National champion is a title synonymous with ESPN coverage, Wheaties boxes and peerless excellence. While one UCSB student lacks the television exposure and cereal box appearances, he embodies the truest characteristic of a champion – no one does it better.
When Jason Latimer, a fourth-year math/economics major, won the “Siegfried and Roy Master of the Impossible” award Jan. 15, 2003, he took home not only the $5,000 grand prize but also the title of “Best Overall.” His victory in the competition, held at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, was a major stepping stone for a magician on the rise, but he is not done yet.
This July, Latimer will travel to the Netherlands to compete in the Federation of International Society of Magic’s world championship, an event he described as the “Olympics for magicians.” FISM selects the top 250 magicians on the globe based on originality, creativity and technical ability. Many of the competition’s winners have gone on to achieve great fame for their craft, most notably Lance Burton, now a featured performer in Las Vegas.
But before he tests his skills against the world’s best, Latimer flashed his magical talents on campus Thursday, performing at Campbell Hall for Professor Alan Fridlund’s Psychology 1 class. He has put on magic performances for Fridlund’s students each quarter for the last two years. His magic is not simply an entertaining break from the rigors of introductory psychology but actually an educational supplement to Fridlund’s lecture on perception.
“What’s important about Jason’s magic is that it demonstrates the importance of attention in perception,” Fridlund said.
Fridlund was not the only one who appreciated the performance.
“The show was very exciting,” Shannon Resch, a first-year biological sciences major said. “I like how he integrated music into his magic techniques to make his performance more dynamic.”
Latimer grew up in Agoura Hills, Calif., where he began to hone his craft at the age of nine after being inspired by a magician he saw on a cruise. Thirteen years of practice later, including a period of study at the Academy of Magical Arts in Hollywood, he has reached the upper echelon of magicians. He is currently performing at the Magic Castle in Hollywood and in Las Vegas, where he travels each weekend to open for “The Amazing Jonathan” at the Flamingo.
In the future Latimer said he plans to continue performing and has made magic his first priority.
“I’m planning on doing magic for the rest of my life,” he said. “I hope it works out.”
Still, he said he recognizes the value of a degree from UCSB and intends to complete his bachelor’s degree as time allows. But it is magic, not math or economics, where his passion lies.
Latimer said what he enjoys most about magic is “to make people laugh, to make them happy. To make them wonder, ‘Did he really do that?'”