David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.
User avatar
Richard Kaufman
Posts: 25816
Joined: July 18th, 2001, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Theodore DeLand
Location: Washington DC

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Richard Kaufman » July 17th, 2003, 8:29 am

We have conflicting historical information regarding Houdini's ability as a cardman. There are two concrete things that we know he did very well: card manipulations (these can be seen today on a film clip Houdini made, which include the performance of the back palm), and a form of the Pass. His skill level with this Pass is noted a number of times in the literature of magic during his life (including Gaultier's book "Magic without Apparatus"). In fact, he was noted for placing a face-up card in the center of the deck and doing the Pass to bring it to the top. Sound familiar? We all do it now. We cannot take Dai Vernon's word regarding anything Houdini did because he hated Houdini with a great passion and this has colored his statements. (And we must remember that not everything Dai Vernon said was true.)
Regarding Geoff's statements about stage magic versus close-up magic, he forgets to note the most important things about being a stage magician: presentation, personality, and showmanship. These are what make a stage magician great and impress the hell out of people even if there are lots of boxes being pushed around. A close-up magician is much less reliant on presentational elements (as evidenced by the huge number of close-up magicians who are lacking in this area) because the technique and props CAN carry him a good deal of the way within close-quarters. This is absolutely NOT true on stage. Without a good stage presence that reaches into the auditorium you're a dead duck. That's why I have ALWAYS believed that it is much harder to be a stage magician than a close-up magician. Having acted on stage in many amateur productions of plays, I understand what it's like to stand on a stage in front of hundreds and hundreds of people and project something interesting out to them--it's incredibly difficult. By comparison, it's astonishingly easy to look into the eyes of one or two people standing a few feet in front of you and converse with them while doing a trick.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine


Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 17th, 2003, 8:48 am


Point taken about Vernon and Houdini, though Vernon is not the only source critical of Houdini's skill. But whatever.

Regarding your comments about the stage, I've acted in a number of professional plays off-broadway, done voice overs, etc., gotten paid for it too, and I do not agree that it's harder than good close up. What makes close up more demanding to me is that you have to act in two different ways: One, you have to play the character and guide the spectators, and two, unlike an illusionist, you have to simultaneously do incredibly difficult maneuvers right under their noses without them being aware of it. A stage magician has to act his character and that's it. (And most of them do no more than grin like psychos and prance around in circles.) A close up magician has to do that and lie with his entire body at the same time. All that, and you still have to be personally engaging. Sounds harder to me.



User avatar
Michael Kamen
Posts: 338
Joined: January 18th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: SF Bay Area

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Michael Kamen » July 17th, 2003, 9:07 am

With all respect for Richard's comments, I feel there is room for a distinction between being a showman (a great showman might play many roles well, including that of a magician, or need never play being a magician at all) and a magician (which is more specific, about the artistry, the technique, the fit of the presentation to the theme to the method, etc). Its like, an excellent salesman selling a crummy product, but the customer doesn't know the difference so the lack of product does not interfere with the "success" of the salesman. That is perfectly valid, for the salesman -- not for the engineer (well, one hopes) and the latter I would suggest is analagous to the magician in this example. A good salesman can sell anything. The work of the engineer is usually more focused. Both are important. Perhaps these are 2 sides of the same coin. They are 2 different kinds of skills which come together in the ideal performer. If I could have only one side of that coin, I think it is the "engineer" side that would link me more closely to the art of magic. I think that is where the heart of magic is, and the rest is good packaging.

I wonder if a key thing about Houdini perhaps more important than his relative skill as a "magician" vs. athlete, escape artist, self-publicist, etc., is that he loved magic, evidenced by his devoted involvement in the early magical fraternity, his continual attempts to perform magic and develop as a performer. Thanks for the interesting discussion.
Michael Kamen


Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 17th, 2003, 11:00 am

I've seen in a few different sources a quote by Houdini saying that one couldn't really be considered a magician until he mastered the cups and balls. Was Houdini proficient with the Cups and Balls?

Skill vs. Presentation:

This is an age old debate. Which one is more imporatant? I know that Skinner said that good presentation made up about 90% of strong magic. This does (or doesn't) seem to be the case with Blaine. Maybe he planned on having his mysterious demeanor as the foundation of his performance. Or maybe he totally lacked anything other than his monotone patter and brooding personality and this came off to the general public as a carefully thought out mysterious peformance persona. I wonder if this was a stroke of genius or an example of one of the luckiest breaks in show biz.

There have been some very interesting and thought-provoking comments in this thread regarding art versus commerce. I remember one of magic's most respected ol' timers at a town hall meeting at the Castle not too long ago saying, "Art for art's sake, money for heaven's sake!" It's interesting to see that some folks refuse to compromise on the quality of their art while others couldn't care less about anything but the bottom line. Different strokes for different folks, I guess...

