David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

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MaxNY
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David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby MaxNY » June 18th, 2003, 6:25 am

Yesterday's New York Post (June 17,2003) reported that magician David Blaine was spotted with actor Woody Harrelson. Both were spotted in a luxury suite at Madison Square Garden watching the Coldplay concert. Harrelson (the hemp loving actor) and Blaine hit Joe's Pub after. New York is about a month into it's new "No Smoking in public buildings law". Harrelson was overheard asking patrons "Is it cool to spark up in here?"...before retiring to an upstairs VIP suite to smoke up with Blaine and some sexy models.
---If Harrelson married Blaine's old squeeze Fiona Apple, and took her madien name as his, wouldn't he be Woody Apple?

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Pete Biro » June 18th, 2003, 10:37 am

And they could move to Orange, NJ?
Stay tooned.

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Bill Mullins » June 18th, 2003, 12:24 pm

And wear clothes from Banana Republic . . .

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Chris Bailey » June 19th, 2003, 7:49 am

An apple a day...

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Carl Mercurio » June 19th, 2003, 10:40 am

Magic Times had an item about Blaine under new management with a Vegas show possibly in the works. I like Vegas, but I just can't see Blaine there. He should be working on a hip mentalism act in my opinion.... :confused:

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » June 19th, 2003, 10:48 am

Originally posted by Carl Mercurio:
He should be working on a hip mentalism act in my opinion....
He should be working at McDonald's in mine.

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Dave Egleston » June 19th, 2003, 3:10 pm

Gee Max - Thanks for the update

:sleep: :sleep: :sleep: :sleep: :sleep: :sleep: :sleep: :sleep:

Dave

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Carl Mercurio » June 19th, 2003, 5:11 pm

Easy now Geoff!!! ;)

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 14th, 2003, 7:44 pm

Forgive a confused new guy on the scene, but what is everyone's problem with Blaine? I'm not being defensive, just seriously asking. Last Summer I read a few fiction novels based around magic, then in November I bought Blaine's DVD (Fearless).

After all that influence, especially Blaine's, I decided that I needed to learn how to do this. So now I'm hooked, spending gobs of cash on tricks and decks and coins and loving every minute of it. If it wasn't for Blaine, I never would have discovered this world.

Yes, yes... now that I know some of the tricks he does, I do see how simple it can be and that anyone can buy the gaffs and props to do Blaine's act note for note. But isn't that the point? Take what has come before and add your own spice to it, right? Like blues music.

But Blaine seems to catch a ton of heat. I just want to know why. Help the new guy understand!

Thanks. :confused:

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 14th, 2003, 7:56 pm

Ok, new guy, here's why.

Deeply, deeply lousy technique (more than bordering on exposure, a lot of the time).

Zero presentation (Or what passes for presentation when you're 15 and have been doing magic for six months).

Zero originality (brings nothing to the table).

And somehow all of this equals rich and famous (no explanation needed, I hope).

Cheers,

Geoff

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 14th, 2003, 8:10 pm

Yeah, I can kinda see your point. I guess with the kind of exposure he gets, it would be nice if he actually invented a trick or two. And I can see where his presentation is lacking. At first I just thought that his creepy-guy-on-the-street thing was just the way he is, but I am beginning to see it's all an act, and maybe not as original as I thought. BUT... I still give him kudos for bringing magic to people. That's gotta count for something, right? Has anyone read his book? And if so, what did you think? I'm still not convinced that he's a total hack... but then again, that's why I'm the new guy.

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 14th, 2003, 8:24 pm

Actually, if it were an act, I'd be impressed. It would mean he'd actually thought about his work and decided that this slacker presence was effective to twenty-something audiences. But I really think it's the absence of something, rather than the presence of something. Crude technique is usually a sign that someone hasn't thought about their job or taken their responsibility to their audience seriously. I just deeply dislike the idea that he's our current representative as far as the public goes. But that's an ongoing problem. Henning, Copperfield, Blaine; as the old saying goes, "to Captains, he's no Captain".

In a truly just world, Vernon would be banging Fiona Apple, uh, I mean, be famous to laymen.

Best,

Geoff

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Pete Biro » July 14th, 2003, 9:13 pm

Look fun seekers... Blaine figured it out. He figured out that the audiences reactions were more important (for TV) than ANYTHING ELSE.

We all should have known this.

But he is the one. He figured out how to shoot it, how to sell it and how to sell himself where it counts... to the folks with money.

He has no need to invent ANYTHING... great actors don't write the plays.

He, S&R and DC are three magicians in the FORBES 100... go figure.

He has sufficient chops and TERRIFIC advisors, and gets more press than anyone else in the game right now.
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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Steve Bryant » July 14th, 2003, 9:34 pm

I was there when they hated Doug Henning, when they hated Penn and Teller, when they hated Melinda, when they hated David Blaine. Many still do. If you are successful and different, the good old boys of magic just won't like it. Each of the above did EXACTLY what the pundits tell you to do (be original, sell yourself, your personality over your "moves" etc.). Fortunately for the original and successful, they get to laugh all the way to the bank and not really care about the opinions of internet magi.

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 14th, 2003, 9:44 pm

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
He, S&R and DC are three magicians in the FORBES 100... go figure.
"No one in this world, so far as I know -- and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me -- has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby."
--H. L. Mencken

Best,

Geoff

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 14th, 2003, 10:01 pm

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
He has no need to invent ANYTHING... great actors don't write the plays.
Ok, boy, do I need to address that one.

Great artists do not become so by painting lousy copies of the Mona Lisa. Great composers do not become so by lifting other's melodies and construction. Great writers do not become so by writing the same old crap that has been written before.

