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Topic: Why it is really stupid to bash David Blaine
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Oct 2, 2006 04:37PM)
There seems to be a lot of this going around. Accusations fly, people get irritated and nasty things get said, but it all boils down to one thing -- a lot of magicians are ticked off at some kind of percieved cheating on the part of David Blaine and/or his producers.

The only bone I have to pick with David is that he called his first program Street Magic. He basically highjacked a term that buskers have used for many years.

So, let's analyze the fallout from his first show.

1) A lot of people think that he faked his version of the Balducci levitation. Some have claimed that there are videos that show exactly how he did it? I'll believe that when I see a video that is an actual outtake from the Blaine special that shows him using a method that the audience can see. Even if there are parts of two different scenes being used, if the same audience is there and the same performing criteria are met, and they don't see the gaff, then what is the problem?

Note: The real fallout from this is that a half dozen good ways of doing a 1 man levitation have been devised that take the Balducci idea to places it was never intended to go.

2) He is doing things on television that can't be done live.

Name one.

3) He is making it more difficult for magicians to perform for live audiences.

Grow up. Most of the people who have posted this nonsense are not even performers. If you have actually lost a gig because you don't know how to handle a request for material you can't do, then you need to learn how to sell what you CAN do.

4) It's unethical for him to perform things you can't do live.

(one hour of time passes)

Sorry for the delay. I had to look at the bylaws of all of the magical organizations that I have on file. Somehow "doing magic you can't do live" isn't in any of those bylaws. Now, which one of these things he did is something you can't do live?

I'll wait for the PMS (spelling intentional) before I answer.

5) It's hurting magic.

Prove it.

Let me tell you something about magic. It used to be very difficult for Caucasian performers to do shows for African-American audiences in my part of the country. Why? Because they figured that whatever we did, it was just another way of whitey putting one over on the Black Man. When David Blaine did magic, it went over the barrier. People who never had seen a magician before found out that it was fun to watch. I got a lot more calls from that market than I had ever had before. It helped my business. It certainly didn't hurt it.

So, before you knock Blaine or any other magician, because YOU think they are doing something that is somehow against your ethics, make sure you know what you are talking about. Otherwise, you are merely a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Oct 6, 2006 01:47PM)
I have received a number of commments about the previous post. Some have been positive, a couple negative. However, NOBODY -- I repeat -- NOBODY has sent me an incident of anything Blaine or, for that matter, Criss Angel has done on a television show that could not be done live. I do know of one item Criss did that would not be possible to show in the same perspective. This was the one where he walked up the side of a building during his Hallowe'en special in 2003. When Fred Astaire did it in the movies, it was called "clever." But I don't think any audiences were misled by this.

One assertion has been that Mark Wilson worked very hard for a long time to convince viewers that there were no camera tricks used in order for the audience to "buy into" magic on TV.

If Angel and/or Blaine make no such claims, then the assumption is false, and not applicable. That's a fact.

The person who posted the message further stated that Blaine and Angel are exploiting this assumption and taking advantage of it. I feel this is unethical. Angel even got Lance Burton to say something couldn't be done... and then did it.

So what? Is Lance supposed to say, "Well, I know a way to do it, let's see what you do."? Of course not.

There are times that all of us simply say, "Well, that looks impossible to me," and then we let the performer do his magic. This is part of the common courtesy of the business.

I asked the person who sent me the message to give me one example. He not only hasn't given me one, He hasn't even read my reply.

So, let me explain some things that seem to have slipped by everyone who is bashing Blaine and/or Angel. There are things we don't show on television. We don't show people doing pre-show work. We don't show people building false walls in casinos. We don't show people constructing special props of any kind. We show the way people react to those props. If the lay audience is unaware of the props, why should we be obligated to show them to the television audience?

Are we supposed to show them how Impaled works? Of course not.

Most of us have marvelled at the feats of Cyril. But nobody shows the pre-show work he does, the special constructions that are done for him or the outtakes. Somehow Cyril has become a god and Blaine and Angel have become devils. This is seriously silly.

So again, I challenge ANYONE to come up with an example of unethical editing on the part of either Blaine or Angel.

Warning -- I will publish your answers in the column. I may not put your name on them, unless you want me to make you look silly.

Let me add this: if you don't know FOR SURE that camera trickery was used, or that actual video editing occurred, don't post the example. Also, if you have an example, give me a place to see it on YouTube or some other similar place, so I can review it repeatedly.

I say this, because I recently saw a rehearsal performance of one of Copperfield's new illusions on YouTube. It was performed in an arena situation. The method was one that could not be performed surrounded. Some of the illusionists were having cows about this clip. However, none of them noticed that there were no people in the seats behind the stage. The audience was seated in non-critical spots.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Oct 7, 2006 06:29PM)
Since none of the objectors to my posts have come forward with a youtube clip of the Blaine levitation, I did a search and found a couple.