As another example, I've heard several less than favorable comments about Johnny Ace Palmer from some heavy hitting sleight of hand guys. Mr. Palmer is always busy working ($$$), yet most of his working repetoire (from what I've heard) doesn't consist of knuckle-busting sleight of hand. The public seems to love him, however.

Which brings up another question: Who would you consider to have superior sleight of hand skills, excellent presentation (both from the laymen's and the magician's perspective), and the ability to market themselves successfully??? In other words, who are some examples of folks with the respect from both sides of the skill vs. presentation debate??? I didn't get a chance to see Armando Lucero, but I've heard that he would probably fall into this category. :cool:

User avatar
Richard Kaufman
Posts: 25816
Joined: July 18th, 2001, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Theodore DeLand
Location: Washington DC

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Richard Kaufman » July 17th, 2003, 1:58 pm

Michael Skinner would fall into that category.
Larry Jennings would fall into that category.
John Carney would fall into that category.
Note that all were/are disciples of Vernon.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine

Jon Racherbaumer
Posts: 843
Joined: January 22nd, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: New Orleans

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Jon Racherbaumer » July 17th, 2003, 2:16 pm

Along with those mentioned by RK, I'd throw in BILL MALONE...a (ahem) Marlo student.

User avatar
Pete Biro
Posts: 7125
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Hollyweird

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Pete Biro » July 17th, 2003, 2:49 pm

Ricky Jay
Bruce Cervon

Two very, very successful Vernonites.

BTW is it pronounced Hun-day or Hun-dye?
Stay tooned.

User avatar
Pete Biro
Posts: 7125
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Hollyweird

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Pete Biro » July 17th, 2003, 2:52 pm


Who did

David Williamson
Michael Weber
Michael Close
Chris Kenner
Jerry Newton
Juan Tamariz
Fred Kaps

study under :confused:

Vernon :)
Ascanio :cool:
Stay tooned.

Ian Kendall
Posts: 2524
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Edinburgh

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Ian Kendall » July 17th, 2003, 3:02 pm

Hello everyone,

So many interwoven threads. Superb :)

Last night YooKay TV showed a programme called 'It shouldn't happen to a TV presenter' which was a bunch of humerous clips of things going pear shaped on TV. One of the clips was Blaine's appearance on GMTV (as detailed in Genii at the time) where Blaine did an excellent job of being a jerk to interviewer Eamon Holmes. In the headshots intercut with the footage Holmes was explaining what was going through his mind at the time which was along the lines of 'who is this plonker?'. If Blaine deliberately acted strangely for effect it shows an alarming lack of prefessionalism that he would sabotage a live TV show, and having read interviews and seen him on the first special I feel fairly certain that it was an act.

MAGIC and Genii can fill in a lot of the blanks if you dig deep enough. After his first special there was the hoopla about the camera trick with the levatation, and in the interview in Magic Bill Kalush said that he didn't care how the effect was created as long as the audience believed it (which I read as 'camera tricks are ok with us'). He also said they shot around 45 hours of footage to get the forty minutes or so of final cut, and I noticed that there was some selective camerawork, so that setups of certain tricks were not shown (Twisting the arm springs to mind here). [As an aside, Paul Daniels was interviewed on TV several years ago when he was talking about editing his show. He told a story about how in one routine the editor cut 'the move' as he put it, which meant the final cut was not faithful, it could not be performed as such live. After that, he always stayed in the edit suite to make sure there were no accidental camera tricks].

Which leads into the second Blaine show. I admit I watched only once but I remember thinking at the time that there had been some heavy editing of the routines. It was as if large chunks of the action had been cut to miss out 'the move' and make the routine even more impossible. I'm sure that falls into Kalush's definition of fair play as well.

The next year in Magic someone wrote in about how Blaine had put an advert into an actor's trade paper for 'interesting people to be spectators in his show'. At that point I, too, gave up on Blaine. {The same thing popped up in the Chriss Angel special; the girlfriend of the stranger who was chosen to levitate held her ankles in a very practised manner while she was floating...}

And therein lies my problem with Blaine. To deny his appeal to the masses would be foolish, the Emperor is clothed in black, but the image the laity have is based on manipulated fiction. Unfortunately the unwritten law of 'no camera tricks on TV' was discarded years ago by Copperfield et al (ref Bull May 1983) but the reputation has been based on a repetiore which is not recreatable. In a business based on deception he has cheated in the wrong way.