If you're talking about artistry (and I assume you are, since you use the theatre as an example) then, IMHO, there isn't much more to say than what Hemingway said about writers a long time ago:

"What a writer in our time has to do is write what hasn't been written or beat dead men at what they have done."

I don't see how magic is any different. If getting the gelt is all that matters, and artistry means nothing, then why not just get the guns out and take the money from people?

Blaine got lucky, and it took a while, and a lot of hanging on and shameless self-promotion. The luck came in when, finally, people started to take his lack of presentation for a new kind of presentation. Might never have happened.

The real question is, is anyone ever going to read one of his non-books like they read, say, the Dai Vernon Book of Magic? I don't bloody think so. And neither do you.

If money, or a mantra-like accounting of how many boards you've trod is the only measure of merit in this world, I shudder to think of what the next generation of magicians will hold in esteem.

Best,

Geoff

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 14th, 2003, 10:55 pm

God I hate this type of magician bashing. Pete hit it right on the nose. You have to give the guy credit. And lest you think that blaine has no presentation, you have to look at his specials as a whole, with the inserts and music and everything.
For years magicians like Paul Harris (who advised blaine for a time) and Eugene Burger have advocated silence in magic and presenting simple effects as if they were real, but few took the advise. Blaine did. On his web site, non-other than Kenton knepper advises that , like him or hate him, magicians should learn just one thing from Blaine --BE QUIET! In a world of loud magicians wearing even louder costumes Blaine was quiet and he broke through. I may not be a card carying member of the Blaine fan club, and to be sure I hate it when his name (or coperfield's or houdini's etc....) comes up while I'm performing, but one must give credit where it is due.

J

P.S.

Not to be antagonistic Geoff, but even lay people know that shameless self promotion and magicians go hand in hand.

Guest

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 15th, 2003, 5:44 am

Okay...I'm just a quiet observer here, a magic mom, but I watch and study LOTS of magic. From a technique paint-of-view, Blaine makes me gag...BUT, what is magic? Is it magicians who sit around debating the brilliance of Vernon, and try to outdo each other with amazing card tricks, or is it touching something wonderous inside of those who would not normally believe that the impossible is possible? I think that Blaine is a genious....because he has figured out how to make the most seemingly uninteresting tricks ENTERTAINING. He amazes those who would normally wander throughout this world seeing no wonder in it at all. He's figured out what MOST magicians don't, that magic IS entertainment and wonder. He does it simply and quietly....with himeself being 99% of the entertainment. What he does doesn't necessarily appeal to me, but let's not forget, that lay people LOVE him. Jeff McBride had very good advice for my son when he started in magic....he said "The people come to see YOU; you touch them when the magic is in YOUR hands." David Blaine (surely) has not gotten caught up in the tricks, but instead brings HIMSELF to the public, filling them with mystery and wonder. I think that in that regard, MANY magicians have a lot to learn. Most magicians do an absolutely amazing and rarely known trick that does NOTHING to bring themselves to the public that they are trying to entertain. What's the point?
My son, Jayson (don't want to speak for him, but we've debated this over and over) thinks that Blaine is an embarassment to magicians and the art as a whole....BUT, gives him credit for being a brilliant entertainer. Let's face it...the guy has done SOMETHING right!
Just my two cents...
Gerry

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Jon Racherbaumer » July 15th, 2003, 8:37 am

Almost three years ago, I wrote this:


BLAINE GOT GAME?

One who can only find his way by moonlight
- Oscar Wilde, commenting on the nature of a dreamer.

What more can be said about David Blaine that hasnt been said before, ad nauseum? And of course press releases seldom reveal anything truly personal or revealing. From my obscured vantagepoint, I have little to add to what I wrote about David Blaine twice (in MAGIC magazine) My third, breezily brief excursus, by the way, will be in the January (2001) issue of MAGIC. My focus each time was about his approach, not his supposedly inherent skills as a sleight-of-hand artist. I hate to keep hammering on the same points, but few magicians seem to get it. Blaine is primarily a creature created for and by television. From the cocoon of his New York street-performing period, he initially emerged as a hybrid television phenomenon, working as no one had done before and was savvy enough to know that performance is about the audience. He, until Frozen in Time, usually focused on spectators and human existence itself. What was filmed or televised occurred in the hot-damn here-and-now with all its glorious contingencies and grit. In fact, in many ways he prefigured so-called reality television and shows such as Survivor and Big Brother. However, Blaine transformed this primal, see-it-right-now world through post-production artifice. And whether anybody likes it not, television is an incredibly powerful and undeniably ubiquitous mass-cultural media form. It is a window to the world for most people the one they depend on for transmissions of realitylive and direct, apparently unmediated, and relatively uncontrolled. And Blaine, using a magicians prerogative to create illusions, has created a representative world where the street (usually grungy, mean ones) is his stage. The players are spectators who happen to be there when filming took place. Then Blaine played a mischievous interloper in their reality, a reality once removed from a neatly edited representation and ours Given this mise en scene, his most savvy ability, like the tricksters of myth, is to create and work with contingency. His sudden presence in the spectators environment seems random, almost accidentalHes a mere, monosyllabic figure in their path, between situations, on the way to somewhere else(God knows where?) He interrupts them and exploits this opportunity to demonstrate something novel, if not astonishing, with something as commonplace as a deck of cards. In short, he plays with their boundaries of expectancy and normality, momentarily trapping them only to set them free, making their minds discombobulated and perhaps transformed. At first he looks much like them, but then becomes something else. Hes there and not there. He moves on. He moves in and out of frames, in and out of places, a transient Lone Stranger dressed in black.

