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March 19, 2019

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Photos: Five years in the making, Lance Burton’s ‘Billy Topit’ premieres at Palms

‘Billy Topit’ Red Carpet at Palms

Ira Kuzma

Lance Burton and Gabriella Versace arrive on the red carpet for Burton’s “Billy Topit: Master Magician” on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, at the Palms.

‘Billy Topit’ Red Carpet at Palms

Cast members of “Sexxy” at Westgate Las Vegas arrive on the red carpet for Lance Burton’s “Billy Topit: Master Magician” on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, at the Palms. Launch slideshow »

Lance Burton and ‘Billy Topit’

Magician Lance Burton and his debut film “Billy Topit: Master Magician” filmed entirely in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Billy Topit: Master Magician

Billy Topit: Master Magician

It took five years for first-time filmmaker Lance Burton to bring his project, “Billy Topit: Master Magician,” to the screen, but he succeeded. Why five years?

It’s difficult to get your showbiz colleagues to all be in the same city at once — and when you’re promising to pay them only deferred compensation, you have to rely on their free time to shoot scenes in between work.

That’s a nearly impossible task, but former Monte Carlo headliner magician Lance persevered and wouldn’t let his dream die or his project be halted. He’s promised to compensate from future sales, distribution of the film and any cable-TV broadcasts.

Here’s a trailer on YouTube:

“Billy Topit” is an adorable double tale of how a kids’ party magician uses his skills to thwart a team of bumbling bad guys cheating cards in a poker game and simultaneously win the girl of his dreams who winds up as his magic assistant.

The film stars juggler and co-screenwriter Michael Goudeau, magic consultant Johnny Thompson, Russ Merlin, Fielding West, Frankie Scinta, Jeff McBride and Roy Johnston.

“The process of doing this movie was very cathartic,” Lance told me. “This movie has been in my head for many, many years, and it kept bugging me. Like a little thing inside my head just scratching the inside of my skull, and it’s annoying.

“Basically, this is just getting it out of my head so I can be sane again. I’m happily retired and have no desire to get back onstage again. I had a wonderful 30-year career and performed 15,000 shows, so it was time.

When Lance retired with his last public performance on Sept. 4, 2010, he had performed at the Monte Carlo for 14 years with 5,000 shows for 5 million fans and grossing $200 million.

“When I was a kid, I saw Bill Bixby in a TV series called ‘The Magician.’ I loved that show. Through the years, there have been many films and TV shows with magician characters, and some were quite good.

“I just felt that I could bring something to the table that was genuine. Something based in reality. I didn’t want to do the stereotypical mysterious magician character. That’s why Billy Topit is a struggling magician, even though he is very skilled.

“This is a family-friendly movie that I hope will connect with people all over the world. It is a love letter to Las Vegas. When I am no longer around, I hope ‘Billy Topit’ will still be inspiring people to visit our city.”

Lance has work left to do on balancing the audio levels, but it’s a delightful escapade of trying to spot your favorite Las Vegas entertainer in the cameos.

Here’s a YouTube video from the movie with Louie Anderson as a security guard:

Lance is loved in Las Vegas, so celebrities turned up en masse for the red carpet premiere at Brenden Theaters in the Palms, which Lance hosted as a benefit for his three favorite charities: NSPCA, Shriner’s Hospitals for Children and Variety Children’s Charities.

Lance escorted gal pal singer Gabriella Versace of “Sexxy” at Westgate Las Vegas. She makes a singing cameo in his film but doesn’t play the movie girlfriend named Gabriella played by Joelle Righetti.

There was a rare public appearance by The Amazing Johnathan, who is battling cardiomyopathy, a degenerative weakening of the heart muscle, and Type 2 diabetes. Incredibly, he joked with me from his wheelchair: “If Criss Angel wasn’t paying for all my medical bills, I think I’d be walking.”

Criss also was there along with Mac King, Mat Franco, Murray Sawchuck, Ben Stone, Rich Little, Paul Shortino, Pia Zadora, Clint Holmes, Kelly Clinton Holmes, Chris Phillips, Lydia Ansel, Maren Wade, Jennifer Romas, Anthony Cools, Stan Allen and dancers from “Fantasy” and Thunder From Down Under.

Our thanks to Ira Kuzma for his photo gallery. Lance hosted his after-parties in movie-theater owner Johnny Brenden’s suite at the Palms, then at Olive Mediterranean Grill in Henderson, where some of the film was shot.

He summed up with the last word: “I hope to spread a little magic around the world with ‘Billy Topit: Master Magician’ and here at home.”

Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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