Criss Angel Tears into UFC Competitor

Paige VanZantMagician and Las Vegas Star Criss Angel tore asunder UFC strawweight fighter Paige VanZant as part of his upcoming October 12th television special.

We are not being metaphorical or figurative.  The images of the physical tearing of this petite powerhouse is startling and not appropriate for those with a faint constitution.  How intense are the images? A UFC website cautions its readers “WARNING: It gets a little graphic, but hey, it’s all fake, right?”  This from a site that must assume its readers are used to a full-color display of gore and body fluid.  We watched the tease video because we felt obliged to protect the sensitive eye(s) our loyal reader – we’re working on rebuilding our audience numbers.  We should not have been eating baked ziti at the time, though.  Perhaps it was the warm, flat red Kool-Aid or the bumpy ride over city streets, but our sensitive stomach did not react well to the imagery; neither did the Uber driver to what she saw in the back seat and the back of the seats of her otherwise spotless and odorless Prius.

Ms. VanZant has apparently done well in the UFC (like “KFC” but with people instead of poultry, we think) and is said to have a devastating kick attack.  Nonetheless, she weighs just 115 pounds and stands just under five foot four inches tall.  We can tell you from the video that she has a very flat stomach, straight spine and some sort of anemia in her abdomen.  She is brave and tough and has proven her ability by fighting competitors in the UFC as well as the perhaps more formidable Dancing with the Stars.

Criss Angel’s Trick’d Up will appear on A&E at 9:00 pm on Wednesday, October 12th.  We are told he will perform 30 illusions and will be joined by celebrity guests (in addition to Ms. VanZant) including: Gary Oldman, Paris Jackson, comedian Andrew Dice Clay, “Blackish” star Miles Brown, Latino pop superstar Belinda, DJ Steve Aoki, and UFC stars Frank Mir, Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture.

You can check out the teaser video showing the vivisection of Ms. VanZant here.  It is very graphic and not suited for young people (under 30), older people (35 and up) or folks eating baked ziti in the back of a Prius.

Why is TV Magic So Unmagical?

Carreras ltd cards spotting the cardEntertainment Weekly writer Brittany Frederick asks why with so much magic on television recently, we are not feeling magical?

She points to the recent spate of shows about our craft such as Criss Angel BeLIEve; Syfy’s Wizard Wars, Close Up Kings, and Troy: Street Magic; The CW’s resurrection of Masters of Illusion and importing of Penn & Teller: Fool Us.   She likes the craft but apparently not the way it is being translated to television sets.  It is tough to disagree with her take.

She points out that Masters of Illusion has been squished from an hour-long show to 30 minutes (including commercials).  The net effect is that “Dean Cain has to go through acts so quickly that you barely have time to let the tricks sink in.”

Ms. Frederick bemoans – again with our wholehearted agreement – the move from logistics of putting on a magic show to the effect in isolation.
“What was so fantastic about Criss Angel BeLIEve when Spike unveiled it in October 2013 was that it was almost about everything but the performance. We got to know Angel a lot better and understand what it was like for him to do these challenging tricks every day. We learned about the history involved with many of his demonstrations. We met his team, and were able to listen in on their discussions about how to make magic happen, whether it was building a prop or finding the perfect location. We saw when things didn’t go according to plan and how they dealt with those situations. These are elements of magic that most TV audiences probably haven’t even thought about.”
Audiences are now taken from appreciating the history of a particular effect and the very real logistical challenges of presenting the trick, to merely asking whether an effect is performed with camera tricks or dodgy editing.

Check out her full article and well-considered opinions here.

Magician Ariann Black Profiled

Inside Magic Image of Ariann BlackMagician Ariann Black received a great write-up and interview in today’s Westword in advance of her upcoming shows this weekend at Theatre of Dreams in Castle Rock, Colorado.

Ms. Black is well-known to Vegas audiences and is now taking the craft she began at the age of four to Colorado.  She took inspiration from Doug Henning and his non-traditional appearance.