This may sound as hyperbolic as most of his press releases, but if you carefully study his first two television specials, you will see what I mean.

In my first article in MAGIC, I wrote:

David Blaine is a man of contrasts, coming out of nowhere. He is open and closed, forthcoming and mysterious; and has taken a path less traveled to big-time Prime Timeand in terms of conventional career-tracksthe kind magicians follow and expecthe is strictly an anomaly.

Time has passed and most magicians still think that Blaine is an anomaly. Others make harsher assessments, calling him "a fluke, a no-talent, an overrated and overpaid opportunist of modest talents.

I disagree.

Blaines talents are raw and not easily defined. Casual observers see vanilla performances. He seems (as Jerry Sadowitz mocks) like he should be named David Bland. And admittedly there is an inscrutable placidity about his appearancewhich is a cross between Chancey Gardner (in the film, Being There) and the Man Without a Name (Clint Eastwood) from Sergio Leones spaghetti Westerns. His body language is cool and a calculated, confident, interior intelligence leaks out like time-lapse photography. He mumbles, Lets try somethingmaybe...ah and then there are all those sudden spikes of drama. His muted voice (like a junkie coming down) is monotone, sounding a bit like Stephen Wright, the comic. This adds to his ambiguous, Rorschach-type persona.

But regardless of what anybody says pro or con, Blaine is on a roll.

However

For him to stay on a roll, he must return to his roots. He must express his persona in different, more forceful ways. Another Street Magic special would slow his momentum. Dj vu doesnt cut it, although one-shot wonders often get three or four shots in television. Right now there is talk about a feature film. De Niro is interested and (the screenwriter of Fight Club) has apparently signed on. If this happens, it wont be easy. The tricky part will be finding ways to successfully expand Blaines trickster-character so that it is a sustained, interesting, and compellingly dramatic presence for 106 minutes in a feature film. So far Blaines work is episodic, always captured in the hot-damn here-and-now with all its glorious contingencies and grit. In a feature film, he must do more than use a magicians prerogative to create illusions. He must also be part of a character-driven, representative world above and beyond the street. He must interact with other characters (actors) rather than unsuspecting, ordinary street-people. But anything is possible.

Now that the ice has melted, what remains to be remembered? Like other episodes of neo-television, very little reverberates beyond the day-to-day coverage. With hundreds of network and cable channels sending out signals, images, simulations, and stories 24-7, who remembers what happened yesterday? The public, for the most part, no longer talks about Frozen in Time.

But the always restless natives of magicdom were still abuzz. If Nethead gossip is any indication, many magicians thought that Blaines last show was a stinker, light on the magic, heavy on hype. (Hype-o-thermia, as one wag put it.) Their gossip doesnt matter. ABC, the media, and loyal Blainiacs felt differently. The media rocked. Every newspaper except the Christian Science Monitor covered the Ice Skit, flushing out unlikely commentators from every quarter. Even a writer from the ultra-hip, liberal-chic Village Voice was moved to comment, calling Blaines stunt X-treme Performance Art. He wrote:

Blaine is reviving an old vaudeville tradition: the death-defying act. His last piece, in which he lay six feet under in a Plexiglas coffin for a week, was supposedly a stunt Houdini wanted to do. Blaine's girlfriend told the Daily News that next he may try to take a bullet. Of course, performance artist Chris Burden did that in 1971, as the death-defying urge moved into the art world.

Notice the verbal difference? Taking a bullet is not the same as catching one.

To me, Frozen in Time had an unsatisfactory, disjunctive rhythm. Jumping back-and-forth from the melting ice to the trick-episodes broke the spells of both scenes. The frenetic energy of the actual site, except for Lynn Swans breathless, pre-game patter, was undifferentiated and undramatic. Compared to the X-treme coverage of the X-treme event, Blaine was almost catatonic before he was encased in the ice. When he laconically drawled that he was entering a frosty, see-through crypt to challenge every human fear, nobody thought he was climbing K2 or weathering The Perfect Storm. Yet if you listened to the clamorous coverage, you heard over and over the same litany of fearsome possibilities: muscle spasms, frostbite, blood clots, exhaustion, and hallucinations. And if that wasnt enough, you had a deadpan-faced Blaine adding: If I fall asleep and my face presses into the ice, they'll have to cut my face off.

Nobody laughed
.at least not right away.

Nevertheless, you must admit that when Blaine finally emerged from the ice, it was pretty tense. Even Bill Kalush looked worried. Blaine slumped like he had survived a catastrophe he couldnt remember. Unable to lucidly talk, he looked bewilderedas if he had indeed died yet was still conscious. If he was faking, De Niro take note; the guy can act.

Regardless, lets give the guy some credit. He withstood a self-inflicted, brain-numbing, and body-punishing ordeal. Try imagining any celebrity-magicians putting themselves to a similar test. Blaine actually did something potentially dangerous. In the cosmic scheme of things, his endurance test is as silly as escaping from a straightjacket while hanging upside-down. But it was more believable than Penn Gillette catching a bullet between his teeth and his payday was bigger.

As mentioned earlier, the televised representation of the actual test site flattened out and diminished everything. Eyewitnesses had a different experience. Matt Fields, who visited the site, wrote:

This time he's smack-dab in the middle of the Crossroads of the World, New York's Times Square, in the street level atrium/lobby of the ABC "Good Morning America" studios at 44th Street and BroadwayIf you've never seen this area at this time of year, it's only a little less busy than it is on New Year's Eve when they drop the ball. Thousands and thousands of people need to walk by Blaine just to get down the street. For a bit of a closer gawk you can wait on line and see David in his ice, obviously showing the strains of being enclosed and on his feet for two days, but smiling and waving to the crowdsthe impact on the spectators is amazing. They wave, yell out things (Hey! Want me to get you a hot chocolate?) and they talk about him, mentioning his name (not just that magician).