On another point, I would have more respect for the Illusionists if they sat down and did a few live close up table shows. A great actor or dancer could survive in an Illusion show with a wee bit of practice. Try that with sixty minutes of close up and I think they would flounder.

As for household names, if there has been a mass media infrastructure in 1920 I have no problem in imagining the Dai Vernon show. If Blaine has given one thing to magic it is to bring close up to the attention of the world. The downside to this is now we all have to be compared to Blaine, and why can't we float with both feet off the ground? (another aside, does explaining why constitute exposure? Or do we lie to protect the liar. Angry rants on a postcard please...)

Oh, and I would consider myself a serious computer professional, and I don't hate Gates that much. His business model may be a wee bit suspect, but he has succeeded in getting a PC on every desk, and like it or not, MS has gone a long way to bringing computer literacy to the world. This might be an opportune moment to restate that the definition of maturity is the ability to mention Macs and PCs in the same sentence and _not_ infer that one is better than the other...I can't do it. Any OS that takes ten revisions to give you a command shell has to be hiding something :)

Take care, Ian

BTW If this seems disjointed I took a two hour break in the middle and coupldn't be bothered to read through the first part again...


Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » July 18th, 2003, 8:24 am

This is the first I have heard of the Blaine levitation being doctored by camera, and frankly, I'm not too entirely surprised. I guess the risk of asking the right questions is that your fantasy bubble can very well burst in your face.

I am seeing where presentation is vital to the art but there seems to be an extremely fine line. Camera tricks feels to me like lying to the elderly to get their parking space. (shakes head in dismay)

Speaking of Chriss Angel, I think there is a point in which your presentation goes overboard. Something about that guy just burrows under my fingernails. I saw him on tv doing some street work and there he was, pushing a bloody needle through his arm like I saw Harry Anderson do when I was nine.

But then again, I saw Penn & Teller throw down a Haunted Deck with a bowl of earthworms dumped on them and was thuroughly entertained. So I guess most of the times it just boils down to "either it hits you ro it doesn't".

But for a guy like me, new to the scene and all that, I'm somewhere in the middle between layperson and "in-the-know". And to be frank, I'm looking for a hero. Someone to watch and say, yeah, that's the level I want to acheive. Ricky Jay comes to mind. But tell me, veterans... who can a new guy look up to? Who is a prime example of what the art should be in all its many facets?

There I go, rambling again... :confused:

Jon Racherbaumer
Posts: 843
Joined: January 22nd, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: New Orleans

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Jon Racherbaumer » July 18th, 2003, 9:36 am

The winds of "fashion" are much gustier these days. Trends come and go with accelerated regularity and many magazines and newspapers have sidebar features of what's "hot" and what's "not," what's "in" and what's "out." To stay au courant today is almost impossible.

This phenomena has also affected magicdom and its paradigms, icons, and models (to emulate).

The stereotypical magician these days seems to be a retro-artifact, although many performers are working. But the question about who or what one should emulate or use as models are difficult to answer?


Should a newbie strive to follow in the footsteps of Doug Henning, David Copperfield, David Blaine, Ricky Jay, Lance Burton, Penn and Teller?

Other magicians who languish or float in the vast gray area at the fringes of the "celebrity radar" find their "career tracks" filled with pot holes, detours, and dead ends. Time is NOT on their side. The orbit of the "brass ring" widens.

Others are mere blips that eventually flit into oblivion.

On the local news yesterday they ran a short piece on a young, talented magician. The "lead-in" spin was: "In a time when kids are routinely dazzled by high-tech special effects, spectacular shows, and video-film 'magic,' a local magician is trying to BRING BACK a fading art form to its glory days..." (paraphrase)


Ask yourselves, brothers and sisters, what will be the chronological ages of our current super stars in ten years?

Some will be in their 70's; others will be approaching their late 50s and 60's.

Blaine and his clones will be in their 30's.

Who will fill the void? Hmmmmmm...


User avatar
Posts: 871
Joined: January 28th, 2009, 8:40 pm

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby magicam » October 3rd, 2004, 4:34 pm

A thought from a non-performer after scanning this thread:

Humans being humans, little changes except the medium. The recycling cycles may vary from time to time, but, in the end, history has a future, for better and worse.

As to David Blaine, however accurate or inaccurate his critics, has anybody asked him what he has set out to accomplish? Its human nature to thrive and agonize over what other people think of us, but isnt the best touchstone of success or having game how well we achieve what we set out to achieve and the means by which we achieve it, be it in the trivial world of magic or in the highest realms of spirit?



Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » October 3rd, 2004, 6:36 pm

david blaine. he funny. he do magic. he make me laugh. i like nickles.

