Magician and endurance maven David Blaine takes to the air this evening in the United States through ABC television to ask Real or Magic? He is joined in this endeavor by Will Smith, Olivia Wilde, Woody Allen, Stephen Hawking and other celebrities who, we are informed, will react to his tricks.
We like David Blaine and believe he has done much to revitalize our wonderful craft and feel badly that we want him to be different than the way he is. He is not Doug Henning or David Copperfield or Harry Blackstone Jr. but he is very talented and, in his own way, charismatic and captivating.
Still, we miss Doug Henning performing the Water Torture Tank live on national television. We miss David Copperfield’s well produced escapes and illusions performed on tape but with the assurance the home audience was seeing the events unfold in real time without camera tricks. We miss Harry Blackstone Jr. for many, many reasons; not the least of which was his wonderful persona – so serious and light-hearted at the same time and able to convince even the most jaded teenager that he could really perform magic.
But David Blaine is bringing magic to the audience of the times where camera trickery is expected and even celebrated. Attention spans are short and expectations are high. Each generation of magic faces a similar challenge. Jim Steinmeyer’s outstanding book, The Last Greatest Magician in the World tells of Howard Thurston making the transition from vaudeville to the traveling, full-evening show and the ultimate demise of that elaborate show type. We know of Thurston today because he survived and conquered the new formats and met his audience where they sat. They were no longer in vaudeville halls watching one of eight shows in a day’s time. They came to see a full-length show and he had the props and chops to show them what they wanted to see – year after year.
We like David Blaine and wish him the best with his newest take on a classic art. If there is anyone that can again move magic in a new direction, it is David Blaine.