One afternoon in Rosenheim, Germany when he was eight years old, Siegfried passed a bookstore. “My eye caught something in the window; it was a book on magic. I knew I had to have it. I can’t explain, even now, why that was. All that stood in the way was five marks—for me a fortune, a fortune for any little boy in Germany in 1947.”
Siegfried was determined to have the book so he went home and began doing chores, hoping his mother would give him the money. Halfway through washing the dishes, his mother asked him, “What’s the matter with you?”
“Well, there’s this magic book…” he replied, but he got no further in the explanation. She threw up her hands and told him he must be out of his mind: five marks for a magic book was impossible.
But Siegfried was determined; he left the house and began walking.
What happened next only happens in fairytales, but happened to Siegfried: there on the pavement was a five mark note! Siegfried immediately went to the shop and bought the book. “I studied it, and studied it, and studied it. There was one trick I did really well. You have a coin, a handkerchief, and a glass of water. You drop the coin in the water and it vanishes.” He showed it to his father who was astonished. “For me,” Siegfried explains, “having been brought up in a strict Bavarian way, it was the first time my father ever acknowledged me.” That affirmation was the beginning of Siegfried’s magical life. He began performing for everyone—school friends, strangers, everyone, and mastered every trick in the book –and then taught himself to eat light bulbs and razorblades.
Throughout his life, Siegfried has always approached magic from the inside out. “Even after meeting Roy,” he says, “I’ve always created and figured out my illusions for myself.” As a teenager, he loved being in plays, and even developed a stand-up comedy act. “I performed on weekends at weddings, parties, and town functions. As my routines lampooned the dry humor of my fellow Bavarians, and poked fun at some of the local characters, I soon became a minor celebrity in my town of Rosenheim.”
The master illusionist, Kalanag, was the first real magic show Siegfried ever saw, and it totally changed his perception of the art. “His show was the highlight of my childhood, and to this day, one of the most exciting events in my life. Kalanag stimulated and inspired me to become a professional magician. It wasn’t so much his illusions that thrilled me. It was his personality and the glamour of the elaborate stage sets. Magic, I realized is only fifty percent dexterity. You practice, and practice, and practice until it becomes part of you. When you are at that point, you start all over again, and interject your personality into your act.”
At seventeen, he decided it was time to leave home. His mother did not take it well, and told him that if he left, he could not come back. “I knew this was not what was in her heart,” Siegfried explains. “It was a last ditch effort to get me to stay.” But leave he did, and in 1956 found himself in a small resort hotel in Lago di Garda, Italy as a dishwasher. Within a few months, he was working behind the bar. It was a whole new world for him, and he decided to learn the hotel business. He also learned life lessons about love and relationships and that not all families were stoic, as was his. “I saw the way other people lived—the way families responded to one another. I watched with a certain envy as how families kissed and hugged one another and how nicely parents treated their children. I hadn’t known that existed.”
“I hired on as a steward on the TS Bremen, a beautiful luxury cruise liner that sailed from the port of Bremerhaven to New York and back,” he explains. It wasn’t long before he was performing magic for the crew and the captain heard about it. After showing the captain a few tricks, Siegfried was told, “Tonight you perform for the passengers.”
“That night I did sleight of hand tricks with cards, coins, and cigarettes. And for old times’ sake, I swallowed twenty razor blades, and then magically made the blades reappear on a long string.” It was so well received that the captain, on the next crossing, had him do a half hour of magic. “I was in heaven. I didn’t have to imagine an audience any more. I was a performer.” Siegfried even gave himself a stage name, “Delmare” the magician. The word delmare in Spanish means “from the sea.” For Siegfried, when people ask him when he made it in life his answer is: “The day I left home.”