Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015 | 2 a.m.
It’s far more underhanded than sleight-of-hand. Budding magicians who have been blatantly ripping off leading headline magicians are using more and more magic tricks of others.
It’s gotten so bad that Criss Angel told Britain’s Celebrity Radio Exclusively that he intends to sue “Britain’s Got Talent” magician Darcy Oake after one of his “stolen” illusions aired on the BBC show. Criss told CRE: “A total rip-off stolen for the show. They might as well have come in my house and stolen my TVs.”
As the world’s top magician having attracted 300 million hits on YouTube and generated $150 million in revenue at Cirque du Soleil’s “Believe” in the Luxor last year, Criss shot to fame on A&E with his pioneer, unique, exciting and often-controversial style of magic on “Mindfreak.”
You can read this week’s brilliant cover story in our sister publication Las Vegas Weekly by Editor at Large John Katsilometes for a detailed, inside look at one of the most successful and powerful artists in show business today who employs more than 200 people.
In 2006 during “Mindfreak,” he created an illusion, seen around the world, where he disappeared from a box in front of a huge crowd, then reappeared to their amazement in a different place.
In 2014, Canadian magician Darcy placed fifth on “Britain’s Got Talent.” In August this year, he repeated this incredible but identical illusion on “The One Show” by the BBC to promote his fall tour.
Criss says that there are very specific elements of this illusion that were stolen by Darcy, and two of the latter’s creative team had worked for Criss and are still under confidentiality contracts.
He told CRE that he called the Canadian, who agreed to apologize and promised to publicly admit the plagiarism, but he never did. Accusations of a similar series of “magic thefts” were made against a British magician named Dynamo, who also allegedly duplicated Criss’s tricks and went one step further by masquerading in his image and personae.
The more influential Criss has become in the world of magic, the more he appears to be ripped off. One Las Vegas magic insider told that me there are at least two Strip magicians using material that was created by Criss. He said: “It’s become an epidemic in the world of magic for one person to steal from somebody bigger than himself. It’s gotten out of control.
“It’s getting so frustrating and ridiculous to Criss that people are blatantly taking his stuff. It’s a constant every other week that new people are doing his stuff, and it’s a very frustrating situation.”
I asked respected mind reader and magician Banachek to help me understand that if there are only seven principles of magic, how it becomes theft. He told me: “You can cut someone in half, you can make someone vanish, make somebody appear. There are basic principles just like there are only a set number of limited notes in music.
“What makes the songs different is the combination of notes and how you present them and the rhythm and all the other elements that make music sound different. With magic, like the cutting in half, for example, traditionally people have been shoving women in boxes, really big boxes, and over the years people have gotten the size of the box down, but no one has done cutting in half like Criss. He probably has 15 years into it and thousands of hours over the years developing and creating many, many interpretations of the evolution of it.
“You can say it’s a cutting in half, but what makes his so unique is the way that technically it works, the way it’s presented and the believability factor. For hundreds of years, people couldn’t look into the box, but when you see Criss’s illusion, people are almost about to pass out because they don’t understand how it’s working.
“So he’s taken the technical aspects and presentation and catapulted them forward through a lot of work, a lot of money, with an incredible team to a day and age where people are much more sophisticated, so what worked yesterday doesn’t work for today or tomorrow. And what he’s doing is all about tomorrow.
“Criss walked on water and got 60 million views from the clip. No one in magic ever walked on water before. It’s the most-watched magic clip in the history of the Internet. But other people constantly rip it off.
“If you look at the Dynamo rip-off, he takes Criss’s pose, look and even the marketing campaign. Criss created those. No one ever walked down the wall, walked on water, bent over looking like the matrix, before he did it.”
You can count the number of videos that Dynamo performs, and about 60 of them are identical Criss Angel tricks.
Criss commented: “The day and age that we live in, the world of magic is different than it was 10, 15, 20 years ago. When I want to do my version of a trick performed previously by another magician, I’ve always asked the person. Lance Burton created a vanish and an appearance I wanted to use. His presentation was unique, and I asked Lance if I could buy the rights from him.
“Such a gentleman, he said, ‘You do not have to buy the rights from me. I will not give permission for anyone else to do it, but because you’re my friend and because I think you’ll do it justice, I’ll let you do it. He even recorded it as a voice-over for me to do it, and you’ll hear him in my show.
“I called up The Amazing Johnathan and paid for rights to do my version of what he created. I’ve done this time and time again. One filmmaker gave me permission to create my version of the Table of Death illusion, and another magician used it and defended himself saying I’d stolen it first. Clive Barker was the only one who gave me permission. It’s just totally out of control.”
