Magic, sleight of hand, illusion, smoke and mirrors. Since antiquity people have wanted to be amazed and dumbstruck by stunts or trickery. In recent years it has been revealed that most magic shows are based on complex mechanisms (kept vehemently secret, a magician never reveals his/her secrets), yet the fascination continues and superstars of the craft are still created. But wouldn’t you like to know what lays behind Oz the Great and Powerful’s curtain? Let’s take a look at some of the most fascinating aspects of the men and women that mystify us with their skills of misdirection. Sim sala din!
Dante the Magician
Not to be confused with the Florentine author of the Middle Ages, he just wasn’t as fun. Dante the Magician was such an influential representative of magic that his death is actually considered the end of Magic’s Golden Age (I’m sorry for using magic so many times, against all literary rules and aesthetics, but it’s an article about it, its unavoidable, so deal with it, suck it Grammar Nazi). Originally hailing from the mystical and occult land of Denmark, he immigrated to the much less magical and a little bit fatter U.S.A. He not only performed great feats of illusion with a troupe of 24-40 people, but he is also the magician who is credited for using non-sensical words during the trick’s reveal, like Sim Sala Din!
Harry Blackstone Sr. – The Great Blackstone
This man has the illustrious title of creating the “Saw a woman in half,” “The vanishing cage” and “the object which magically flies over the audience” illusions. Although he was a trailblazer at the time, he opened a Pandora’s Box of corny successors and cheesy fake outs of the ‘beautiful assistant’ screaming in agony feigning being cut in half (and I f**kin’ fall for it every god-damn time).
This is the man that made an elephant and the Statue of Liberty disappear. His most amazing feat was that he actually managed to convince then super-model (and uber hottie) Claudia Schiffer to date him even though he was a pretty average looking dude. Beyond that, he also owns 11 tropical islands.
Penn and Teller
This duo could be the Renaissance men of magic. Not only do they enact death-defining illusions, they also pepper it with a pretty witty sense of humor. Beyond their magic they do T.V. shows, cameos in television and movies and have even produced an unreleased video game named Penn and Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors. The game is an accumulation of mini-games with one named ‘Mofo the Psychotic Gorilla’. The game that most people know about is called Desert Bus which makes the player drive a bus from Tucson , Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada in real time (8 hours) without the option to stop, pause or suspend the game without starting over.
Criss Angel– Mindfreak
One of the first magicians (along with David Blaine) that made street magic popular, which is done very close to the viewer out in the open (thus the name ‘street art’ you dope). He’s also known for his grotesque tricks involving ‘self-mutilation’ and elements that allude to horror/gore films. Ironically, although he was born Christopher Nicholas Sarantakos, he opted for the much more boring Criss Angel. Why wouldn’t he go with his unpronounceable Greek name, its super magic-y.
Watch the video above, it’s freaking hilarious. I’ll wait just go to the back room and take a nap…I mean have a drink…I mean…well never mind. David Blaine is also one of the pioneers of street art and is very famous for his endurance tricks. He has spent 7 days in a translucent plastic coffin under 3 tons of water and gravel, lived between blocks of ice for 36 hours, lived atop a 100 ft. pillar for almost 3 days (35 hours) and spend 45 days in a 3x7x7 ft. plexiglass box just on water (1x2x2 meters) and many others. Marie Blood (Houdini’s niece) said: “My uncle did some amazing things, but he could not have done this”
Sound familiar? Well there’s a reason for that. In 19th Century our friend Frenchy Robert-Houdin was an amazing magician with a huge following of fans. A young boy named Erik Weisz saw Robert-Houdin and ‘borrowed’ his name from him.
A Hungarian immigrant that excelled at gymnastics, boxing and track, wanted a little more out of life. He wanted a little magic (collective moan with the sound of retching in the background). So he quickly changed his name to Houdini inspired by his idol Robert-Houdin. The thing is that if he really wanted to be named after his idol, his name would have to be Roberti not Houdini, as Houdin was Robert’s wife’s name, Jean adopted it because he thought it sounded cool, (which I definitely won’t argue that point) and so, Houdini inadvertently adopted Jean Robert’s wife’s name.
Magic Babe Ning
Although you could say that Ning’s nomenclature is pretty sexist, she is a bona-fide badass. Not only is she the only female magician from South East Asia, she regularly performs death defining acts and uses props such as samurai swords and various ninja weapons, in opposition of the submissive role of women in magic. Not only is she a successful illusionist, she is also an accomplished escapist and entrepreneur. She owns the Little Magic Boutique, an online magic shop, and is co-founder of Mighty Magic Factory, which is an entertainment and educational establishment. With such an illustrious business portfolio you’d think that she would be all about careful, calculated actions, but her trick ‘The Impalement Cage’ proves quite the opposite. The trick suspended stainless steel spikes over Ning as she escaped locks, handcuffs and shackles in front of 4000 people before the spikes slammed down towards her. She also has the record for the first female that attempted this stunt.
Are there any other cool interesting facts about the world’s most famous Magicians that I skipped over? Let me know in the comment section below.