Thomas Gaudette, another eyewitness, wrote:

I visited the icy prison on the first day (Monday) and can confirm that it not only was a great publicity stunt, but that laymen were freaking out. I listened to their comments. He accomplished his mission. The New Yorkers I witnessed were very impressed.


I initially thought that the Ice Stunt was not going to be an integral part of it; that Blaine would break out during the last five minutes, triumphantly liberated from the ice with ice-chipping fanfare, spotlights, and a cheering rabble. As it turned out, the third show focused on Blaine and the endurance stunt, not the trick-episodes. This, to me, was a blunder. The first two television specials focused on the audience. Viewers saw a filmed representation of what actually happened in the streets and saw dramatic, human responses. This is what made him celebrated in the first place: in-your-face tricks, in mean streets, with ordinary people. Shifting focus away from the magic to the Times Square hubbub was a disappointing strategy from an artistic standpoint. From a ratings-boosting standpoint, it was brilliant.

Blaine first endurance stunt (Buried Alive) was not a significant part of the subsequent television show. It was a prequel, a back-story, a publicity-generating device. Its staging area was in the world, but off-camera, and the media coverage was huge. It was also a bit like a soap opera with no beginning, middle, and end; it was episodic and continuous. It was, as Umberto Eco calls such things, neo-television. That is, it is remarkable and newsworthy for being televised; for being on television as a televised phenomenon. Its coverage is another event to be covered. Over and over fed on itself. There were stories about the stories and coverage of coverage. Live endurance stunts, like the publicity feats of Houdini, have such saturated reality that it is best experienced through a kind of filter of preconceptions and expectations fabricated in advance by a culture swamped in images.

So

The episodic trick-part of the third installment of the Blaine Game was marginal. How many do you remember? There was the trick where he borrowed a womans ring, accidentally dropped it down a grate, and then rediscovered it inside a small liquor bottle found several feet away. He upped the ante and instead of resuscitating a dead fly, he brought a dead bird back to life in Central Park. He borrowed somebodys baseball hat and produced a live snake from ita sure way to evoke screams. Still upping the ante and thumbing his nose at Too-Perfect Theorists, he asked a scruffy guy to think of his girl friend. Then Blaine used a cigarette lighter to burn a hole in his tee shirt, which he then presses against his fleshy midsection to frame a tattoo of the guys girl friends face! Thats the sum-and-substance of the magic show. Otherwise there were some brief travelogue shots of Blaine walking alone in an arid, desolate place and through an immense field of what looked like sunflowers, looking nomadic, mysterious, andperhaps, lost! What was conspicuously missing (as I stated in an early assessment) was Blaine tapping into the primal roots of magic by breaking through peoples personal spaces, by penetrating the defensive threshold of what ordinary folks are willing to believe and unprepared to contemplate. That was the trickster everybody loves to watch and that is probably the magician others magicians tuned in to see. Compare this magic show with the last special. For the record, here is a quantitative breakdown by the numbers of that second special:

BY THE NUMBERS

Actual running time (without commercials): 44 minutes and 50 seconds
Number of individual performances or scenes: 45
Cited Locations: New York City (Times Square), Atlantic City, New Jersey, Dallas, Texas, Compton, California, San Francisco (Haight-Asbury), Mojave Desert.
Number of on-site spectators, added together: 106
Number of females: 35
Number of males: 71
Number of stray dogs: 2
Number of different tricks performed: 26
Number of tricks repeated: 8
List of repeated tricks and the number of times they were performed: Impromptu Levitation (7), Biting and Restoring Half-Dollar (3), Wrist-Watch Steal (3), Meir Yedids Arm-Twister (2), The Raven Coin Vanish (2), Ambitious Card (2), Fechter Transposition Trick (2), Think Of A Card (2), and Double-Card Change In Spectators Hand (2).
Number of card tricks: 17
Number of coin tricks: 4
Number of other kinds of tricks: 5
Number of gaffs used: 6
Number of dealer tricks performed: 7
Specifics: Devano Deck, Invisible Deck, Folding Coin, Cigarette-Through-Half-dollar, Super Neck-Cracker Gimmick, the Raven, Arm-Twister (mss.)
Number of flourishes: 6
Specifics: Coin Roll, Fingertip Fan, One-Hand Fan-Close, Hot-Shot Cut and Card Spin (Daryl), Card Toss, Instant Replay (Paul Harris).
Easiest trick: Biting and Restoring a Half-Dollar
Most technically difficult trick: Daryls Snow-Shoe Sandwich
Most impressive card trick: Hummers Selection-Against-and-Behind-Window
Most impressive coin trick: Cigarette Through Half-Dollar
Most impressive trick in the entire show: One-Man Impromptu Levitation
Second most impressive trick: Think-Of-A-Card Divination
Best geek trick: Yedids Arm-Twister
Type of decks used: Bicycle - Tally-Ho (Diamond-Circle Back)
Number of times a blue deck was used: 4
Number of times a red deck was used: 14
Most recognizable lay person: (tie) Deion Sanders and Emmit Smith of the Dallas Cowboys football team.
Weirdest name of lay person: Fruit Loops
Number of basic card sleights used: 11
Specifics: Tilt, Bluff Pass, Double Lift, Top Change, Jog-Fan Control, Classic Force, Riffle (Mental) Force, Snap Change, Flip Change, Coin Switch, Mercury Card Fold
Technical Advisers: Michael Weber, Paul Harris, Harvey Cohen, Ray Cuomo
Most frequently uttered expletive: Wow!
Number of rejections: 2

