He has astonished audiences in theaters and through television sets worldwide. He’s set records in the magic world and has the best rated magic show in Las Vegas. Criss Angel has accomplished a lot in his career, but few people understand what it actually takes to be a successful performer, let alone a successful magician in today’s times. It takes much more than learning a few card tricks and throwing on a tux (Criss changed the look of a typical magician). You have to understand what your audiences want and how to give it to them, which Criss Angel is exceptionally good at. Since season one of Mindfreak, Criss Angel has evolved both as a person, as well as a performer.
As Mindfreak started to get popular with audiences, Criss Angel continued to push the limits with his magic, and his death-defying stunts. Each season of Mindfreak showcased Criss’s talents and he did it through TV, which is incredibly hard to do in our fast paced world that we live in. Each week (and season) displayed some of the best magic that has ever been captured on film. Everything from card tricks, levitation, illusions, etc. were all executed beautifully by Criss. There is one particular piece of magic that Criss does better than other magician: levitation.
In Mindfreak, Criss Angel has demonstrated the ability to levitate on several occasions. His most impressive levitation was when he levitated above the Luxor Hotel & Casino (30 stories high). With major success in television, you would think that Criss Angel would be content, but that wasn’t the case. In 2008, Criss debuted his live magic show BeLIEve, and worked even harder than ever before. It was a great pleasure for me to see his show the first week that it had opened, and it was an amazing experience (and one that I will never forget). During the day, Criss would continue to film his Mindfreak show, and during the night he would perform in front of sold-out audiences for his live show BeLIEve. Of course with success comes jealously, and there is a lot of it in the magic world–and most of it is directed towards Criss. I’m an amateur magician myself, and I’ve heard all the hate and negativity towards Criss Angel. Personally, I don’t get it but I guess it stems from that certain magicians are not happy that Criss is enjoying success and they’re not. There are magicians that are more talented than Criss (believe it or not), but that’ll only get you so far. What sets Criss apart is his business sense, and his adaptability skill-set. Like him or not, Criss has worked his ass off to get to where he is today, and his ticket sales speak for themselves.
Coming off his six sold-out shows at the Fox Woods Casino in Conneticut this past week, the future looks very bright for Criss Angel. With his innovation and drive to become the best, Criss Angel will always deliver a stellar performance, and it’ll be exciting to see what trick(s) he has up his sleeves next.
Harry Houdini. It’s been 87 years since his passing and yet, Houdini, still remains the top name in magic, and in our culture. Growing up, I first learned about Houdini while I was in the third grade. Fascinated by the stories my teacher was telling the class—I was hooked and as they say “bit by the magic bug.” Since that day, I have been curious about magic and captivated by sleight of hand.
Most kids know about Houdini, and may even learn a few magic tricks. I, on the other hand, had a different experience with magic. In the third grade, our class put on a talent show, and of course, I went with magic as my talent. My parents were kind enough to get me a magic kit, and I picked a trick that involved a deck of a cards. The trick was supposed to go like this: I fan out the cards, and a participant chooses one of their liking—then I have them place the card back into the deck, and have them shuffle the cards thoroughly. After a few dramatic pauses, I tell them what card they have chosen. In magic, illusions/tricks will go wrong, and at an early age—I was about to get a taste of it.
Today was the day! I was ready to perform my trick for the talent show. Nervous and beaming with excitement, it was my turn. Fanning out the cards, I had one of my classmates pick a card of their choosing. Everything was going smoothly and then: panic began to run through my body when my classmate returned the card back into the deck. Not having a clue what the card I was, I smiled and shuffled the card back into the deck. The final reveal was coming whether I wanted it to, or not. Still panicking and not knowing what the card was, I blurted out the first card that came to mind. Waiting for the laughter of my classmates and my embarrassment soon to follow—my classmate looked at me, and his jaw dropped. Then, he sputtered out “how did you know what my card was?” I was stunned, and then basked in my “Houdini” moment.
From that point on, Houdini would be ingrained in my mind, and I still think back to that day often. Houdini had a profound impact on people when he was living, but after his passing, he has become even more famous. Houdini has inspired the greatest magicians of our time: Doug Henning, David Copperfield, Lance Burton, David Blaine, and Criss Angel. Houdini will be a name that people will continue to know, and be amazed by. His final breath was taken on October 31st, 1:26 p.m., 1926, Detroit, MI.
Do you believe in real magic? If not, I would guarantee you would after watching Andrew Gerard perform. Andrew has come up with some of the most amazing magic over the years. He has worked with magicians and mentalists such as David Blaine, Criss Angel, Keith Barry, and Cyril Takayama. Andrew is also a talented musician, and I had the chance to ask him about his magic and music career. You will come away learning more about magic and music.
Justin Marroquin: How did you get into magic?