John LeBlanc
Posts: 903
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Houston, TX

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby John LeBlanc » October 3rd, 2004, 7:36 pm

Originally posted by aron devin:
david blaine. he funny. he do magic. he make me laugh. i like nickles.
This is not the non-sequitor it may at first appear to be.

John LeBlanc


Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » October 5th, 2004, 7:34 am

Blaine's tricks may just be "Beatles songs" played on the street, but most of the people on THAT street never heard them before - so they sound GREAT to them!

TeeVee magic is like rock n' roll or any other popular and fashionable art form. It's as more about style, attitude, AND REFLECTING CURRENT TRENDS than it is about technique and content.

What some once dismissed as Henning's "happy hippy" style or DC's "blowdry staging" simply doesn't play now to the cynical, twenty-something, grunge aesthetic - period. Whoever realized this and got enough agent & celebrity backing won the prize for this era in magic.

It's just like musician's arguing. They have their cult heros (the "musician's musician") who are technically brilliant and original, but they never found a wide audience. Then there are the more contemptuous popular singers and sloppy players - known more for their hairdoos and publicity antics than their music. But they sell! Same old story (except bad musician's only worry about exposure in lip-syncing!).

Robert Allen
Posts: 616
Joined: March 18th, 2008, 11:53 am

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Robert Allen » October 5th, 2004, 10:21 am

adolphus you make an interesting point (though I think it's been made before here in discussing Blaine), which is that marketing wins out over skill nowadays. I think the point of contention of the pro vs. anti Blaine-type magicians is precisely that. Unfortunately it's a case of never the twain shall meet: in todays marketing heavy world, skill matters little. How is success measured? Ticket sales? Fees for performances? Marketing tie ins? Longevity? It's probably not raw skill, since there have been many skillful performers who just aren't entertaining.

BTW, I think your Beatles analogy is poor. The Beatles had more raw talent than any currently performing band I can think of, and they made their fame before the days of Internet, or (barely) even the TV.

If people are going to comment on Blaine or anyone else they should probably first define the field of battle: is the winner based on skills, entertainment abilities, longevity, originality, or cash winnings?


Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » October 5th, 2004, 6:12 pm

I was referring (and actually refuting) an earlier Beatles comparison here. It was in reference to copyists.

Even a less-than-good Beatles cover band would sound great to someone who never heard (or recognized) the Beatles before. Same with first seeing a less-than-graceful double lift, or what have you.

The strength of a good ideal, or superior material, can carry over a poorer performance of it (BTW, it's hard to gauge just how good the Beatles were live - but they were GREAT studio artists!)

Likewise a very spirited performer can make you not think of the lame material he may be using.

I think it's just natural that some people resent another's success, no matter how talented or deserving the more successful person may be. And "success" can be reliably be defined as having whatever the jealous fellah currently doesn't!

Henning, DC and Blaine obviously had something else going on with them above skill or inventiveness. Nice hair, good agents, the right parties, or whatever their particular generation perceived as "charismatic and telegenic."

TeeVee Sponsors need a certain demographic to get excited about. Often one that is, unfortunantly, not inclined to tune into stout, older, or balding fellows - even when they flaunt The World's Fastest Hands or the World's Most Amazing Ideas. I didn't make up these rules, I just report them. :)

PS: I think that even a "trickless" Jon Stetson is way, WAY funnier than 90% of the so-called "funniest comedians" I've ever seen on TV. Ever.

(But if he makes it on TeeVee, it will be more for his zany, improv humor than his superior Three Envelope Routine.)


Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » October 9th, 2004, 8:55 pm

Originally posted by Geoff Latta
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.
Geoff, its great that you aspire to make your magic both beautiful to the audience as well as to you; however, the second component is not necessary to be a great performer. Entertainment and wonder happen to individuals through their senses and in their own imaginations. A performer who can entertain and create wonder in onlookers need not use efficient, inspired, and devilish methods.
Both you and Blaine can go about entertaining audiences from completely different technique angles and still come out with a happy group of onlookers.
From a technical standpoint, was Sara Brightman or Madonna in the mid 80s a better singer? From an entertainment standpoint, I would submit to you that the response to whose music do you like better would depend on the age and musical tastes of your polled audience. Those who were into Madonna were probably oblivious to her musical shortcomings, since she entertained, communicated and made their world a better place.