Notable utterances by lay persons:
I dont care if he makes a million or starves to deathIts mind-boggling!
You is stupid! (to another lay person)
You dont have any tools?
I think he is not natural.
This man is not right!
Im kinda broke. Can you make money?
Are you a guru of some kind? I just moved from Los Angles. Am I going to have success?
(Deion Sanders) Im going. I gotta go home and take a nap!
(David Blaine) I dont know if Ill be able to get off? (prior to levitating)

Ready Reference Guide to Select Tricks That May Catch Your Fancy:
(1) Impromptu Levitation (Ed Balducci) - Pallbearers Review (July-1974), p. 755. Although it is credited to Balducci, the originator is unknown, but it was shown to him by one of the original Harmonicats: Erwin Levine. Finn Jon is also a great exponent of this impressive levitation.
(2) Wrist Watch Steal: Stars of Magic - Francis Caryle
Snow-Shoe Sandwich and Hot-Shot Cut by Daryl - For Your Entertainment Pleasure!
(4) Convincing Tilt by Daryl - The Last Hierophant (June-1980), p. 39.
(5) The Snap Change - Marlos Magazine #2 (1977), p. 158. This is based on the Visible Color Change by Joseph Cottone. Popularized by Marlo and J.C. Wagner.
(6) Marc DeSouzas Color Change, The Trapdoor (originally invented by Oscar Muniz)

In the end and despite its comparative lack of magic, Frozen in Time his show helped ABC win the Sweeps. It finished 20th and almost 16 million people watched the show. Only Law & Order outdrew the ice man. Im also told that the only news story of 2000 that exceeded the amount of saturated and extensive international coverage given Blaine was the Columbine Shootings; and that, my friends, is an impressive factoid.

But what does it mean?

Maybe it's simply this?

Blaine understands what Houdini understood and what Uri Geller understands. It's not what you actually do, but what they think you do and have done. The rest then ferments in the massive, global spin-machine until it becomes potentially mythic.

So

Blaines First and Second Acts have come and gone. He is now able to use real money and his celebrity-capital to parlay his next dream-scheme. You can expect him to do something different, something outrageous. He is a risk-taker who puts everything that he is (whatever that may be) on the line. He goes for broke and thats what I like about him. California journalist, Marnelle Jameson calls Blaine The Houdini of the Hoi Polloi and quotes him:

For me it's more about the people than the effect, says Blaine, who calls his brand of magic intimate, because he usually works one-on-one. My favorite part is when I connect. If there's no connection, there's no magic.

The media, meanwhile, stands by. Investors keep investing. The money keeps rolling inand David, finding his way by moonlight, keeps looking for those connections that produce the magic that feeds his dreams, vexes his critics, and delights his fans. Blaines got game.

His mother would have been proud.

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Pete Biro » July 15th, 2003, 9:47 am

Roc...you may have just posted the message of the century... hope the weather isn't cramping your style! :cool:
Stay tooned.

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Robert Allen » July 15th, 2003, 9:55 am

I dislike Blaine. I don't like his personality, I don't like his magic...I don't even like his street "audiences" :) . But John Racherbaumer has accurately amd eloquently summed up the Blaine phenom, IMHO.

I should qualify my "I don't like Blaine" comment: I thought his ice block stunt was excellent, and took fortitude. I'm hard pressed to call Blaine a "magician" though. Performer. Entertainer. Artiste. Would all the bruhaha about him still be as fierce if he did stunts only, instead of magic tricks?

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 15th, 2003, 10:03 am

Obviously Blaine is a great entertainer, as far as the general public is concerned (by the way, Mr. Latta, I really like that Mencken quote).

Is he a great magician as well?

Well, what is a magician??? One who entertains with magic?

If so, then I'd say that by that definition, Blaine is a great magician.

However, it appears that most folks, at least most individuals well-versed in the magical arts, feel that there's more to being a "great" magician than making a lot of money by entertaining with magic.

It seems that knowledge and skill also have a role in the definition of a great magician.

I'm sure that most people who are proficient in sleight of hand would agree that even many of the junior members of the Magic Castle have MUCH better technical skills than Blaine. Therefore, maybe the reason so many folks have a problem agreeing on whether Blaine is or isn't a great magician (or even a magician) is that we have different defintions of what a great magician is.

Personally, I think that Blaine is a successful magician, and a great entertainer (as far as the unsophisticated general public is concerned); however, I don't view him as a great magician, because by my definition a great magician would also possess a great amount of skill and knowledge of the magical arts.

This whole Blaine debate is interesting on several different levels:

I remember sitting in on a discussion between a well known magician and a friend of mine who was (and still is) marketing magic effects. The advice from the more experienced and successful ($$$) magician was that my friend's effects were too sophisticated to be readily accepted by the vast market of mostly amateur magicians out there who would gladly plop down money for a self-working trick rather than one which required practice. The result? My friend "dumbed" down his wonderful routine in order to make more money off of it.

The reason that the L.A. Times has a reading level of about the 9th grade is because the powers that be realize that they'd earn less by having too many super-genius writers like J.R. :)

The issue of sponge balls also creeps in. It's amazing to me that I get just about as strong of a reaction with three stupid little red sponge balls as I do with a sleight of hand card trick that I've spent a concerted effort working on pretty much daily for the last five years. :mad: <-----Unhappy sponge ball

I'm also reminded of a friend of mine who I considered to be a great businessman. He ran a successful business here in southern Cal for a number of years. However, rising workers comp costs, taxes, and a plethora of other things ran him out of California. He can't compete with the other folks in his industry who hire illegal aliens without paying workers comp, medical benefits, and other expenses. My friend was an honest businessman, but he wasn't successful in this climate because he was unwilling to lower his standards.

