Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Steve Cargill

Steve Cargill believed in magic, made a living at it

LARGO — Pick a card, any card.

Steve Cargill, an unmistakable presence with puffy shirt sleeves, skinny vest, mutton chop sideburns and an unlit cigar in his mouth, had been saying that since he was 6 years old.

Usually, Mr. Cargill entertained small groups, from cruise ships to bars to birthday parties, rather than with splashy illusions. But the career magician did make an appearance on a Jerry Lewis telethon and performed card tricks for a delighted Johnny Carson.

Though he worked a few odd jobs as a young man, he never lost sight of his dream. He owned the Trick Store for 30 years, which sold everything from fake squirting ketchup to beginner's books on magic to tools for professionals like himself.

He had been practicing magic for so long, he could still do card and coin tricks after he lost the feeling in his hands last year.

Mr. Cargill, who kept his warmer side hidden like the cards he concealed, died Monday at Morton Plant Mease of multiple health problems, including diabetes. He was 61.

He loved to surprise and annoy his audiences.

"If somebody couldn't figure out what he was doing, he was happy," said Martha Cargill, his wife.

For example, Mr. Cargill might ask a customer to pick a card and insert it back into the deck.

Then he would ask him to find it again, something the customer could not do.

"It wouldn't be there," said Mrs. Cargill, 63. "He would say, 'Keep looking. It's up front!'"

Finally, the audience member would look up. There, plastered against Mr. Cargill's forehead, would be the card.

Mr. Cargill was born in Fall River, Mass., and grew up in Rhode Island. He got hooked on magic in elementary school.

"I attended a school assembly where a magician was making things disappear," he told the Times in 2008. "I wondered why the teachers weren't teaching this stuff. This is what I really wanted to do."

He collected books and magazines and practiced.

His career took a leap forward at the close of his Army days in Europe, when Mr. Cargill performed on cruise ships. He tended bar and performed magic tricks at a bar in Chicago, then moved to Tampa Bay and picked up odd jobs — working at Kmart, doing electrical wiring on yachts or working at a lumber yard.

He was working as a mall Santa Claus when he caught the eye of a shopper, Martha Baxter. They married in 1978.

In 1981, he opened the Trick Store in Largo on Missouri Avenue. About 17 years ago, the store moved to 11419 Starkey Road.

He was rarely seen without a cigar in his teeth.

"He was a little gruff sometimes," his wife said. "He didn't like to get too close to people."

If anyone, male or female, insisted on hugging him, Mr. Cargill had a patented response. "He would kiss them on the mouth," his wife said. "It was like, 'They are going to stop this nonsense.'"

But he warmed up to people he thought were serious. Such was the case with John Gilbert Jr., who checked out the Trick Store after an acquaintance suggested that celebrity magician Criss Angel was satanic.

"I wanted to teach my kids it wasn't witchcraft," said Gilbert, 48, who has a house cleaning business.

Mr. Cargill directed him to books in his store.

"He was my mentor and I was like his pupil," said Gilbert, who flourished under the training and began performing locally. Mr. Cargill began to reveal closely guarded secrets to tricks, and eventually passed along his old books and magazines.

"He was a very kind, soft-hearted person as I got to know him," Gilbert said.

Worsening diabetes forced Mr. Cargill to close his store in November. Artifacts from his lifelong passion still lie everywhere around the house, his wife said, including two statues of Merlin, decks of cards, silver dollars and a black top hat.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at or (727) 892-2248.


Stephen A. "Steve" Cargill

Born: Feb. 14, 1951

Died: Aug. 6, 2012

Survivors: wife, Martha; brothers James and Warren Cargill; and sisters Deborah Kamboures, Patricia Hope and Janet McCann.

Service: 2 p.m. Wednesday; Bay Pines National Cemetery, 10000 Bay Pines Blvd., St. Petersburg.

Steve Cargill believed in magic, made a living at it 08/11/12 [Last modified: Saturday, August 11, 2012 8:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Record $417 million awarded in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer


    LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million to a hospitalized woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene.

    A bottle of Johnson's baby powder is displayed. On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman confirmed that a jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in a case to a woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene. [Associated Press]
  2. Search under way for missing sailors; Navy chief orders inquiry


    SINGAPORE — The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

    Damage is visible as the USS John S. McCain steers toward Singapore’s naval base on Monday.
  3. Told not to look, Donald Trump looks at the solar eclipse


    Of course he looked.

    Monday's solar eclipse — life-giving, eye-threatening, ostensibly apolitical — summoned the nation's First Viewer to the Truman Balcony of the White House around 2:38 p.m. Eastern time.

    The executive metaphor came quickly.

    President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump view the solar eclipse from the Truman balcony of the White House, in Washington, Aug. 21, 2017. [Al Drago | New York Times]
  4. Secret Service says it will run out of money to protect Trump and his family Sept. 30


    WASHINGTON — The Secret Service said Monday that it has enough money to cover the cost of protecting President Donald Trump and his family through the end of September, but after that the agency will hit a federally mandated cap on salaries and overtime unless Congress intervenes.

    Secret service agents walk with President Donald Trump after a ceremony to welcome the 2016 NCAA Football National Champions the Clemson Tigers on the South Lawn of the White House on June 12, 2017. [Olivier Douliery | Sipa USA via TNS]
  5. After fraught debate, Trump to disclose new Afghanistan plan


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will unveil his updated Afghanistan policy Monday night in a rare, prime-time address to a nation that broadly shares his pessimism about American involvement in the 16-year conflict. Although he may send a few thousand more troops, there are no signs of a major shift in …

    U.S. soldiers patrol the perimeter of a weapons cache near the U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan in 2003. Sixteen years of U.S. warfare in Afghanistan have left the insurgents as strong as ever and the nation's future precarious. Facing a quagmire, President Donald Trump on Monday will outline his strategy for a country that has historically snared great powers and defied easy solutions.  [Associated Press (2003)]