A few years ago, I got caught up in Mindfreak, the Criss Angel show with with all the impressive street magic a dork like me could ever hope for. As a fan of things that don’t easily fit into the everyday world, I flipped out. Every next illusion was more brilliant than the last – even the little ones.
Especially those, actually.
When a magician requires a fully-constructed stage and theater lights and pyrotechnics and a small crew of technicians running the show to turn a tiger into a woman under a silk sheet in front of an audience who blew their grocery money for the week on a set of tickets, there’s obviously something more to the illusion than simple sleight of hand. But when a magician can pass a rolled-up dollar bill through a solid pane of glass at a storefront window on a busy street in plain view of anyone walking by who didn’t pay anything to see it happen?
To me, that is truly magical.
And so it was that Mindfreak was a most brilliant illusionist experience, even though it was captured on video and broadcast over cable (another set of technicalities, but I couldn’t make it to Vegas to see it happening live, so…). My wife would remind me repeatedly: he’s not *really* levitating (or catching on fire, or disappearing, or pulling a woman into two pieces).
Um, yeah. I knew that part.
What captivated me was the absolute showmanship and consummate proficiency with which the illusions were executed – largely in 360 degree view-range of those watching on. I watched for camera trickery, and to be fair, there was some of that, though it was mostly for the larger pieces. It was the smaller illusions that won me over most.
Anyone can fool me by levitating between buildings with some well-executed though imperceptible mechanical assistance.
It takes honest-to-goodness magic to blow my mind by shoving tube-shaped money through a solid pane of glass with an audience two feet away.
The mundane made magnificent: that’s how I see it.
For me, that’s where the real magic lies.
Recently, I’ve been researching street-style magicians while creating an antagonist to trouble Sid Handelman in the new book. Criss Angel is a bit too theatrical for what I’m thinking. No offense to him at all; he’s a genius at what he does, and I’m always floored by what he comes up with. And David Blaine sitting in plexiglass while not eating for two weeks is a different type of magic altogether. It makes an appearance in the story, too…hopefully in a hilarious way, if I execute that section correctly. But this guy, while not at all cocky, captures the easy-going essence of small-yet-grand magic that I think this character needs. His name is Justin Flom, and he’s contemporary street magic all the way. Check out his Starbucks coffee refill trick, and then dig around and watch some of his other crafty illusions using commonplace materials. He’s the un-flashy reboot of the classic sleight-of-hand illusionist.
Sid Handelman should take a lesson.