Originally posted by Geoff Latta
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.
If the above were the case, many illusionists who perform the same effects Copperfield does would be at his performance level. There are a good number of performers using the same mechanical devices as Copperfield, but getting much lesser response from audiences. Copperfield structures his routines to entertain (most of them at least). He is a phenomenal entertainer. People dont come to see the boxes, they come to see him perform
Originally posted by Geoff Latta
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.
Fooling an audience and leaving them entertained and remembering who you are, are two different things. An idiot with an invisible deck may fool someone, but a true entertainer can turn the invisible deck into an astounding, long-remembered experience for those witnessing it. Someone not knowing how something was done, and someone being entertained as theyre fooled are very separate things.
Blaine has a viewpoint when presenting his effects, and leaves many laymen entertained. I dont agree with you that Blaines technique borders on exposure. Im not sure which effects youre referring to, but Ive yet to see one that looks so bad that a layman goes out and tells his friends how to do it the next day.

Originally posted by Geoff Latta
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.
Interesting you use this analogy. Both Gates and Steve Jobs used technology that was already produced by others. Jobs (Apple) used interfaces that were like those on the shelves at Xerox (PARC). Xerox just never brought them out to the general public. In technology, the greats stand on the backs of those who have come before, just as magicians build on the effects and performances of greats who have come before.
Both of these men took off the shelf technology and changed the way the world operates. Neither were technical geniuss who pulled a rabbit out of the proverbial hat. They both had a vision for what could be done with the technology they saw and took it to the masses. Along the way they improved it and added their personalities to it.
If you think about it, Blaine did a similar thing. You could argue that he used off the shelf magic for his first specials. He also reached back in time and re-introduced Houdini-like endurance stunts. Anyone could have done this, but they didnt. Blaine did this at a time when Copperfield wannabes were a dime a dozen.
He took the road less traveled.
Anyone in technology could have seen the applications for the technologies at the time Jobs and Gates did. Gates, Jobs and Blaine saw and used them, and thats why theyre where they are today.
A technical aside-
The idea that developers are the only ones to judge Gates is ridiculous. End users (Audiences) are the ones who benefit from the software (or magic). Programmers who program for themselves can write slick, sly, elegant code. Those programmers who want end-users to buy from them because the code is of use to them (entertaining if youre a magician) need not have elegant code. As long as the end user is happy and coming back for more, the code can be as simple or complex as the programmer wants. If he wants to keep himself entertained as well as be useful to the end-user thats great. If you sacrifices usability (entertainment), than it doesnt matter how slick the code is. End users keep buying from Microsoft because they deliver a desired outcome. Theyve judged with their wallets.


Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » October 10th, 2004, 3:56 pm

Originally posted by Geoff Latta:
In a truly just world, Vernon would be banging Fiona Apple
Then why didn't he?

Now, before I get shot, please allow me to explain here.

I don't think much of David Blaine. But I do think he has realized something that many Magician's fail to see. There are no lines which divide "us from them", except in our minds.

I mean, I've only been around for eighteen years (pretty short time, though it feels like a lifetime :p ), but in that time, I've been up and down. We've been dead broke, and we've been millionares. I still remember the dirty, cramped, used trailer I lived in for awhile, just as well as I remember spacious houses, and meeting the President of this small republic by invitiation. I also remember getting teased some years, and sleeping with models the next.

What this has taught me is something I think David Blaine sees. I completely agree that there is more to Art than money, and I'll get there in a minute. However, the idea that there is money that we can't make, or women that are out of our league, or a level to which we cannot 'rise' is ridiculous. (The quotes, because indeed, fame doesn't always equal 'up').

This may sound naive, especially to those that have tried and failed, and don't wish to hear it from an arrogant teenager, but nonetheless, I have seen it. And Blaine realized it, and he went where he (seemingly) wished to go, with things we've had in a drawer for years. For that I respect him.

The reason I believe this community in particular needs to hear this sort of cliched "dreams can happen concept" is that we have at our disposal a very interpersonal, ancient, noble, and in my not-so-humble opinion, a VERY POWERFUL Art. And yet Magicians in particular seem to be the first group to wave away, or bemoan, or simply whine about all that "can't be done" with magic. The triviality of it. It simply depends on what your goals are. David Blaine shows us that Magic is quite equal to the task of taking a person to where stereotypically, many Americans wish to go.

He is however, as noted above, rather devoid of what we may call Artistic principles. Porportional to the Mcdonald's Hamburger indeed. And traditionally, the best Art is not always what is sold to the masses, at least when we are talking about the "fine arts". :rolleyes: .

Magic is an interesting case, however. For I believe that our most Artistic moments can only come in front of a lay-audience. This is not to say that I am at the height of my Artistic potential at paying gigs. The nature of crowds, and people is often shifts in strange ways. The only thing I can do consistently on the whole in these situations is to entertain and make sure a good time is had by all.

HOWEVER, the times when I have practiced the most Artistically, and seen it happen, and has been happening more and more often have been in front of "lay audiences". These are not "lay-men", with regards to philosophy, travel, wealth, literature, and indeed the Arts, but they are so in the sense that they may be literally carried away with magic.

