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Santa Claus, insurance and how one magic wallet transformed Larry Talbert’s life

It all started with a magic wallet. Perhaps that sounds like the hook to a science fiction or fantasy novel, but for Larry Talbert, owner of Talbert Insurance Services, there’s no better opener to describe the journey of his life.  

Talbert fell in love with magic at 14, drawing inspiration from his youth minister at the First Baptist Church of Lawrenceville who was also a magician.

Having sensed Talbert’s interest in the concept during his many performances for the youth, the minister invited him on a shopping trip to Magic Magic, one of the only stores of its kind in town. Talbert eagerly agreed. After three-hours flew, browsing aisles and selecting a handful of magic tricks to take home, Talbert felt a spark of excitement give rise in him.  

Ambitiously, he got to work, practicing tricks for the better part of his young adulthood, right until the final days of high school. Then begrudgingly, he boxed up these prized possessions and tucked them away in his parents’ attic, forcing his passion to the side indefinitely.     

The next several years of college, Talbert buckled down, studying and prepping to become an English professor. Except by the time he’d graduated, he realized there weren’t jobs available for students with no tenure. At a crossroads, he approached his father, who’d been in the insurance industry for years.

“What do you think about me joining insurance?” he asked.

 “It’s a lot of work. But if you’re serious, I can start you at $600 a month,” his dad told him, giving Talbert enough to fulfill his only financial obligation at the time: a car note.

Eventually, Talbert tied the knot and work picked up steam. After several years, he and his father found themselves starting to branch out at opposite ends of the client spectrum. While the senior Talbert pursued more and more commercial clients, the junior one had gravitated toward everyday consumers.

“I enjoy having a positive impact on everyday people’s lives. Seeing their recognition and appreciation of my efforts is the most rewarding part of what I do,” he says.  

Life resumed a positive cadence at the agency—and then a trip to Universal Studios with his wife  unleashed a mystical turn of events that would alter the course of his life in a big way. The couple was basking under the warm Floridian sun, absorbing the ho-hum of the attraction when a magic shop just around the corner caught Talbert’s eye.

“I went in to browse, just out of curiosity, when suddenly I saw this wallet that could burst into flames.”

Intrigued, Talbert began avidly exploring it, but the grown-man voice in his head kept telling him he was now too old for these stunts. Reluctantly, he left it behind. However, while the wallet was out of sight, it certainly wasn’t out of mind. “I kept talking about it to my wife until finally she said, ‘I’m sick of hearing about this wallet—just go get it, or I’m leaving you here. But no way am I listening you go on and on about it the whole way back to Atlanta.”

Finally, he caved. And soon thereafter, it was clear that the wallet had only reinvigorated his dormant love for magic. Little did he know it would soon release its own special powers into his life in innumerable and unimaginable ways.

The wallet’s presence brought Talbert back to his parents’ attic, where he began lugging out the paraphernalia he’d stuffed there several decades ago. Surprisingly, everything was intact and worked just fine.   

And then the real magic began. Talbert was struck with a bizarre idea at a Chamber of Commerce meeting, of all places. Wouldn’t it be neat, he thought, if I could whip this wallet right out and show people that this is what I do for a living: stop their money from burning a hole in their pockets? And so that’s exactly what he did, putting his skills in magic to use to tell a story and explain to people his role as an insurance agent. The message stuck, and a picture of Talbert with the burning wallet became a local sensation. It made appearances in the Best of Gwinnett, Atlanta Braves Magazine and even on the stadium’s big screen. “It took off and became a part of me,” says Talbert.

As it turned out, Chambers of Commerce meetings would turn out to be a conduit of good luck and new opportunities on more than one occasion for Talbert.

At another one not much later, he spotted a man wearing bright red suit and sporting a long, white beard. It was Santa—one who had an uncanny resemblance to Rick Rosenthal. Never one to shy away from a conversation, Talbert approached Santa Rick Rosenthal and struck up a conversation. “You know, you’d make a great Santa Claus,” the Rosenthal-look-alike told him.

“You’re the fourth Santa to tell me so,” Talbert said. “Sounds like a lot of fun, but I don’t think I know how to be him.”

“Well,” said Santa, “That’s the reason you go to Santa School.”

Reigning in a laugh, Talbert thought, Here’s my out.  Santa School’s probably in someplace like Pittsburg or Philadelphia—too far for me and my full-time business.

“Tell you what,” he told the man. “If you can find me a Santa School within twenty miles of my house, I’m in.”

 “Amazing,” said Rosenthal. “So…exactly how far do you live from Alpharetta, Georgia?”

The rest, as they say, is history. Talbert enjoyed his work as Santa, juggling his full-time insurance business by day and bringing delight to children by Christmas. Soon, magic manifested itself yet again in this aspect of his life, intersecting with Talbert’s penchant for being Santa and coming to life in the form of a children’s book: Twas the Night Before Christmas, A Magical Presentation.

“You explain to kids that elves made the book and put Christmas magic in it,” says Talbert. “But when you open it, the pages are blank. After you ask for some Christmas magic from someone in the room, flip through a second time and suddenly the all the words appear. A third time with more Christmas magic, illustrations appear. And just as easily, it can all disappear, too.”

The book was an instant hit, gaining recognition like Talbert never anticipated. In peak heat season of the following year, he was invited to the Fox Theater to collect three international and five state-level awards, all while sporting a long white, sweaty beard to keep in the spirit.

Eventually, even his then 12-year-old son bought into the magic, too, approaching him with a business proposition. “Dad, I want to take the magic business to the next level,” he said. With Talbert’s help, the pair built an online magic store, earning the father-son duo a feature in Linking Rings magician magazine.

Today, their online store, features over 1,100 products that can be used by anyone from eight-year-olds amateurs to experienced adults.  

As fictitious as it may sound, Talbert’s story is a true illustration of how magic can seep into every aspect of our life in ways inconceivable—if only we have the fortitude to follow our dreams. “That wallet truly was magic,” says Talbert. “It took me everywhere and even to places I would never have imagined. Today, whatever I’m doing, I’m smiling because everything I do is fun: being Santa Claus, creating magic, selling insurance.  I feel all of these things are just different ways I can help people. I always say when I stop loving what I do, I’ll stop doing it,” says Talbert. And truly, the magic is in those words.

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