Andrew Gerard: Well growing up my father was a magician, in the classic sense, stage magic, illusions etc. I never liked the classic stuff as a child, it looked like a play to me. But my grandfather “Gerard” was quite the inspiration to me. He could second deal cards, taught me to steal a watch and how to look at people differently and study them. I thought he was a pirate, or something growing up LOL. He was actually a very charming guy. I remember he gave roses to all the ladies in the neighborhood one day, and even threw his jacket over a puddle. The police showed up after dinner, because the local library had called them saying someone was stealing the roses from the garden. He even stole the sign that said “Do Not Touch The Roses.” I remember he also talked his way out of a ticket one time, I think he convinced the cop they were related through his last name. I think his idea that having knowledge and understanding people was more important than wearing a tuxedo, and making doves appear.
JM: Do you have a favorite illusion/trick?
AG: I think OOTW (Out Of This World) has the ability to profoundly have an impact on someone when performed at the right time, in the right way. (See Andrew’s version of OOTW on the ProCess DVD).
Note: For those who don’t know, OOTW is considered to be one of the best card tricks of all time.
JM: What was your best performance in magic?
AG: I don’t think I have ever had a really great one yet. I am extremely rough on myself, and I usually come off stage and ask my sound tech, Wayne how bad was it? But I remember in 2001, I did a bill change for a homeless guy, it was pouring out and I just finished a gig at an upscale Martini bar; He had five bucks in his cup, I changed it into a hundred and let him keep it. He was dead silent for like two minutes and asked me “Is it real?” I could tell he really was questioning reality, and he needed magic at that moment. I saw recently a video of a magician doing this as a promotional thing. It would have been better if he didn’t film it, but then again maybe he would not have done it.
JM: What is your best memory in magic?
AG: I have had so many amazing opportunities in magic, on stage, and off camera. It would be hard to pick just one, but right now a couple of moments come to mind. I landed in New York to work with David Blaine, he knew I rode motorcycles, so he threw me a set of keys to one of his BMW’s and we went riding downtown NYC, it was amazingly so busy. He took me to Harlem and David Blaine pulled over at this old house, we parked and he told me to go up the stairs and read this red plaque. It was Harry Houdini’s house, and we did magic to each other for a couple of hours. After that, we rode home and picked up these two Brazilian girls that didn’t speak English. David told me to double one and he did, too! I had to give her my helmet we were also going the wrong way up a one way street! A cop was directing traffic and blew a whistle at us, I thought we were toast. No helmets, driving the wrong way etc. The cop saw it was David Blaine, and stopped traffic and told us to ride up the sidewalk and through a red light! Now that was magic! David Blaine is like Superman that way; huge star power without the attitude.
I filmed a TV show called “Past Lives” in London, England where I investigated past lives, etc. One of the girls took me to Abbey Road, where the Beatles recorded. I didn’t want to take a picture, it was too special. After we went to a pub for a pint, I read her mind and she asked me if I believe in angels, and heaven, I said yes. I didn’t know it at the time, but she had a brain tumor, and died two weeks after I flew out.
Backstage at Oprah with Criss Angel, we were alone in the dressing room, and both started laughing. We could not believe we were there. Criss was always very polite and respectful with me, I found him to be humble then, very much so.
JM: How are you able to stay so creative?
AG: I try. I fail. I try again. I think once I get interested in something, I go all the way. It means I dedicate a lot of time to not giving up on ideas. The down side is I can’t tie shoelaces, or throw a football. Thank god for Velcro.
JM: You are also a musician. How did you get into music?
AG: Once again, my father was a classical guitarist, so music was all around me since I was born. I was actually not very good, so I had to practice 10X’s harder than everyone else. Also, I never learned other people’s songs, I just wanted to create my own.
JM: What is a better thrill for you: Performing magic or playing music?
AG: That is difficult to answer. Music is real, and people react for an entire 60 minute show clapping, screaming, dancing, singing along, etc. I have never had anyone ask me after a show “how did you do that?” which is nice. With that said, magic can create very special memories when performed correctly. The difference is someone can learn the invisible deck and go blow someone away that day. You can’t learn guitar in a day, or even a year. In music, you must create your own song and lyrics. I wish magicians took some inspiration from musicians.
JM: Has magic helped you to be a better musician?
AG: Well in some ways both have helped with each other, they are like cousins. You need to be able to step up and execute the art, and also be the person the audience needs you to be, which is yourself.
JM: Which is harder: Practicing magic or playing music?
AG:I don’t practice either anymore, I perform and I play. I think the best way to get good at anything, is to get stuck into it deep. Live it, breathe it, etc. I always fall asleep and wake up with a deck of cards and a guitar beside my bed, and sometimes in it.
JM: What is one piece of advice that has helped you in your life?
AG: Don’t try to be like anyone else, that’s weak. Every person reading this has one unique attribute that makes them incredibly special. Most of the time it’s something you take for granted, or that you can’t see yourself. Ask your friends to describe you. You may be blown away at what they have to say; for certain everyone will say one thing about you, that is your starting point. Build off of your strongest attribute.
“Success is knowing you are becoming the person you were meant to be.”