So Criss, the most influential magician of the modern era, has by default become the most copied magician of the century — not only with the tricks but also from the Gothic appearance with dark eyeliner and spiked hair. The more incredible thing is that the rivals copy him with their acts and appearances, then badmouth him simultaneously.
As Banachek commented: “It is not even a question that Criss Angel has been the most dominant and prominent figure in magic since he first appeared on the TV scene. For anyone to argue that would be a fool. At first, other magicians had no idea how he performed his effects, and a few ranted and raved that it was all CGI effects and stooges.
“Top magicians were fooled and fooled badly, so they didn’t have an answer for his mind-blowing effects. His techniques and subtleties were way above what most magicians could comprehend. On top of that, the output of new material was staggering. Each season, Criss and I would sit in a room and throw ideas back and forth with John Farrell, and by the time we were done, we had 250 to 300 tricks. Most of them came from the mind of Criss.”
“While those other magicians were too busy debating the methods and actively ruining magic for the masses, Criss was still moving forward and beyond. You see that in his stage show. Criss is a pioneer, and his vision to create goes beyond any other magician.
“Those magicians realized that their accusations wouldn’t make a case, but, instead of being supportive, they were jealous and wanted to tear him down. Magic is one of the worst arts where they tear down the art due to jealousy. It is the one art where they always tear down the leader who is helping them rise. It is the one art where they think stealing is acceptable if you are a nobody.
“Sadly, when you put out such amounts of material as Criss has and you work in so many mediums, you have a lot of people come and go, and although it is difficult to comprehend, some of those people think it’s OK to steal Criss’s ideas and take them to others thinking that they will create a new star. What happens is they fail miserably. Although they have the method, they don’t have the “it factor.”
“By failing, those magicians who steal often expose the methods that Criss and others so tirelessly work on for years. They are bad for magic. They simply do not understand the subtleties that keeps the secret safe.
“There is no question that Criss has been the most influential magician of today and arguably of all time. For people to be influenced by him to create modern, relevant magic is one thing, but to have your effects stolen exactly, from poses, body language, verbiage, the way it is built, the way it is demonstrated, that is indeed thievery. It’s wrong that magic societies supposed to do something about those people stand by and let it happen without a word.
“I don’t want to sound negative on the magic community. I am just really disappointed in the direction it has been going lately. Even I get ripped off with my books that I write and people think it is OK. I once had someone hire me for a lecture tour overseas, and when I asked if they wanted any of my books, they simply said without missing a beat, they’d downloaded them all! I don’t have any downloads. It is a sad portrait of our times.
“There are those who are professional, those who do the right thing, and we should be proud of them. Just as we should point out the negative, we should also point out the positive and good in our craft. I know personally that Criss has called multiple people for rights to perform an effect or use an idea. In many cases, I know he has even purchased rights for things he may or may not use. It is the right thing to do.
“On a weekly basis, I get a call or email from someone wanting to credit me and get permission for something. In most cases, I grant permission. In others, I am protective of my product. The majority respect that, but there are some who simply call because they expect permission, and it is those who ruin it for the rest of the good guys in our craft.
“There is supposed to be a rule in magic, that if you want or like an effect of another magician, you are supposed to do the right thing, pick up the phone and call, even if the effect is not exact but close, even if you are simply influenced by the effect to come up with something else it is the right thing to do.
“By asking, you know you are taking a risk. You may be told no, and you need to respect that. Problem is, many of those people don’t ask because they don’t have an ounce of originality in effects, presentation or their character. In fact, they are simply an amateur posing as a professional.
“You know that Criss is at the top of his game, relevant and original. It hurts that people steal Criss’s babies, yet at the same time it shows that Criss will go down in history as the most influential, prominent magician ever.
“For those who say that Criss does not create his effects, they would be so very, very wrong. Criss is involved in every single aspect of his creations, from beginning to end. He diagrams, builds and works on each new creation till it is perfected, then he does not stop. He sleeps less than anyone else. He works harder than anyone who works for him.
“There have been many times that Criss has had an idea, and as a friend I have told him I don’t think it is going to work. There is no way. Yet Criss has his own vision and pulls gold where others thought there was only lead. His drive is relentless to perfect the area where he has decided to hang his hat.
“This period of magic is going to go down in history as one of, if not the most, significant periods in our art because Criss Angel was in it.”
Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
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