Army helicopter pilot’s talents are red, white, blue and magical

William Scott Anderson has appeared on America's Got Talent'

An Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot will soon bring his “Magic of Patriotism” show to Washougal.

William Scott Anderson, a chief warrant officer, has been in the Army for 14 years. He returned home to Canby, Ore., in January, after serving in Iraq for a year.

Anderson, 32, has received national TV coverage most recently as a contestant on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” He advanced in the Portland tryouts in March to earn a spot and demonstrate additional magic in Las Vegas. However, two other magicians were chosen to move forward to the competition in Los Angeles.

“They can’t have it stacked with too many magicians,” Anderson said. “There are other categories. It is a variety show.

“I got some great coverage,” he added. “I was treated really well on the show. I have no bad things to say about it. It would have been nice to make it further. I’m not upset with how I did on the show. I got some great exposure, and the people there are great. All in all, it was a good time.”

For his trip to Vegas, Anderson was compensated for travel expenses.

“I had a blast,” he said. “It was a lot of hard work, working 14 hours a day.”

The time in Vegas was not without an unexpected occurrence. When Anderson attended a magic show at The Venetian Resort Hotel & Casino, a 79-year-old man collapsed about 10 rows behind him. The show stopped, and there was a request for a doctor.

Anderson conducted a patient assessment until paramedics arrived. Prior to becoming a pilot, he was a firefighter and paramedic in Salem, Ore.

Earlier this year on “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams,” Anderson was the subject of a report about a soldier who does magic. Since then, he has received calls from agents who talked about potential appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

In addition to performing magic tricks during the day at libraries throughout Washington and Oregon this summer, Anderson spends some of his time participating in Blackhawk training exercises with night vision goggles.

That includes flying into mountainous training areas, performing emergency procedures, practicing rescues and combat flight maneuvers.

“It’s all in a day’s work,” Anderson said. “My primary stateside mission is search and rescue and mountain rescue.”

Performing magic is mutually beneficial — for him and the audiences.

“It brings people joy,” Anderson said. “It’s a complete escape from my normal job. I’ve always been a performer — cracking up with the jokes and a natural center of attention. Magic was another outlet for it.

“From then, it became a part of me,” he added. “I could not imagine not doing it. It’s an ultra ego. It’s like my Clark Kent persona. I’ve always been a fun loving guy in a serious job. When I do magic overseas, I’m no longer in Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s like a stress release. It’s so far off from my day-to-day responsibilities.”

Overseas, Anderson has performed magic tricks for fellow soldiers as well as Iraqi and Afghani children.

Such performances, he said, can result in fewer attacks on American soldiers.

“The magic shows have been really successful, and they have curtailed incoming rockets and mortars,” Anderson said. “In Iraq, there are villagers on base. I perform for them, too. The culture over there is the enemy mixes in with the general population.

“We are trying to win over the hearts and minds of the local population,” he added. “The kids show up. The insurgents brainwash the kids. We give kids candy bars and potato chips, so they have positive images of us instead of extremists.”

Anderson served in Afghanistan for one year in 2002.

Performing magic tricks became a “side job” for him while serving overseas.

“The brass started scheduling events for my days off,” Anderson said. “They would check my flight schedule.”

Providing entertainment for children has involved making handkerchiefs, candy or rabbit-shaped sponges disappear. Anderson’s performance in Washougal might involve rabbits or doves, but that could depend on the weather forecast for Wednesday, July 21, at 2 p.m. Otherwise the audience can expect to see some “slight of hand, street magic.”

For more information about Anderson’s performances or other Summer Reading activities, call the Washougal Community Library at 835-5393 or visit www.illusionsofanderson.com or www.fvrl.org.

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