Preview Mary Ann Campbell

A Celestial Celebration


“Money Magic”

It’s been over thirty years since Mary Ann Campbell appeared on the cover of The Linking Ring, but she certainly has been no stranger to the magic scene since. Certified Financial Planner, college professor, community leader, television personality, volunteer, magician, wife, mother, and grandmother—Mary Ann has to be one of the busiest women in magic. She is a model for female magicians for sure, but her creative use of magic as a financial teaching tool is an inspiration for any performer, regardless of gender.

Born Mary Ann Briscoe on September 11, 1943, she was inspired to learn magic when the IBM held its 1975 convention in her home city of Little Rock, Arkansas. She and her six-year-old son John took lessons from a local legend, the late Colonel Frank Seymour. Since the Colonel refused to have only one student, Mary Ann took the class along with her son. But John eventually outgrew his interest. Mary Ann writes, “Not being a stage mother, I didn’t push him to continue. I simply took his stuff and started using it in my classroom.” She soon realized the educational value of her skills, and for four decades she has taught courses and seminars using magic effects to demonstrate principles in money management. The needle-thru-balloon helps audiences understand inflation. The Professor’s Nightmare shows the relationship between big business, government, and consumers (guess which one gets the short rope?). A flash bill reminds viewers how quickly mismanaged money goes up in smoke. But these aren’t grade-school object lessons; they are the result of solid expertise and experience.

Mary Ann’s promotional brochures

Her students responded so positively to her magic that Mary Ann realized she needed to expand her repertoire. When she landed an educational TV series at AETN in Little Rock—where she used a magic effect to recap the point of each lesson—the local IBM Ring 29 came to her aid and has supported her ever since. Once when she wanted to reinforce a housing lesson, two members loaned her a shack they had built for an urban renewal project. When Howard Bamman put Mary Ann on the cover of The Linking Ring in May of 1979, she stared hearing from magicians around the world who used magic with a message. She got lots of ideas from Kent Cummings, a Texas magician who had used magic extensively in his teaching in the Army.

Mary Ann on the cover of The Linking Ring in 1979

Mary Ann recalls that “the most consistent magic support I received was from Frances Marshall of Magic, Inc. in Chicago. She was a true mentor and told me that because there were so few women in magic, and that I was using it in such a unique way, she wanted to help me and was there for me. I spent countless time on the phone and visited her in Chicago many times during the years. Frances blessed me with support that helped me ‘hang in there’ a few times.” It was Frances Marshall who recommended her signature trick, the Six Bill Repeat, which, as they say, packs small and plays big.

Mary Ann Campbell’s resume is amazing. She has been a full-time visiting professor at the University of Central Arkansas, where her students referred to her as “Dr. MAC.” She served on the National Advisory Council for the Association of Small Business Development Centers, and has been the chair of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center’s Advisory Council. Mary Ann was appointed by President Clinton to Chair the National Women’s Business Council, where she travelled internationally to represent small business issues. Dr. Campbell was a founding member of the Arkansas Chapter of the International Women’s Forum. She served as co-chair of the Arkansas Small Business Coalition, was a founding member of the Financial Planners Association of Arkansas, and has been the President and owner of Money Magic, Inc. since 1985. Money Magic provides presentations laced with magic for educational and management training seminars. In 2007, she received her doctorate in Family Finance at Iowa State University.

Her television experience is no less impressive. Her show “Money Magic” won a bronze medal at the 1980 International Film and Television Festival, an unusual honor for a local program. For several years she had a weekly program on Little Rock’s KATV Daybreak, offering financial planning advice, often illustrated with a magic effect. Guests on her programs have included Dr. Milton Friedman, Louis Rukeyser, Hillary Clinton, and famed Arkansas football coach Lou Holtz, who learned a number of magic effects from Mary Ann. They both use the Gene Anderson paper tear during their speaking engagements and count it as one of their favorite tricks.

Inside one of Mary Ann’s brochures

Volunteer work is especially important to this busy leader. Long an advocate for child safety, she has conducted research on the flammability of children’s sleepwear and has served as Chairman of the Governor’s State Fire Protection Commission. She was even named Arkansas’ first female Honorary Firefighter. She has volunteered with the burn ward of Arkansas Children’s Hospital, has worked at summer camps with the United Methodist Women’s Division, and has served as the state coordinator for David Copperfield’s Project Magic.

Mary Ann was introduced to her husband Guy by a friend at a baseball game in Little Rock. They later married in 1974 and blended their families. Guy’s son Greg was 16, and Mary Ann’s son, John, was 5. When John was a senior at Catholic High for Boys, they increased their family by adding Mario, an exchange-student son from Cali, Colombia. Each of the 3 boys has a son and daughter. Mary Ann writes this about her husband: “Guy didn’t have a particular interest in magic when we married. He has been, however, my best supporter and critic because he’ll tell me when he can see [a move] or figure it out. I know I’m doing something good when he gets upset because he doesn’t how I’m doing a trick.” Guy passed away in 2020. 

