treet perfomers bring you a live jolt of the unexpected — could be a floating credit card or the Appalachian sounds of a hammered dulcimer. As warmer weather returns, you can find them by day under the shade of awnings or at night near the Byrd's bright marquee. They hope you'll smile (and drop a few coins in the guitar case).
Playing Her Own Song
Roz Moret came to Richmond in 1985 from Atlanta by way of New Orleans. She and her boyfriend were supposed to pass through Richmond while traveling cross-country. Their relationship ended, and Moret stayed.
As a young man, Moret's father played in New Orleans jazz bands, and her mother studied opera at Howard University and once sang for Eleanor Roosevelt. "My mother died when I was 12 of breast cancer, and so my great-aunt helped raise me," says Moret, 56. Her great-aunt was Madeline Coleman, a long-serving Howard music professor and vocal teacher of Jessye Norman and Roberta Flack.
Her early musical education was in piano and accordion; "my aunt was strictly classical," Moret recalls. "So behind her back, and inspired by the Beatles, I taught myself guitar."
Moret arrived in Richmond when musicians and artists gathered at the dormant Richmond Dairy in Jackson Ward. "They had weekly group jam sessions there," she recalls. She's played in groups through the years, but wearied of the experience.
"The politics and lack of commitment of other people, the different musical tastes, the clashes," she explains. "So I decided to learn many instruments."
Her specialties include the guitar, accordion, hammered dulcimer, mandolin and lately, the bagpipe.
Moret was a jewelry-maker and worked at the Jefferson Hotel as a banquet server and silver polisher. "For the sake of morale — my own — I left," she says. Her Cary Street career began in 1995.
Street music has paid her more than any other job. She's found that the best tippers are those who work for tips themselves, or small business owners. But her earnings are down a third to a half of what they were a year ago.
"There are the times when people give me hugs, flowers, tell me I've saved their day. Then there are times when people pretend to throw money, or put in pseudo money with religious messages on the back. Or paper wrappings."
Moret says she hopes to one day set up a recording studio.
As a youth, John Smallie learned all the tricks in the store.
He stumbled onto magic through theatrical makeup, which often took him to the Miracles of Magic shop in Virginia Beach. The proprietor Rusty Chadil showed Smallie a trick every time he visited.
"He had really great showmanship skills," recalls Smallie, 46. "And he showed me a trick I eventually had to learn how to do, the Vanishing Silk."
The Vanishing Silk is a utility trick, meaning several tricks can be performed using its base technique. He eventually spent four years working at Miracles of Magic. The chief advantage was having a reason to practice the magic for six to eight hours a day.
International visitors introduced him to their tricks, too. "It was a really hard core concentration in magic, like going from kindergarten to graduate school in a matter of months," he says. Another magician, Tom Carter, helped Smallie burnish his skills.
He moved to Richmond in 1981 to study history at VCU. But magic remained integral in his life. He became friends with the late Woody Landers, a top magician here. Landers showed Smallie the Flying Credit Card just prior to his death. Smallie says, "One disappointment is that he never got to see me successfully present the trick."
Smallie attended a lecture in 2002 by Cellini, a renowned street magician at Lakeside Avenue's Divine Magic and Novelties shop. And he decided to take what he knew outside although the notion intimidated him. He needn't have worried.
While on Cary Street, he's performed for actress Hilary Swank. "She tipped very well," he notes, and he's entertained the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and guests at the Greenbrier resort. But his means of income isn't completely magical. He's been with the state department of social services for 20 years. That, he says, keeps him grounded.
His street magic tricks must be robust and eye-catching. And he needs warm weather because he wears short sleeves.
"Otherwise," he says with a chuckle. "They'll just say, ‘It's up your sleeve.'"