Penn Jillette is, famously, not a religious man, but his visit to South Florida for performances at the Hard Rock this weekend is a pilgrimage of sorts.
“Without Randi, there would be no Penn & Teller,” says the magician, author and star of NBC’s “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice,” returning March 3. “I should say that if there were no Randi, there’d be no Penn Jillette. He is the most important person in my life, next to family.”
Randi would be James Randi, of Plantation, a longtime magician and escape artist, now perhaps the world’s foremost debunker of psychics, spoon benders and “paranormal and pseudoscientific frauds.”
The James Randi Educational Foundation operated for years out of offices in downtown Fort Lauderdale after its founding in 1996, before relocating recently to Los Angeles.
Jillette met Randi several years before he and Teller began their climb to fame with an eponymous early-’80s off-Broadway show that captivated crowds with a unique, theatrical brand of magic. Jillette was at a philosophical crossroads, troubled by what he saw as the dishonesty of famous magicians of the day who claimed real supernatural powers.
“I hated magic,” Jillette recalls. “I thought I was lying. I felt I’d been burned so bad by magicians. Kreskin I hated with a purple passion.”
Randi’s show, which offered a transparent portrayal of deception as an art, as entertainment put on by talented men and women, was a revelation, Jillette says. It allowed Jillette to pursue his craft with honesty, freeing the outsize personality that has been his trademark. They’ve been friends ever since.
“Randi calls himself an honest liar,” says Jillette, who has gone on to do his own myth and illusion debunking on Showtime (“Penn & Teller: Bullshit!”) and Discovery Channel (“Penn & Teller Tell a Lie”). “It’s a very, very clear phrase.” (It is also the title of a documentary film about Randi that is seeking Kickstarter funding at AnHonestLiar.com.)
“We do a completely honest show. We tell you we are going to trick you. Then, you watch us trick you, and you say, ‘Hey, look at that.’ You’ve got to be wicked good to do that,” Jillette says with a laugh.
For those familiar with Penn & Teller only through their TV work, by necessity rich in philosophical and Libertarian political banter, Jillette says the Hard Rock performances will have the “visceral feel” lacking in televised magic, which is filtered through a camera and subsequent editing.
“It’s automatically a lie,” Jillette says of TV magic. “But when you walk into a theater, there are rules that are very well established… rules that you and I know, about relativity, time and space and the persistence of an object. [The live performance] is real magic. You’ll see we’re still full-blown, no-kidding-around magicians. We will still fool the s--- out of you.”
Jillette says he and Teller will bring Randi, 84, onstage during one of their shows 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood (Tickets: $39, $49, $59, $69; info: HardRockLiveHollywoodFL.com), and he will spend most of Saturday with his friend, whom he has not seen in about a year.
“I’ll probably hug him for a day,” Jillette says, laughing.GOT SOME 'CANES OVER HERE
Among the myriad Super Bowl watch parties on Sunday are two with heavy representation by local NFLers. At the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek (5550 NW 40th St.), you can watch the game with former University of Miami stars Vernon Carey, Sam Shields and Lamar Miller, as well as Miami Dolphins Hall of Famer Larry Little, Keith Sims, Troy Dayton and current ’Fin Chris Clemons. Tickets cost $25 and include free drinks, food and entertainment during the game, from 6:15 to 11 p.m. Info: SeminoleCoconutCreekCasino.com, 954-977-6700. Meanwhile, at Brother Jimmy’s BBQ (900 S. Miami Ave., Miami), Sailor Jerry Rum is providing fuel for the free outdoor pig roast and jumbo-screen watch party, with 5 p.m. pre-game festivities hosted by former Canes Jonathan Vilma, Jon Beason and D.J. Williams. Info: BrotherJimmys.com, 786-360-3650.
GOT SOME WINGS OVER HERE
Roxy's Pub (309 Clematis St., West Palm Beach) can always be counted on for something on Super Bowl Weekend, and this year’s party will close the 300 block of the city’s main party thoroughfare on Sunday from 2 p.m. to midnight for big-screen viewing, tailgate noshing, street games and a few beers. At halftime you can get in on the club’s inaugural chicken-wing-eating competition, benefitting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Info: RoxysPub.com, call 561-296-7699. Because your Super Bowl enthusiasm cannot be contained by one bar, you can walk to similar events nearby at Bobbi Sue BBQ and World of Beer.
GET YOUR KICKS
Buy, sell, trade or just smell the latest in streetwise footwear at Sneaker Con 2013 noon-7 p.m. Saturday in the fieldhouse of the University of Miami’s BankUnited Center. If you want to see, and perhaps, hold LeBron James’ elusive cork kicks, this is the place. Admission: $15. Info: Facebook.com/SneakerConEvent.
The vintage flea known as the City-Wide Market, which attracted more than 4,500 folks to Fort Lauderdale's War Memorial Auditorium in December (which probably ain’t gun-show numbers, but not too shabby), will return 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday with more retro gewgaws, collectibles, curiosities and secondhand treasures. This installment of the event will take place outdoors in the courtyard area (SunSentinel weather oracle Ken Kaye sees the cool front still in play), and admission and parking are free. Looking ahead to the March edition of CWM, organizers Chris Gaidry and Amanda Weiner (of Indie Craft Bazaar fame) plan to add a Friday-night eating event with food trucks and drinks, calling it a “one-stop shop to buy locally made foods, gourmet baked goods, unique edibles that can't be found elsewhere.” So if you make, bake or create your own foodstuffs, or have a local food business that wants to share, get in touch with them at Facebook.com/CityWideMarket or call 954-785-7475.