“At four, you don’t realize that there is more than one magic trick out there. I was fascinated with the idea that there was more than one magic trick and you could do all sorts of things. When I was twelve, I saw Doug Henning on television, and prior to that I had been told that girls couldn’t be magicians. But when I saw Doug Henning and I saw him with his look — he didn’t look like that stereotypical magician — I thought, yeah, I can be a magician, too. He really inspired me.”

The road has not been easy and she points out that within our predominantly male ranks, “women are just an oddity.” She has a small group of female magicians with whom she attends conventions and share.  Ms. Black is “always on the lookout for female magicians, especially the younger ones, to make sure that they know that kind of behavior (toward them) is not okay, it’s not acceptable and that they need to stand up for who they are and be respected. It doesn’t just happen in magic — it happens everywhere.”

Be sure to check out the full interview for her thoughts on animal acts, David Copperfield, Criss Angel and why magic still works with today’s modern audiences.

Ariann Black performs this Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Theatre of Dreams in Castle Rock. For more information on the shows and to buy tickets, visit the Theatre of Dreams website. Check out Ms. Black’s website here.

Kevin & Cindy Spencer Hit the Heartland

The SpencersInside Magic Favorites Kevin and Cindy Spencer will bring their incredible show, “Spencers: Theatre of Illusion” to Elgin, Illinois’ beautiful ECC Arts Center Saturday on April 11.

The Theatre of Illusion is an incredible event with high-tech effects, drama, comedy, romance, and suspense.  Blending the theatrical elements of a Broadway-style production with the energy of a rock concert, Kevin and Cindy Spencer take audiences on a journey to the impossible. The Spencers won the International Magic Society’s “Magician of the Year Award” in 2009, joining the likes of David Copperfield, Criss Angel, and Penn & Teller, and have been described as “modern day Houdinis” by critics.

The Spencers’ production is a unique fusion of magic and illusion, humor and mystery, and persona and personality. With a background in clinical psychology, Kevin likes to say, “I was going to help people’s minds, but now I just mess with them.”

“Theatre of Illusion” stands in stark contrast to the traditional magic show. Kevin Spencer sees it not as a stage full of tricks used to fool people, but as a way to inspire viewers with a sense of wonder. Audience members don’t simply watch the show, but are also invited to participate in the magic. Using magic much like a storyteller uses words, Kevin fuses this family-friendly production with a gamut of emotions. And with the skills of a master showman, he creates a world where nothing is impossible and anything can happen.

Tickets to Spencers: Theatre of Illusion are $20 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under. Tickets for all performances in the ECC Arts Center are available online at tickets.elgin.edu or at the ECC Arts Center box office. Box office hours are noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and noon to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. To purchase tickets by phone, call 847-622-0300. All major credit cards are accepted.

Criss Angel Adds Lunch to His Sold-Out Schedule in Easton

Inside Magic Image of Criss AngelIt is a great publicity person who can sell the story of a magician eating lunch.

Credit goes to the folks behind the scenes for magician Criss Angel who got great copy in The Morning Call from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

We reported earlier that Mr. Angel will perform two shows at Easton’s State Theatre on January 20th and now we learn that he will also eat lunch the day before those two show.

“On the 19th, I’m going to be chilling at Billy’s Downtown Diner in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania,” Mr. Angel can be heard saying in a video posted on the diner’s website, www.billysdiner.com. “I’m going to chill and have my Mind Freak burger. So have some lunch with me.”

The restaurant will host a daily contest where hopeful diners can answer a trivia question for two passes to the VIP Room.

Lest one think this is a random event, it turns out that Billy’s diner is owned by Billy Kounoupis, Mr. Angel’s cousin.

Mr. Angel has roots in the Easton area.  His late father, John Sarantakos,  attended Easton Area High School, and his grandfather a local restaurant across Easton’s Northampton Street from The State Theatre.

“Easton just has a special place in my heart,” Angel said. “My dad really loved Easton. It has a very special place in my heart because of all the memories we shared in Easton.”

Mr. Angel’s early show (6 p.m.) is sold out and there are but a few seats remaining for the 9:30 p.m. performance.

On a related note, we will be at the 7-11 on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood this Thursday night where fans can join us in a Slurpee® and Big Bite® Hot Dog.  We will be in the parking lot by the Redbox® machine.