Now, this is a quote from one of my objectors:

okay lets talk about Blaine's levitation. if what you say is true , then that means he could approach me and my family on the street, do a decent balducci and then continue to rise up four more feet? impossible. The close-ups of the peoples' reactions were genuine.... but they were reacting to the balducci. The tape was edited to show these reactions after the scene where blaine rises up free and clear.... and all alone. You'll remember that there were no people present in that shot. Can you refute this?

I don't have a tape of the original Blaine special, but I did find a couple of youtube links. Here is one that shows two different clips.


On the first half, we don't know what he did, because we don't see him. If you wish, you can assume it's the Balducci, but I doubt it would work in that situation.

The second half of this one kind of refutes the quote, doesn't it?

1) He doesn't do the Balducci.
2) He doesn't levitate four more feet in the air. He actually rises about 15 inches or so.
3) You can see one of the audience members in the shot while he is levitating.

So the question would boil down to what street.

Until you can give me an accurate description of what Blaine did, then drop it.

Now, on to the use of stooges.

How many of you have ever seen Blackstone do the shirt pull? How many of you ever saw him do his pickpocketing act?

PM me if you want to know the inside dope on this. I was on stage with him twice for this routine. One time, he did the shirt pull with me.

After the show was over, the mother of one of our junior magicians came up to me and asked "How did he do that?"

Was I supposed to tell her how it worked? HELL NO! She did not have a need to know. Instead, I said, "It was amazing! One minute I had my shirt and tie on. I started to walk off stage. He had me come back and he gave me my tie. Then, when I left, he called me back and gave me my shirt. I didn't feel a thing!"

Later, she told me she had found out how it worked, and she said, "You lied to me."

I told her, "No. I just didn't tell you how it worked. Would you have respected me if I had given you the secret?"

She agreed that I had done the right thing.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Oct 8, 2006 12:03AM)
Let's take this a little further. Let's go into the realm of not telling your Grandfather how to milk ducks.

Most people are used to making assumptions. Good magic exploits this. Dick Zimmerman does a production of 40 or more coins on stage. He extends both hands palm up to an audience volunteer. He then asks, "Is this fair? Does everything look all right?" They agree to both. Then he places his right hand palm down on top of his left hand and proceeds to produce a huge number of coins. There are no gimmicks, and all that is used are the 40 coins.

This is based on an assumption. That's all.

I was fooled mightily by Banachek during his lecture and performance at the TAOM. He apparently used body language to tell four random cards various spectators in the audience had merely thought of. Fooled me!!!! Later, I learned the method. It was one I already knew. But he reminded me of something I hadn't thought about.

The reason I bring these up is that the items I am referring to use techniques that some magicians and/or mentalists reject because they don't have the chutzpah to pull them off. If you don't have chutzpah, then what are you doing in magic?

If you don't want people to believe that you have extraordinary abilities, then why do you call yourself a magician?

I'll leave you with this:

In 1978, I was performing at the Texas Renaissance Festival. It was a rainy day, and many of the acts had hidden in the booths. I had a stage show at the Castle stage. I put all the perishables under cover and walked out on stage to do my rain show. I knew that my costume would dry out overnight. I also knew that because I was one of the "old guard" (I'd been there for three years) I would be setting an example for those who were afraid of a little rain.

I did my show. The last effect was the Anderson Newspaper Tear. The paper started out damp and restored dry. There were about 80 hardy souls in the audience. Before I passed my hat, I looked skyward and said, "And now, for my final miracle, I shall cause the rain to cease."

It went, "Drip.... Drip... Drip..........drip." And the rain stopped!

I took my bow like the wizard I was dressed as. I passed my hat and got some decent donations!

And there are 80 people who, to this day, believe that I can make the rain stop.

Should I really tell them differently? If you think so, read [i]The Shiels Effect.[/i]
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Oct 8, 2006 02:07AM)
Okay. I was wrong. That isn't going to be my final post on this subject. Instead, this will be.

Several years ago, there was a local magician that I blamed all of my problems on. Every time I got something new, he would find out where I got it and he would purchase it. I tried withholding information from him. But he bought just about everything I used.

Worse than that, he was a really bad magician. He once interrupted a sales pitch I was making on a client for a trade show by walking up to our table, tossing his business card on the table and saying, "I do trade shows, too!" It really steamed me.

I couldn't hear his name or see his face without wanting to punch him out. I obsessed on this guy. Anytime anyone mentioned him in front of me, I would bash him. And this reflected very badly on me.

Then one day I came to realize that he wasn't my worst enemy.

[b][i]I[/i][/b] was.

I spent so much time worrying about the next thing he was going to do that I forgot to work on my own material. So, I started to write my own stuff, and the problem actually disappeared.

Here's the point. Most of the Blaine- and Angel-bashers really don't even know what they are bashing. They somehow feel that these two people are responsible for some perceived lack of success in magic, or that they are going to somehow "ruin" magic by means of some kind of "unethical" behavior.

Consider this. There was a time that if you walked up to a stranger on the street and pulled a coin out of his hear, you would be burned at the stake.

That's unethical behavior.

Don't bash these guys. They are getting people interested in magic. They help you sell your shows.

Don't forget that.