ANAHEIM, CA—Scottie Reuss, 22, a longtime employee of Merlin's Magicland, has not been as interested in magic or customer service as he was before his March 27 virginity loss, coworkers reported Monday.
"Scottie's been working here almost three years, and he's always been responsible," said Sol "Merlin" Horowitz, owner of Merlin's Magicland, located in the Holiday Plaza strip mall. "But these past few weeks, he just hasn't been himself. It's almost as if serving the needs of the Orange County magic community is no longer his top priority."
In addition to failing to re-lock the sword cabinet twice and calling in sick for the first time in his tenure at the store, Reuss has been markedly less enthusiastic about demonstrating tricks to customers over the past three weeks.
"Heck, I've been in the business 34 years, and Scottie could show me new places to hide a ping-pong ball," said regular customer "Amazing" Al Rondelle. "But the last time I went in there, he acted like he couldn't care less about incredible shrinking dice and color-changing ropes. He just rang up my purchases and waved me out the door."
Described by acquaintances as "not all that socially skilled," Reuss lost his virginity at the party of friend Justin Verkilen. Drunk on Malibu and orange juice, Reuss abandoned his usual method of socializing—approaching guests and asking them for a coin—and joined some non-magic-related conversations. At approximately 2:30 a.m., Reuss and Verkilen's cousin, Karla Eddy, found themselves alone in the computer nook, where "one thing led to another."
"As Karla and I sat together on the steps outside, watching the sun come up, she informed me that she has a boyfriend," Reuss said. "But we made a vow not to regret anything that happened that night. I know I sure haven't."
Coworker Glenn Honig, 25, said he noticed something different about Reuss the minute he walked into work the following Monday.
"I was dying to tell Scottie about this amazing new dove cage, but all he wanted to talk about was this great party he went to," Honig said. "Is this the same guy who, the week before, went ballistic when I confused a deck of clairvoyance cards with some sleight-of-hand cards?"
One of the most significant changes, coworkers say, involves the amount of time Reuss spends at the magic shop.
"Scottie's shift ends at 5, but he always used to stay later," said Jonathan Friel, 17. "Lots of times, he'd still be there when it was time to close up at 8 because we'd gotten into a heated argument about whether Penn and Teller are doing more harm than good for the magic community."
Friel also noted that, on several occasions in the past few weeks, Reuss was unreachable when his help was needed.
"Last Saturday, I left messages for Scottie at his house and on his cell phone to find out what kind of matchbox was best for training crickets. He never got back to me," Friel said. "The next day, he comes in with a haircut, and he's wearing new clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch. I've got Ivan The Illusionist breathing down my neck about his back order and Scottie's out shopping? What the hell?"
Though Reuss used to make excuses to avoid group social events, he has been seeking them out of late.
"Scottie was always up for coming over to my house and teaching me how to use a hopping casino coin or a stiff rope," said best friend and fellow magic aficionado Andrew Welch. "Now, he just wants to go to parties. He's all, 'Is anyone having a party this weekend? We should go to that bar we went to on New Year's Eve. There were cute girls there.' God, Scottie, get a life."
Welch said Reuss has also lost interest in his own budding magic career.
"Scottie and I have been bouncing around the idea of doing a public-access show together called Dueling Magicians," said Welch, 23. "But last week, he said he's too busy to do it. Busy doing what? Getting drunk and having sex with complete strangers?"
"With [the recent success of] Lord Of The Rings and Harry Potter, we're looking at a total resurgence of the entire industry," Welch continued. "Now is a great time [to pursue a career in] magic, but Scottie's completely blowing it. I'm not worried, though. Sooner or later, he'll come to his senses. He'll realize that getting laid is temporary, but magic is forever."