With these men, a magic performance usually turns into something of an intellectual conversaion punctuated by magic. This in my opinion is merely the cusp of what we can do.

The goal I truly strive for however is to create an entire environment by directing spectators to ask why instead of how . And answer it. It becomes a sort of a joint-expedition, and exploration through an interesting, and intimate realm of the human phyche, a journey, that ranges from the amazing to the sensual, but ultimately is beautiful.

And I'm a teenager, and rather blunt. The possibilites here are insane. Many thanks to Paul and Jonathan for showing me when, where, and how it's been done before, and where someone as inexpeirenced as myself might go in the future.

What I am attempting to conjecture, here, is that Blaine showed he can do many things with little Artistry, but since our greatest Artisty is possible in the medium he manipulates imagine how much more powerful an ARTIST could be than Blaine, as long as he realized that there were no limits on where he could go. [censored] money and fame, sure they're there, but we also have the potential to teach, to heal, to make some kind of 'difference' perhaps, and yes, entertain, give people the best time of their lives, and on occasion entertain in a truly meaningful way.

Though I think Whit Haydn gets that...in our crazy world, what could be more meaningful?

So my advice to magicians is look to Vernon and a couple of others and their students, and the many satelites and few independant entities which surround them for the Art, but yes, god forbid, look to Blaine and a few others to realize there are no limits.

And for a perfect blend of the two, what I talking about, and aiming for, I say have a look at Houdin.

And maybe someone could tell me why something split in half in the last 150 years? What if Vernon and Houdini had of been the same man....?

"Beauteous Art,
brought with us from heaven,
will conquer nature

so divine a power
belongs to him
who strives with every nerve

If I was made for Art,
from childhood given
a prey for burning beauty to devour
I blame the mistress I was born to serve."


One EDIT: I didn't make it very clear in my response to Mr. Latta's quote, I'm not knocking Vernon here. Quite probably such pursuits were not on top of his "things to do" list, or indeed perhaps he would have done them. Conjuring seemed to be his pursuit, and he mastered it. My point was rather that if one believes that one, or one's heros are deserving of some sort of perk, or station, or whatever that someone else has, and one desires such things, then instead of talking about "the way things ought" to be, I suggest that one simply go out and get them!

Also, I forget to thank Mr. Racherbaumer for his post, it was awesome.

Randy Naviaux
Posts: 97
Joined: August 26th, 2008, 4:45 pm

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Randy Naviaux » October 11th, 2004, 9:05 am

Mr. Kaufman's post regarding how comments can be twisted to present certain points of view IS the relevant issue at hand. We are talking about putting on a show for an audience. If you want to get down on anyone then slam reporters and news agencies that put on a show and do not simply report the news (I don't know if that is even possible however.)

I work at a magic shop on the weekends and have had (seems like hundreds) of customers come in and want to discuss Blaine. The only ones that have badmouthed him have been magicians that should have known better.

In sixth grade I learned the fundamental axiom that one never speak badly about another magician in public. (I would be inclined to say that the internet is a public forum.) I believe I read this in 'The Amateur Magicians Handbook' by Henry Hay. Seemed like good advice at the time.

Yes technique is important. But it is never more important than the resulting communication. Imagine a magician practicing for twenty years before showing anyone anything. All because he wanted it to be perfect. It is never going to happen. Kind of like a photographer wanting to get the perfect shot so he is always buying new cameras and lens and so on but never takes a picture. He would be better off just buying a disposable camera and starting clicking away.

Here is a quote:

"The fellow technician in an art hears and sees the small technical points. The artist himself is engrossed in the exact application of certain exact actions which produce, when done, his canvas, his score, his novel, his performance.

The successful artist does these small things so well that he also then has attention and skill left to get out his message, he is not still fiddling about with the cerulean blue and the semiquaver. He has these zeroed in. He can repeat them and repeat them as technical actions. No ulcers. Strictly routine.

And here we have three surrealist paintings. And they each have their own message. And the public wanders by and they only look with awe on one. And why is this one different than the other two? Is it a different message? No. Is it more popular? That's too vague.

If you look at or listen to any work of art, there is only one thing the casual audience responds to en masse, and if this has it then you too will see it as a work of art. If it doesn't have it, you won't.

So what is it?


And that is how good a work of art has to be to be good.

If you look this over from various sides, you will see that the general spectator is generally unaware of technique. That is the zone of art's creators.