This now comes full circle. Most folks will judge Blaine as a successful magician. But I say that there are many levels of success!

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Robert Allen » July 15th, 2003, 10:51 am

MJ Marrs wrote:

However, it appears that most folks, at least most individuals well-versed in the magical arts, feel that there's more to being a "great" magician than making a lot of money by entertaining with magic.

The same is true of other related endeavors such as acting.

Guest

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 15th, 2003, 7:30 pm

Well, jeezey-petes! I seemed to have poked any angry dog with a sharp stick. But it's interesting to see everyone's point of view on this guy.

Earlier, Jon Racherbaumer listed the biting and restoring coin as his easiest trick. And I agree. But when I saw Blaine do that specific trick is the exact point in which I said, "That's it... I've gotta learn this stuff." And ten bucks later I'm in Detroit Metro Airport biting everyone's quarters in half and blowing their minds. That's got to count for something, doesn't it? Hell, I'm not technically "great" by far but I was inspired and plan to take this futher.

Yes, yes... I admit that once I could do many of the tricks that I saw him do, my hero-worship of David Blaine was levelled down a bit. I thought, "Well, jeepers... these trick are easy with enough money and some practice."

Earler, it was mentioned that Blaines tactics of self promotion were rather shameless. But When one is begging for the attention of an audience, is there really any room for shame? I mean, isn't that exactly what Houdini was doing when he was hanging upside down in a straight jacket from the edge of a building?

I've read where Penn & teller hate him because he uses old tricks and acts like they are new. Ricky Jay has siad that he doesn't consider Blaine's stunts as magic and that he should therefore not be considered a magician. But I'm the new guy on the scene, so what do I know? All I know is that he bit a quarter in half and it spread open my mind like butter on warm toast.

If I could hit someone, just one person, with that much power, regardless of my sloppy skills or monotone presentation, to where they felt a severe need to learn the art of this institution and its traditions, then I w3ould consider myself quite a successful magician indeed. But I would never dare to presume I was great . ;)

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 15th, 2003, 8:21 pm

Reis,

If you stick around for awhile, and do your homework, all of the questions implicit in your posts will be answered. The fun part is that not all of the answers will be answers to the questions you originally asked.

FWIW, you're doing the right thing by asking questions in the first place. Keep asking. Think. Have fun.

Best,

Geoff

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 16th, 2003, 3:12 am

Even though this is my first post on this board, don't bash me for my opinion.

I have silently read these threads and have added nothing, I only have been reading to learn.

In my opinion I think Mr. Biro hit the nail right on the head with his summation. I totally agree.

I have been seriously studying magic for about a year and half. So that means I am I newbie to this community. Im tryng to pay my dues, I am not looking for short cuts. I want to entertain people. The magic is the medium.

David Blaine has brought a new spark to magic, it has gotten people re-ignited in magic. Not a show you have to pay alot of money to see, like S&R, Copperfield, or Burton.

Now that I commited myself to learning they ways of magic to entertain, I look at his specials and I am not impressed with his moves or persona so much. Then again...that was not what he was after (he wanted to show the audience's reaction) this is the part of the special I enjoy most.

I have watched endless names in magic on TV...what I never really got to see was their(the audience)true reactions
and thats what DB brought to the table.

In my opinion..to bash David Blaine is jealousy. He found a way to make money that many other magicians didn't dare do..but now they wish they had. So now they (magicians) fault him for his style.

David Blaine is famous and we are jealous. So what?!

I just want to entertain people. (isn't that what this all about?)

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby MaxNY » July 16th, 2003, 6:04 am

---Mom's don't "gag"
---He really isn't a "creep on the streets"
---Maybe crude technique is "in".

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Richard Kaufman » July 16th, 2003, 9:22 am

Describing any performer's technical or presentational faults is not done out of jealousy. It is critical assessment, though whether it's accurate or justified is always a matter of opinion.
Blaine's presentational ability, his charisma when working for laymen, cannot be questioned. He has it, and has been successful with it. His technical ability on his first TV special was poor, however years have passed since then, and he has practiced a lot in the intervening period. His technique is now very good.
Just to give you an interesting idea of how the press manipulates information for effect, there was an article about Blaine by the author of Carter Beats the Devil in The New York Times Sunday magazine section a while back. The writer quotes me as saying Blaine's technique while doing a Double Lift is "inept," and then immediately quotes someone else as saying that his Double Lift technique is very good (or something like that). What was explicit in the interview, but left out of the final piece, was that my comment referred specifically to his technique at the time of his first TV special, and the second person's comment was directed toward the level of technique he demonstrates TODAY. The writer used the contrasting comments to make the point that magicians disagree about Blaine's ability, but he did so disingenuously because our comments were about his ability at different points in his life.
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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 16th, 2003, 3:56 pm

In light of Richard's comments, I should point out that my assessment of Blaine's ability is based on his first TV special. If he's improved since then, that's a good thing for magic.

And to the newbies, a friend of mine said to me many years ago, "we are not all entitled to our opinions, only to our informed opinions." I don't know that I would quite that far, but it might be worth listening carefully to the opinions of those who have been doing this stuff very seriously for 30, 40 or 50 years before writing it off as sour grapes. I personally would rather see true luminaries like Vernon be a household name before Blaine or any other lesser lights, including myself. And I don't think I'm alone in that. Some of us care about the art, not the paycheck.

