Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Magician conjuring up master’s



Clark County native Brian Haagen has pulled a disappearing act.

Haagen, 23, has performed table-side magic tricks at local Applebee’s restaurants since he was 14. He also did private events and magic shows at Brasserie Monmartre in Portland. The 2005 Prairie High School, 2006 Clark College and 2010 Washington State University Vancouver graduate additionally was a local Realtor for five years.

Last month, Haagen moved to Hawaii, where he is enrolled in the master of business administration program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Haagen said he made lifelong friends with both staff and customers when performing at Applebee’s. “It was a blast.”

Part of what Haagen enjoys about magic is meeting new people.

“It’s not something people see every day, and almost everybody likes it,” he said. “It’s just really fun to get to know people and share a special moment with them.”

Riding to combat RA

Nobody understood why, in her early years, Shelly Spence’s legs would occasionally cramp for days and make it very hard for her to walk.

It took a massive flare-up when the 31-year-old Vancouver resident was 14 for doctors to realize that she had rheumatoid arthritis.

“When I would have flare-ups before then I would get diagnosed with muscle cramps,” Spence said. “In high school I was running cross country, but I couldn’t run. It would hurt too much. I’d go two miles and then I couldn’t walk the next day. But I didn’t know what it was.”

One day during her sophomore year she found she couldn’t get out of bed. Even having a blanket on top of her hurt tremendously.

Finally, a blood test confirmed her diagnosis.

Through the rest of her teen years, she had to take 22 pills a day just to deal with the pain “and I could still barely function,” she said.

Thanks to breakthroughs in medicine, she now takes two shots a week, one pill a day and can function quite well.

“I’m very fortunate that my medication helps me,” Spence said. “I can be active. I can climb mountains. I can ride a bike.”

To raise awareness for her illness and funds for research and arthritis camps for young people, Spence will participate in the People’s Coast Classic, a sponsored 360-mile, weeklong bike ride, starting on Sept. 11.

She hopes to raise $5,000 through the effort.

“I’m a huge, huge proponent for research,” Spence said. “There’s a lot of work to be done.”

For more information or to become a sponsor, visit or or call 206-547-2707.

Bits ’n’ Pieces appears Mondays and Fridays. If you have a story you’d like to share, call Sue Vorenberg at 360-735-4457, or e-mail