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Doug Clark: Spokane magician Dave Womack, aka David DaVinci, is spinning showbiz into fame

Met this 14-year-old dreamer.

Like plenty of kids his age, Dave Womach had shooting stars in his eyes about what he wanted to do when he grew up.

What stopped me, however, was that Womach’s big plans didn’t come from the typical adolescent fantasy wish list. You know: pro athlete, famous rapper, Hollywood actor, newspaper columnist …

Nope. Womach had his feet set firmly on a path rarely taken: becoming a professional touring magician.

Want to hear the craziest thing?

He did exactly what he set out to do.

See, the above encounter took place on a frosty February night in 1998. I met Womach while interviewing members of the Spokane Magic Club.

Last week, the 33-year-old called to say howdy from Morocco, as in North Africa. For several years now, Womach has been performing his show on cruises for Norwegian Cruise Line.

We hadn’t talked in ages. But Womach was always appreciative for the encouragement I gave him when he was tirelessly honing his craft on a basement stage in the family home.

During our call, Womach brought me up to speed on his amazing career as well as the plans he and Sandpoint native Jamie – his wife and beautiful assistant – have to create their own theater in Moab, Utah. (Check out www.DavidDaVinciTheater.com.) The Womachs have a 3-year-old daughter, Capri.

“I’ve loved most of it,” said Womach of how magic has taken him all over the planet.

“I’d be lying if I said that every moment has been a golden road. But I pour my heart and energy into everything I do.”

Put the name Womach aside for a moment. The name to remember is David DaVinci. That’s the stage moniker he adopted in 2007 for a couple of reasons.

“We were getting booked a lot in Asia and my name is hard to pronounce there,” he explained. Plus, “I had been wanting a stage name for a long time.”

A nod to the legendary Leonardo, he added, was “a perfect fit.”

I totally understand. I’ve been known to confound my readers every now and then as Clarnak the Magnanimous.

Let’s face it. Stage names and magicians go together like cruise ships and cocktails.

He must be doing something right. A scan of a cruise critic website shows that DaVinci performances are routinely categorized as “the bomb,” “fantastic” and “unbeatable.”

Womach’s work ethic has always been extraordinary. Even as a teenager, he was focused far beyond his age.

Back then Womach booked appearances and birthday parties. He built his own illusions. He performed table magic in restaurants. He also appeared in many shows at Silverwood.

Constantly hustling for work. Constantly striving to be better and better.

At 17, he won first place in an international juniors competition. The next year he took gold as an adult.

Womach is also something of a wizard when it comes to training birds. His act incorporates parrots, doves and even a toucan.

As a side business, he produced a bird-training video with his brother, Chet.

And get this: Copperfield not long ago hired Womach/DaVinci to train two macaws and four toucans for him.

“We were performing in Saipan when we got this voicemail from David Copperfield’s assistant,” said Womach.

Copperfield had apparently read about Womach’s bird-training expertise in a magicians magazine.

Once the job was done, Womach said, his family received a rare bonus. They spent 10 days with Copperfield at Musha Cay, the superstar’s private-island resort in the Bahamas.

But wait, there’s more! “I got to sing karaoke with David Copperfield,” said Womach, laughing at the experience.

Now there’s a bucket list item.

A natural adrenaline junkie, Womach has taken up skydiving as well as free diving. His personal best for swimming straight down without oxygen is 77 feet, by the way.

“I don’t think I ever categorized myself as an athlete until I was on the circus circuit,” he added of the two years he worked with Ringling Bros.

But being in top shape is a must for a “Thrillusionist,” as Womach bills his particular brand of magic.

Mental fitness may count even more. “If you’re locked in a tank of water for three minutes you can’t afford to panic if things go south.”

And now, for his next act …

Womach said he and Jamie plan to open a theater in Moab, where they will perform part of the year.

Why Moab?

It’s all about those birds.

The Womachs spend two months out of every year flying their birds in the heart of Utah’s magnificent canyon lands.

Conditions are ideal for flight, he said, adding that flying keeps the loyal birds strong and healthy.

“It’s our way of thanking the birds. We ask a lot of them to be in the show.”

During their visits, Womach said, they “fell in love with the magic of the place.”

They bought some acreage and slowly began to realize how many tourists were coming into the area. “All these people are staying in town, but there’s no entertainment at night.”

It’s a perfect venue for David DaVinci to showcase his heart-palpitating escapes and brushes with death.

I asked him if the danger was all hype or if it ever got too real for comfort.

Well … There was that time, he said, when he was supposed to be hoisted over some lions. Unfortunately, not everybody showed up to pull the rope.

He laughed. With only two guys, “the lions came into their cage while I was being slowly lowered into them.”

Never fear. Some extra muscle pitched in at the nick of time. Unbeknownst to audience members, Womach said he always has an exit plan for safety’s sake.

So the trick was saved with nobody the wiser.

“Yeah, we’ve done some crazy stuff, man,” said my magical friend. “But the show goes on, right?”