Best,

Geoff

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Richard Kaufman » July 16th, 2003, 4:15 pm

And there's the point: Dai Vernon is not a household name. Since we'll never know what Vernon was like as a performer at Blaine's age (aside from third party writings in old magazines), it is impossible to compare them.
But, Vernon's reputation doesn't seem to rest on his charisma as a performing magician, but rather on his contributions to the way we think about magic based on how HE thought about it.
Blaine's reputation is based entirely on his charisma as a performing magician.
Apples and oranges.
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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Michael Kamen » July 16th, 2003, 7:04 pm

Having never seen Blaine perform I will not comment on anything other than artistic criticism itself. I think it is justified and side with those who feel that commercial success and artistic succcess are very different. Take Houdini. Many years ago I read just about every book written about him, and unless my memory is failing me (could be) I recall that H was never considered a great magician. As a matter of fact he was often described as quite a mediocre magician. That does not deny his commercial success and his contributions to magic and culture (not to mention the S.A.M). Now Blaine may not be as bad as many think he is, or he may be worse -- I cannot say since I have not seen him. He may (or may not) be remembered years hence as a phenomenal contributor to magic and culture. Let's say he is -- that would not necessarily mean he should be remembered as a great magician (artist) per se, nor that we should love him any less for the it. My two cents.
Michael Kamen

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 16th, 2003, 7:06 pm

Richard,

We do know that Vernon's technique was not just impeccable but possibly unsurpassed at that time (and with much more difficult material) and for the rest of it, I doubt he mumbled monotonously while staring at his hands the whole time.

Otherwise, I agree. ;-)

Best,

Geoff

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 16th, 2003, 7:24 pm

Geoff mentioned that we newbies should listen to our elders, and that is precisely why I'm here and posted my original question. You guys have filled my brain and I thank you for that.

It was said earlier of how Houdini was never in his day considered a "great" magician. And I have read that too. But ask any layperson who the greatest magician is of all time and they will name him immediately. So doesn't that smack of greatness right there?

So far, we have established that greatness comes in many forms; financial, technical and maybe simply in the eyes of the public and the memories of history. So my question is; What type of success do you strive for? I mean personally.

Frankly, I have no plans to make money from this art, nor go down in the history books. Actually, I'm as pleased as a pink kitten to pull off a smooth palm or pass. Perhaps one day I will hit the streets of Chicago and make some peoples' day a little brighter, but that's all I ask. So am I selling myself short? Are my goals out of focus?

What was Houdini's goal? Did he acheive it?
What about Blaine? Penn & Teller or Ricky Jay?

Sorry, I'm rambling... :genii:

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Bill Hallahan » July 16th, 2003, 7:41 pm

David Blaine might not be a F.I.S.M. World champion like Michael Ammar, but his magic isn't bad. It's not the difficulty of the sleights that matters. It's whether you astonish people. David Blaine does astonish people, he astonishes them a lot. I know several non-magicians who think he is amazing.

He uses the media, video effects, like anyone else uses any gimmick to do a trick. All magic is fake, and it doesn't matter how you do magic, as long as you astonish people. As Dai Vernon said (paraphrased?) "It's the effect that matters."

David Blaine might have been lucky and in the right place, but he also did a lot of work to get where he is.

It's also been suggested that Blaine is not original. I think he is very original. He pulled his heart out of his chest on The Carson Daily Show. Who else has done that? His entire persona is original. Yes, many of his tricks are ordinary, but that's true for a lot of magicians. Blaines presentations of some of the common tricks that he does is also original.

His stunts are a lot like what Houdini did when he had people hit him in the stomach. That wasn't magic either, but it contributed to the myth of Houdini, at least until it killed him.

By the way, several people have stated that David Blaine is a bad magician. His skills are not bad. Not all of the tricks he does are easy. Again, as I said above, he doesn't compare with the greats in technical skill, but he does astonish people. Isn't that what it is all about?

Someone also wrote above that Houdini wasn't that great technically (actually I think they said he was a bad magician.) That isn't true. Houdini was a very accomplished card magician in addition to being a great performer. Both Blaine and Houdini were or are masters of "presentation". In my opinion, presentation is perhaps the hardest part of magic.

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 16th, 2003, 9:25 pm

Hmmn....One of the great difficulties of magic (as opposed to other performing arts) is that its methods are secret. With all of the others that I can think of, dance, music, etc., the technique is out there in the open for you to appreciate. This creates a unique problem for magicians. As has been pointed out, sponge balls or an invisible deck can astonish an audience as much as the most sophisticated and demanding sleight of hand trick. So why not just do sponge balls and the invisible deck? Why bother with the others?

I don't know what your answer would be. I suspect that if we could poll the people involved in this very discussion there would be a wide range of very personal answers. I know what my answer is, though.

There is a beauty -- a hidden beauty, but nonetheless -- to good magic. Perfect technique is, as it is in music, beautiful. Efficient, inspired, and devilish construction is beautiful. Acting well enough to engage an audience and enable them to see this marvelous world we construct for them, for three minutes at a time, is beautiful. To me, at any rate. So, everything I've ever invented, practiced, taught or published has been devised with two goals. To make the audience see what I see. What I would want to see, if magic were real. But also, to make the inside as beautiful as the outside is mysterious and baffling.

