When Eli Kerr was 6 years old, his grandmother gave him a book about magic.
Her neighbor was a man named Bill Smith, who had established a strong presence in the field of magic as an illusion builder.
Young Eli was hooked.
After the family moved to Carson City when he was 11 and he saw his first professional magician (Robert Ames), Kerr studied his art with added ardor. He got his first paying gig at 13.
Kerr still lives in Carson City and has appeared in a multitude of magic shows, both on his own (headlining at the defunct Golden Phoenix back in 2003 and Reno's Pioneer Underground for three months in 2008) and with others (as part of the company in the MontBleu's "Masters of Magic" two years ago).
Now, he's headlining one of his favorite rooms in the region, Sammy's Showroom at Harrah's Reno, where he'll perform several shows a week through February.
"This is a showroom again, not a stage temporarily built in a convention center," Kerr said. "I've always wanted to play it. It's the right size for a magic show, and allows an intimacy a lot of other rooms don't."
The show includes an opening act, comedian Rick Delia.
Kerr also likes to belie the promotional posters for his show, which he says makes his act look dark, a perception dispelled quickly when the audience finds he's a lot of fun. He promises a lot of audience interaction.
("The Magic of Eli Kerr" runs Friday and Saturday nights through Feb. 23, plus extended dates Dec. 20-23 and 26-31; 8 p.m.; $25, $35; Ticketmaster.com).
Out and about
Alice Cooper broke the barriers back in 1978 when he brought "Welcome to My Nightmare" to the Sahara Tahoe (now the Horizon). Now he brings further terrors to the Grand Sierra on Sunday. Bring your earplugs. (8 p.m.; $27.50, $37.50, $47.50; grandsierraresort.com).
It's a great weekend for blues fans, starting with Elvin Bishop tonight at Cache Creek in Brooks (7:30 p.m.; $20, or free with club card at the door; cachecreek.com). Then it's Bobby Blue Bland on Sunday at Thunder Valley in Lincoln (6 p.m.; $29.50; thundervalleyresort.com)
A far gentler style of music, one evoking campfires, horseback rides across a prairie and cowboys who break out in song whenever the chance arises, is presented tonight at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks, Nev., with the playful Riders in the Sky. (8 p.m.; $32; 800-648-1177 or janugget.com
The price is right at the Crystal Bay Casino on Lake Tahoe's east side. Purple Haze, a Jimi Hendrix tribute band, plays at 10 tonight in the Crown Room, with free admission; and the Locals Last Waltz, a tribute to the Band, is at 9 p.m. Saturday and also is free. (crystalbaycasino.com).
Cal Neva Resort - Frank Sinatra Showroom: Mickey Avalon, Dec. 8.(800) 233-5551.
Carson Valley Inn Cabaret Lounge: Midnight Express, today-Saturday; Steve Lord, Tuesday-Wednesday; Escalade, Thursday-Dec. 1. (775) 782-9711.
Eldorado, Reno Showroom: "Aladdin and His Lamp," Tuesdays-Sundays, through Jan. 13. (800) 648-5966.
Harrah's Reno Sammy's Showroom: The Magic of Eli Kerr, Fridays-Saturdays, through Feb. 23. (800) 427-7247.
Harrah's Lake Tahoe South Shore Room: Beatles vs. Stones A Musical Shootout, today-Saturday; Toad the Wet Sprocket, Dec. 1. (800) 427-7247.
Horizon, Lake Tahoe Illusion Fusion starring Alex Ramon, Thursdays-Tuesdays. (775) 588-6211.
MontBleu Resort, Lake Tahoe Daniel Tosh, Dec. 15. (888) 829-7630.
Silver Legacy, Reno Rodney Carrington, Saturday; Randy Travis, Dec. 1. (800) 687-8733.