Hard to believe things could get any cooler on the stretch of Federal Highway near the entrance to Fort Lauderdale’s Holiday Park. On Saturday, when the City-Wide Market has attracted a throng of vintage-hunting cognoscenti to the park’s War Memorial Auditorium, Andrew Vladeck will return to Radio-Active Records, where his band, the Honey Brothers (which includes “Entourage” star Adrian Grenier), filmed a video last year (below). New York native Vladeck, whose vintage influences include everything from bluesman Robert Johnson and Bob Dylan to Stevie Wonder and the Talking Heads, is scheduled to do an acoustic set beginning at 8 p.m. Radio-Active Records is at 845 N. Federal Highway, just down the street from another new outpost of laid-back cool, the Whole Enchilada. Info: Facebook.com/RadioActiveRecords, 954-762-9488.
ARE YOU READY FOR SOME MORE FOOTBALL?
“Remember the Titans” celebrates high school football and the triumph of racial diversity in 1971 Virginia, and the free Friday night screening at Hollywood’s ArtsPark seems like a worthwhile way to acknowledge the weekend’s pigskin theme. For those keeping score, the 2000 Jerry Bruckheimer drama stars Denzel Washington, but also features a few young actors that would go on to present-day fame: Ryan Gosling, Kate Bosworth, Hayden Panettiere and Donald Faison. Info: 954-921-3404. “Won’t Back Down” is a film about overcoming a different set of prejudices, as two moms attempt to wrest control of an under-performing inner-city school from an entrenched and ineffective bureaucracy. The film, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Holly Hunter, screens for free at 7 p.m. Friday at Boynton Beach’s Ocean Avenue Amphitheatre. Info: 561-742-6246.
THE FREE STOOGES
If you happened to tune into ESPN2's "SportsNation" this week (it airs at 4 p.m.), you've gotten a sneak peek at the city of Hollywood’s Fat Tuesday concert: The New Orleans-set show's house band, the Stooges Brass Band, will perform a free 7:30-9 p.m. concert on Feb. 12 at the Hollywood Beach Bandshell. Hollywood’s major Mardi Gras concert will take place from 6 to 11 p.m. Feb. 9 at the ArtsPark on Young Circle. The free event, curated by the Rhythm Foundation and called Hollywood ArtsPark Experience: New Orleans, will feature the brassy funk-rock of the Crescent City’s own Bonerama, T-Broussard and the Zydeco Steppers, and the Bad Apples Brass Band. Info: RhythmFoundation.com, 305-672-5202.
You may not be able to turn around without walking into someone with something juicy to reveal about “Saturday Night Live.” Tracy Morgan fills the post-“30 Rock” void with a tour stop at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek on Saturday (Tickets: $52-$73; info: SeminoleCoconutCreekCasino.com, 954-977-6700), while at the Aventura Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, Marion Grodin will relate the laughs inherent in being the daughter of churlish actor Charles Grodin, whose classic Season 3 hosting of “SNL” reportedly got him banned from the show (Tickets: $31.50, $36.50; info: AventuraCenter.org, 877-311-7469). On Wednesday, actors and former “SNL” stars Jon Lovitz, Chris Kattan and Tim Meadows perform at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach (Tickets: $25-$109.25; info: Kravis.org, 561-832-7469).
An evening with the Lee Boys can be a tonic, the glorious and gritty sacred-steel guitar and homespun gospel message an elixir potent enough to raise even the spiritually crippled onto the dance floor. The Miami-spawned band will have a record-release party for the album “Testify” Saturday night at the Stage (170 NE 38th St., Miami), where they’ll be joined by R&B balladeer Zach Deputy. Tickets: $10 advance, $15 at the door. Info: TheStageMiami.com, 305-576-9577.
FRIED CHICKEN CIRCUIT
You’ll find a night of modern vaudeville on Friday with "Remy Connor and His Curious Friends" at Gigi's Music Café (4385 NW 88th Ave./Pine Island Road, Sunrise), with an appetizing lineup that may rival Gigi Brown’s famous “Old Soul Fried Chicken and Homemade Buttermilk Waffles.” OK, maybe not. But joining magician-host Connor will be burlesque dancer Isadora Bull and bellydancer Miss Tere, performing to a soundtrack provided by Joey Sexton and rapper M.E. Admission is free. Info: GigisMusicCafe.com, 954-748-9494.
The lineup was revealed this week for the second annual Virginia Key Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance, a not-for-profit, environment-minded campout at Virginia Key Beach Park in Miami Feb. 21-24. Included in the smattering of local and national acts are: Inner Circle, Rusted Root, Suenalo, Donna the Buffalo, Keith Frank and His Soileau Zydeco Band, the Spam Allstars, Locos por Juana, Elastic Bond, ArtOfficial and Johnny Dread. Tickets: $30 advance, $35 at the gate, with four-day passes $100 and $120. There are separate ticket prices for camping. Info: VirginiaKeyGrassRoots.org, 786-409-5261.
OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS
Shows to consider or at least be curious about: Jimmy Buffett and Coral Reefer Band Saturday at the BB&T Center… Eric Biddines & Plaid Blazer on Saturday at the Arts Garage in Delray Beach… Dweezil Zappa’s Zappa Plays Zappa tribute to Frank on Saturday at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale… The xx Tuesday night at the Fillmore Miami Beach … Jacob Jefferies on Wednesday at the Big Easy in Hollywood … Willie and Merle on Thursday at the Hard Rock … Kevens on Thursday at Bardot in Miami …