Mary Ann has long used magic in her speaking and seminars. During the summers when she’s wasn’t teaching, she did seminars for an Arkansas company that has satellite locations in seven states. The purpose is to encourage their employees to contribute more to their 401k plans, borrow less from them, and improve their saving, budgeting and cash flow. Dr. Campbell uses magic in her presentations, and, as she writes, “It seems to be enjoyed whether [her audience is] wearing steel-toe boots and hard hats in their safety meetings or a suit and tie at a convention.”

In recent years, Mary Ann’s life in magic has come full circle. Her son John got into a legal job where he had more time, including vacation days. He resumed his childhood interest in magic, and now they attend conventions together again, just as they did when John was a boy. Now, she says, John brings his son, Walker, and they all enjoy magic as a family. In 2015, John and Mary Ann attended Magic Live! in Las Vegas. Because she had run David Copperfield’s Project Magic in Arkansas for many years, he arranged for them to have front row “high roller” seats for his show, and to attend a meet and greet afterwards.

Photo signed to the author

Mary Ann has counted many prominent magicians among her friends. Through Frances Marshall, she met June Horowitz, Frances Willard Falkenstein, her daughter (and Michael Ammar’s wife) Hannah, and Tina Lenert. Mary Ann has worked with magician and comedian Judy Carter to update and punch up her speaking presentations. After conducting Money Magic seminars for the employees of North Little Rock in 2012, Dr. Campbell used some of her earnings to attend Jeff McBride’s School of Magic for Speakers and Presenters in Las Vegas the next year. Mary Ann related well to the two women on the faculty, Abby McBride and Marjorie Hass, learning useful tips and tricks from them and from Jeff to improve her presentations. “I’m a life-long learner, and that keeps life interesting for me,” she says.

Mary Ann served as the first female President of IBM Ring 29 in 1983, and another past female president, Christy Henson, writes this about her friend: “Mary Ann is one of the most thoughtful and considerate people I know. Her optimistic attitude and love of magic are evident in every performance. She is a wonderful encourager of female magicians and is a great asset to the female community of magic.”

I solicited the following additional praise from her friends in Ring 29. Scott Davis says that “Mary Ann is a great magician and teacher. From her I have learned how to merge magic and message.” Randall Eller adds, “Her professionalism and her skills are only outmatched by her grace.” Mike Curtis: “Mary Ann is one of those people that you can’t help but like. She is very professional and warm-hearted at the same time.” And from one of her earliest friends in magic: “Mary Ann is the type of person who always has an upbeat attitude that flows into her magic. Watching and visiting with her gives you a feeling that you can accomplish anything. Her magic is outstanding, her performance is superb and her abilities are off the scale. I consider Mary Ann the epitome of a friend and magician.”—Jim Henson

A version of this article first appeared in the August 2006 The Linking Ring. It was originally published as a surprise for my friend Mary Ann Campbell, but I have since sought out her feedback in expanding and updating this profile.



Other women for the letter “C” could include a number of professional magicians: Canada’s Joan Caesar, Nicole Cardoza, Rita Carmo (1906-1979), Julie Carpenter, Judy Carter, Grace Chang, Chester “the Maid of Mystery” (1872-1945), England’s Janet Clare and Magical Claudine (1935-2015), SAM National Secretary Marlene ClarkJane Clements (1909-2002) and her daughter Shirley Ann (b. 1943), the illusionist Cleopatra (1911-1999), Janet Clinton (b. 1939), Bunnie Collins (the first female magician invited to FFFF), Rachel Colombini, Scotland’s Moira Colvan, Japanese performer Alice Maud Condo (d. 1901), third-generation German magician Constanze, France’s Geraldine Corda, the actress Vivian Cosby (1901-1963), Lisa Cousins, Sara Crasson, Lauren CohenChloe Crawford, and Miss Rosa Culpitt.

Three escape artists come to mind: Australian Clare Casey, Detroit’s Florence Cazan (1913-1974), and England’s Mademoiselle Clementine. And there are the “psychics”: famed hypnotist Pat Collins (1935-1997), child telepathist Lola Cotton, Susie Cottrell (1957-1996, who fooled magicians when she appeared on The Tonight Show in 1978), and Mina Crandon (1886-1941)—the Boston medium “Margery.”

Australia’s Helen Coghlan is a second-generation magician who has fooled Penn and Teller a total of five times on their TV show. Chinese-Canadian magician Juliana Chen, who lives and works out of the US, made history in 1997 when she became the first woman to earn first place in Manipulation at FISM. Juliana has earned several other awards and recognition, and also trains and mentors many other aspiring Chinese magicians.

Finally, we can’t forget these indispensable partners: Tammy Calvert, Nell Cameron (author of Manual for Magicians and their Assistants, 1949), Swan Cardini (1903-1993), Lynette Chappell (with Siegfried and Roy), Charlotte Charke (1713-1760, the first recorded female conjurer’s assistant), noted teacher Marian Chavez (1909-1978), Maurine Christopher (1920-2013), and Gloria Crawford (1925-2011) of “Crawford and Gloria,” an early member of Magigals who designed her own illusions.  


A Celestial Celebration Index