My dear old mom used to ask me why I didn't do illusions, as then I would be able to work larger venues, make more money, get on TV, blah blah, etc. My answer was always that it held no interest for me. Might as well drive a truck as far as it would relate to what I wanted to do with magic. Pushing boxes around. Ugh. Unable to perform magic without your boxes. Double Ugh. Having your assistants and some guy with a hacksaw and some two by fours doing all of the real work, Bleh. Etc. I've always thought that sleight of hand is to illusions what playing a song on the violin is to playing a song on the jukebox. One requires skill and asks for virtuosity, one merely requires a mechanical device...and a quarter. One is earned. One is bought. So it's natural that my attitude towards sleight of hand is a critical one. In the "for what it's worth" category, I aim that criticism at my own work with much greater intensity than I point it at the work of others. In fact, I believe this gives me the right to point it at the work of others. It may even oblige me to.

So back to the original question. Does Blaine astonish laymen? Yes. Absolutely. Any idiot with an invisible deck and five minutes practice can astonish laymen. Any duffer can also astound them with a bad double lift, a clumsy palm, etc. Is this what we aspire to? Not me, buster.

Magic is a secret art. Concentrate on the secrets too much and it's easy to forget about the art. Artists are always, continually judged by their peers. That's life. They can either try and live up to the standards that have been set by the greats, or they can just take the money and run. And when they do the latter, they can expect to be called out on it by those who do not. Those who care about their art, and don't want to see it represented by crap.

Bill Gates made the largest fortune in the history of commerce by peddling an inferior rip-off of the Macintosh to people who didn't know anything about computers. Does that make him great? Every serious computer person I know (and I'm talking programmers and engineers) hates his guts. Because he made that fortune peddling busted junk that has driven both end-users and programmers crazy for years. And programmers are very like some magicians in one way: they appreciate elegantly written programs, efficient methods and seamless interfaces. They see the beauty. And they are the only ones fit to judge Gates, as far as I'm concerned. As we are the only ones fit to judge Blaine. Or any magician. Just as -- if we really care about magic -- we judge ourselves as well.

And no, camera tricks are not allowed, IMO. One of the points of what we do is that it is live. You have to actually be able to do it successfully in front of people to be called a magician. That's the price of the title. Using the camera that way is like playing tennis without a net. With a net, skill is required. Without it, as John Simon once said, all sorts of meaningless prodigies are possible. Use the camera that way and you aren't a bad magician, you're not one at all.

As for Houdini, we have it on the authority of the greatest sleight of hand artist the world has ever known that with a deck of cards -- he sucked. Period. What he was was a great athlete, showman and promoter. Nothing wrong with that. But let's not bestow unearned and fictitious honorariums upon him. He did fine, he doesn't need them.

When people who know literally nothing about the subject they are asked about (i.e., laymen being asked "who was the greatest magician of all time) answer "Houdini", that is an answer born of ignorance, not knowledge. And should be discarded. And that's my point.

I kind of have the feeling that this is one of those points where, if you don't know it, it can't be explained. But hey, why not try?

Best,

Geoff

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Robert Allen » July 16th, 2003, 9:25 pm

Bill, I expect others will speak up regarding Houdini, but my understanding is that he wasn't that "skilled" or polished a magician. I've read at least one refernce indicating he used his lockpicking skills to break into another magicians stage and steal some secret, as I recall for some perceived slight or theft.

But back to Blaine. There's no sense in me trying to convince you of why I find Blaine boring, but your comment about justification of his use of camera tricks, etc. is interesting. Why should I believe that his audience reactions aren't staged? And even if they're not staged by him, I'm pretty sure that for the, er, quality of his spectators that I've seen, I would not be surprised if they saw a camera and did whatever it took to get on it and ensure they got on TV, which would include giving rave reactions to tricks. If not, well, I can't help but make at least one snide remark: just how hard IS it to fool some druggies or semi-schizos on the street? Anyone dumb enough to stick steel posts through their tongues and such, I have to think they're not going to be the sharpest knives in the drawer when it comes to being good judges of entertainment. (Witness the success of the movie Jackass). Let Blaine entertain a mixed group of royalty or the weathly, as Malini reportedly did, and the I will (grudgingly) have to admit respect for him.

I guess that at age 42 I'm no longer of the correct demographic, but I find people like Paul Harris, Eugene Burger, etc. to be a lot more entertaining AND nicer people to be around/converse with, and I mean with me as spectator, not as a magician, than I believe I'd find Blaine with his "uh, hey look here" shtick.

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Frank Yuen » July 17th, 2003, 6:17 am

Hear, Hear Geoff! Couldn't have said it better myself!

Frank Yuen

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Michael Kamen » July 17th, 2003, 7:38 am

Originally posted by Geoff Latta:
Hmmn....<and everything that followed>
Ahem, very well spoken Geoff.
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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Robert Allen » July 17th, 2003, 8:18 am

Geoff wrote:

Bill Gates made the largest fortune in the history of commerce by peddling an inferior rip-off of the Macintosh to people who didn't know anything about computers. Does that make him great? Every serious computer person I know (and I'm talking programmers and engineers) hates his guts. Because he made that fortune peddling busted junk that has driven both end-users and programmers crazy for years.

OMG! Geoff, you must be into mentalism, as you just read my mind! :D

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Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Jeff Eline » July 17th, 2003, 8:25 am

I agree with Geoff (especially about the Gates comments! :) )

His performance and technique are one thing, but you also have to consider originality. Just about everything in the first special was right off the shelves of a magic store.

I explained it once to a friend of mine when the subject of Blaine was brought up... It's like a guy on a street corner playing guitar and singing Beatles' tunes, and everyone passing by is raving about what a great musician and songwriter he is. THEY'RE BEATLES SONGS!!


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