When you live in a small community like Montgomery or Macoupin County, you never know what kind of people you're going to come across. Even small towns have their characters. There are those who keep their head down and work. Those who are always out on the town; and there are those who entertain because they love what they do. One local entertainer is celebrating his 15th anniversary this year, and has made an impact on the lives of those both young and old.
Randy Thompson is a mental health counselor at the Montgomery County Health Department; but what some may not realize is that he has an alter ego. His name is Professor Longhair.
Since 2001, Professor Longhair has been traveling around Central Illinois, performing magic shows for kids and adults alike. According to Thompson, the journey started when he was just a kid.
"My grandfather was a speaker at Toastmasters and he thought that utilizing magic tricks would be a neat way to get some of his stories illustrated. So he became a semi professional magician that traveled around Decatur. When he passed away, I guess he realized that I was the only grandchild who was interested in magic and stuff. He left a box with my name on it, and when I opened it, it was full of thumb tips and other magic stuff. I had no idea what to do with it, but there was a card for a little magic store. It looked like it was closed when I arrived, but a little guy saw the car and let me in. It was a friend of my grandfather's and he taught me everything. At that point, I thought, 'I'm going to keep doing this.'"
Thompson specializes in stage magic but also creates balloon shapes, performs with puppets and does face painting. For Thompson, it wasn't just about entertaining early on, but was a way of providing therapy for those in need.
"I've been a social worker in this area for thirty-five years, and I did utilize a lot of (my talents) with patients at nursing homes and special needs kids to bring this kind of entertainment to them since it was an area I specialized in."
Whether it's performing at a nursing home, a school, a community gathering or a birthday party, Professor Longhair is happy to be of service.
"I'm proud that I've never turned down an event. We can find a way to work magic into almost anything."
Without the support of the community, Thompson says he wouldn't be able to do what he enjoys.
"I really appreciate the support of the community. I've worked with the Litchfield Park District, Imagine Hillsboro and the Macoupin County Historical Society so I really appreciate the support of those organizations and many others I've forgotten to mention. I also appreciate the support from the charities we work with and try to help. We would like to continue to assist the community that way."
Finally, for Professor Longhair, it doesn't matter how old the person is or who he or she may be...
"As long as I'm performing, I'm happy."
June 29, 2016