his heart warming "Snow" routine. Many of his signature pieces have the honor of being performed by some of his greatest peers. Some have asked why he doesn't keep these ideas under lock and key. His reply is, "I want to give something back to the art form that has meant so much to me. I want to help others perform better magic. There are more ideas where those came from."
Kevin feels that his greatest creation, without a doubt, is his son, Jarrett. He is the love of his life and coincidentally named after one of Kevin's heroes, Guy Jarrett.
Kevin has and continues to travel around the world performing his own unique style of visual art. He has received many awards and has performed in over 25 countries. Some of the highlights include three years at the Crazy Horse in Paris, three years in "Splash" at the Rivera Hotel in Las Vegas, opening for comedian Louie Anderson at Bally's, the Sporting Club in Monte Carlo, and most recently headlining at the Sheraton Walker Hill in Seoul, Korea.
Showing no signs of slowing up, one can only imagine what will come from this creative performer in the future. Most certainly it will break new ground and push the envelope. Kevin feels infinitely blessed to have had the parents he has. They believed in him from the beginning or, at least, pretended they did. Maybe they really did create a monster one Halloween many years ago. It's surreal, it's a little Dali, it's a little Barnum, it's the Bizarre World of Kevin James.