Were you to watch a crowd watching a magician, you would find one common denominator eliciting uniform response. If he is a good magician he is a smooth showman. He isn't showing them how he does his tricks. He is showing them a flawless flowing performance. This alone is providing the carrier wave that takes the substance of his actions to his audience. Though a far cry from fine art, perhaps, yet there is art in the way he does things. If he is good, the audience is seeing first of all, before anything else, the TECHNICAL EXPERTISE of his performance. They are also watching him do things they know they can't do. And they are watching the outcome of his presentations. He is a good magician if he gives a technically flawless performance just in terms of scenes and motions which provide the channel for what he is presenting."

There is much more to this article:




Jonathan Townsend
Posts: 8410
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Westchester, NY

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Jonathan Townsend » October 11th, 2004, 2:58 pm

Originally posted by rnaviaux:
...is providing the carrier wave that takes the substance of his actions to his audience...
Much to be appreciated in the performing arts.

The magic-technology aspect per-se is just a bit more intersting than the lighting. On with the show. Show me a story.


Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

Bill Hallahan
Posts: 33
Joined: March 29th, 2008, 11:04 pm
Location: New Hampshire

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Bill Hallahan » November 12th, 2004, 4:55 pm

I do think Blaine is a good artist. I dont discount the opinion of the masses readily when the longitudinal cross section includes inner city kids, college students, corporate guys wearing suits, and some supermodels. :)

To be sure, the masses prefer the Beatles to J.S. Bach. Theres something to be said for education. But the idea that technique is tantamount to education in the art of magic is incomplete.

Heres an analogy using the Beatles relating to technique and art.

I am a huge Beatles fan. However, by any objective criterion, the Beatles were not particularly good musicians. They never mastered their instruments. They weren't great composers either; they knew little about music theory and their best compositions lack the sophistication of the simplest of J. S. Bachs fugues, the clarity of Mozarts simple melodies, or the emotional impact of his complex compositions. Their lyrics were often good, sometimes great, but not generally as great as the prose of Shakespeare, Chaucer, or Walt Whitman. Their singing voices were good, but again, not great. They never came close to equaling a true master in any individual aspect of their craft.

Yet the whole of their music is greater than the sum of its parts. The Beatles music resonated with their time, and perhaps all of time.

Their music, their lyrics; and their voices; often meld seamlessly. They communicate messages in melodies and stories that still "move" people today. The emotional impact of their message is what matters, not the form.

Thats what makes great art. Its not about perfect technique, perfect material, or perfect presentation. Perfection in all things is a worthy goal, but the emotional impact of the message is what really matters.

Blaines persona and the implied story that he conveys with his dress and his act create a Walter Mitty-type fantasy inducing" message of a shamanistic, in-your-face, cool, mind-blowing, super-dude. People want to be him, or at least be near him.

There's an idea in our culture that if you can fit in on the streets, then you can fit in anywhere, so by moving the stage to the streets, he created the ideal magic character for our times. Ironically, Blaine was a restaurant magician in New York before he performed his street magic specials, and, of course, street magic is nothing new. But David Blaine did have a vision and he carried it to fruition. For that, I admire him.

By the way, I'm extremely excited about seeing Gazzo lecture soon. I understand he's mastered street performing. It's like Bach compared to the Beatles.

User avatar
Tim Ellis
Posts: 932
Joined: July 11th, 2008, 4:08 pm
Location: Victoria

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Tim Ellis » November 13th, 2004, 1:13 am

People are criticising Blaine's mastery of the physical side of magic. Maybe he is merely "proficient" in this regard, but he certainly has the psychological of magic down pat.

His character is dark, creepy, and makes you think that the magic just might be real. That's quite unique. Copperfield, S&R, Burton, etc... we KNOW they're doing tricks, but Blaine's weird persona makes people think twice.

This unsettling character, combined with an incredible selection of effects, has really helped to make him a household name. You must admit, on each of his specials he (and his team) has resurrected a few forgotten "gems" as well as adapting some current "hot items" that suit his character.

The interesting thing is that most of the tricks are high impact (and don't we all seek to achieve that with our magic) but require very little in the way of technical skill (thus the number of Blaine clones).

He is inherently easy to copy, but he was the first to attempt this particular approach.

Houdini was also unique in his characterisation and selection of material. He was also copied by those he "inspired" (though rumour has it he was never flattered by the imitations *g*).

Houdini most probably had some good technical magic skills, but the only skills he really needed to use to do what the public paid to see where his escape skills.

Blaine may be able to magic technically well, who knows, but the skills he uses to do what the public wants to see are his endurance abilities. I don't know about you, but I think it's a little easier to master a double lift than any of his endurance stunts. (Though, if he needed to practice, he had plenty of time in that glass box *g*).

Blaine is a different style of magician, just as Houdini - by promoting his escapes - became a different style of magician too.

