‘Every time that I would go to the dentist, I went to spend time. He would show me a magic trick and then we’d perform them for the hygienists and the secretaries.’
Brandon Axelrod, Commack
“When I was 5, I tripped and fell in the shower. My two front teeth got pushed up into my gums. I remember like bleeding all over the place. My parents rushed me to their dentist. He sat me in the chair immediately, and I started laughing the whole time — and without the use of laughing gas. He was just so funny.
“He took a gauze pad that you used to stop the bleeding, and he put it in my mouth. He snapped his fingers, and he pulled out a red sponge ball that magicians use. It was in that moment that I knew I wanted to do learn to do that.
“Every time that I would go to the dentist, I went to spend time. He would show me a magic trick and then we’d preform them for the hygienists and the secretaries. He would show me X-rays and the different instruments, too. So, there was also this introduction to dentistry.
“He had mentioned to my parents at some point like, ‘Brandon should maybe go take lessons in New York City for magic.’ So that’s exactly what we did. As I was taking lessons, someone told me that I should add balloon twisting to my repertoire of tricks.
“I took a lesson for a dog, a sword and like snake. I thought, ‘This is super lame.’ I am 10 years old at this point. I know what kids want. It’s not the dog or the sword, it’s SpongeBob SquarePants, Peppa Pig, or Elmo cooking.
The kids who are the most shocked and surprised are the best. They ask me for a dog because they don’t, they’ve never seen anything more than that.
“I didn’t have too much of a knowledge base when it came to balloon twisting, but I started to realize if you learn one design, you can switch the colors to make another. That was like the beginning of me learning how I was going to diversify myself. I told myself, ‘I’m never going to say no to a request that comes my way. There’s got to be a way that I can figure it out.’ And I kind of just did.
“Essentially, kids give me all the inspiration. Not only do they know the movie and TV characters, they’re also my biggest critics. They’ll say, ‘You know Mario has the two yellow buttons on his overalls. You have to add that.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, of course I’ll add that.’
“Over the years I’ve gotten, ‘Maybe you can add like flames coming out of the dragon’s mouth.’ Their creativity inspires the shapes and the creations of everything.
“The kids who are the most shocked and surprised are the best. They ask me for a dog because they don’t, they’ve never seen anything more than that. And I’m like, ‘I’m going to make you something cooler. What do you like?’ And then when you start like opening those doors, the kids open up, and it’s a cool connection. And if they really do want a dog, I make a very detailed character with like multiple colors, and there’s like a tongue hanging out and like a dog tag.
“My business is all word of mouth, so it’s been special seeing people vouch for The Magical Brandini and saying how much they loved having me at an event.
“I’m in my third year at the Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine. I know I’ll eventually incorporate my craft into my office, just how my dentist did. I’m always going have my office loaded with the balloons and everything that I need to make any creation that’s requested.
“Right at the beginning of my magic-and-balloon career, my dentist was diagnosed with ALS. It disabled his magical mind and hands. He was no longer able to practice dentistry or to mentor me. His passing has motivated me to continue to develop my talent and to share the wonderful gift he dealt to me on the day we met, and I can only hope to someday, just like him, embody the magic of dentistry while putting patients at ease.”
Interviewed by Maggie Rose Melito