Maybe it’s because my uncle was a semiprofessional magician (who willed his bag of tricks to me), but I am fascinated by anything magical. It doesn’t matter if it is a corny birthday party clown or the Tony-nominated Broadway play “The Magic Show”; if somebody is pulling something out of a hat, I’m there.
The most widely seen magic shows always have been televised specials from remarkable showmen such as Mark Wilson, David Copperfield and, direct from the aforementioned Broadway play, the late Doug Henning, who remains arguably one of the greatest magicians who ever lived. He looked like a longhaired hippie (Ahh, the good old days!), but his enthusiasm was so infectious, you couldn’t help but love him.
Unfortunately, today’s popular “illusionists” lack the amusement and wonder of magicians of the past. Artists such as David Blaine are more interested in proving how great they are than in entertaining their audience. He can put a needle through his hand and show an X-ray to prove it. Fine, but where’s the fun in that? Much of his act consists of nothing more than mediocre showmanship and a complicit audience.
For example, in a recent special, Blaine used a number of passers-by whom he, of course, had never met before. (Right, and I’m the queen of England.) He then proceeded to guess a color for one person and change a dollar bill into $100 for another.
He naturally did all this with a flourish and a lot of magic motions (Why doesn’t anyone say “abracadabra” anymore?), but the bottom line was the television audience witnessed nothing “magical.” The fact that the “trickees” scream and freak out at the end of a trick doesn’t mean Blaine did anything at all except talk a good game and hire great accomplices.