It's good that we look at his success and analyse it, but instead of criticising everything we feel he's doing wrong, look at what he's doing right and learn from it. That doesn't mean we all need to go out and add a street magic segment to all of our shows (hmmm.. surely no-one would do that) or just sit on poles or get buried alive.

Blaine empasised the magic of magic. He did this by taking out a lot of the glitz, the flashing lights, the dancing girls, the distractions, and focused on the effect and the reaction - the two key elements to any effect.

To some extent, he is more a magician for doing that, than others are who use comedy in their act which actually takes away from the magic. Those people often say "I'm more an entertainer than a magician."

I think it's great to see ANYONE succeed in our business. And a magician who can become a household name as well as inspire a new generation of interest in the art deserves some praise at least.


PS: By the way, Mr Blaine is not my favourite magician (just in case you think I'm his fan club president *g*). The only connection I have with him is through Anders Moden (and I don't even think he did justice to 'Healed & Sealed' aka 'Soda Resurrection').

Kevin Fox
Posts: 32
Joined: January 19th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Manchester England

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Kevin Fox » November 13th, 2004, 4:21 am

The man that brought me into entertainmet business said if you like them or not, you cant
Knock success, when i was in my youth in the sixties i played the same circuit as the Beatles,
the Hollies and others & the same type of argument
raged over the different bands, in the same way
there are magicians that untill recently i never
looked @ their routine's because i did'nt like the perfomance style (How shortsighted was that)
now i'v got past that. and descovered that they are successfull for a reason wether i like them
or not, and that in its self deserves a coat of looking at a we say hear. by the way i,ll be 63 next & still trying to think out side the Box.
Kevin Fox

User avatar
Posts: 1351
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Jeff McBride
Location: Warwick, New York

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby MaxNY » November 13th, 2004, 5:43 am

I don't know if anyone knows the reality of David Blaine working restaurants...JB Benn worked a couple of Eastside joints. But I don't think David ever worked eateries. He did, however, trouble his way into very very exclusive niteclubs. Places where... when they first opened up, you couldn't get in, unless you were A -list designers, or had any Q at all.


Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » November 13th, 2004, 6:34 am

Blaine actually did work in restaraunts for a period of time. He actually took over one of JB's locations (with permission).

Robert Allen
Posts: 616
Joined: March 18th, 2008, 11:53 am

Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Robert Allen » November 16th, 2004, 11:13 am

I'm not knocking Blaine because he's rich and famous. I'm knocking him for the same reason I knock other "rich and famous" people today: many of them are "rich and famous" only because of the low bar set by the consumer. They're neither well spoken nor well educated. One doesn't have to be a magna cum laude to recognise that either.

Also for the record I agree that there's probably quite a bit of envy, and thus, jealousy, vs. Blaine. If there wasn't then there wouldn't be a market for all the 'be like Blaine' tricks, DVDs, and books. It's a romantic concept, making your life (and a good one at that) on the streets, and lots of people want a part of that romance, though Blaine seems to make his money from dumb rich people, rather than on the streets.

The people (like me) who voice negative opinions of Blaine's entertainment value do so primarily based his persona, his marketing droids selling him via camera tricks, and his relative lack of skill (compared to to other commerical magicians, not myself). Truth to tell though, I'm complaining less about Blaine than I am about the American society that finds him entertaining.

The reason I nor others comment on how much the local magician sucks is because it's not relevant. If I told you the Great SoAndSo couldn't even do the UF Grant Egyptian Water box trick without exposing it, what would be the point? It's precisely because someone is rich and famous that people comment about how much or how little someone deserves that weath or fame.


Re: David Blaine Pals around with Woody...

Postby Guest » September 23rd, 2006, 9:35 pm

Reis O'Brien wrote:
This is the first I have heard of the Blaine levitation being doctored by camera, and frankly, I'm not too entirely surprised. I guess the risk of asking the right questions is that your fantasy bubble can very well burst in your face.
I'm ashamed to say, I was the first to mention this rumor in this topic.

Earlier in this topic I wrote:
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."
I should not have contributed to propagating this rumor regarding camera tricks without real knowledge. While my post was not in the form of an attack, I still acknowledged an idea that might have no substance. I apologize to David Blaine for that error in my judgment.

And, I feel an apology is necessary even if he happens to be using camera tricks! I had no way of knowing that.

I understand that the impetus for that rumor was a levitation David Blaine performed on a street corner. I have seen that video and its obvious that camera tricks werent necessary. Any magician who has the knowledge, the motivation, and the resources could repeat the effect live.

Of course, the levitation could be done with camera tricks too. I doubt it is though.

If there is anything else David Blaine performed that would require camera tricks, I havent seen it.

Sorry to resurrect such an old topic. I should have posted this sooner.

Return to “Buzz”