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September 19, 2014

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A war of wizards: Criss Angel and David Blaine duel with rival TV shows

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ABC

David Blaine, left, with Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul on Blaine’s ABC special “Real or Magic.”

Criss Angel’s ‘Believe’ on Spike TV

Criss Angel’s “Believe” on Spike TV.

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Criss Angel

Tonight’s television is a true clash of the champions of conjuring, a sizzling showdown of sleight-of-hand sensations. Criss Angel and David Blaine make it a war of wizards in head-to-head magicians’ mayhem.

Criss filmed the episode for his Spike TV series “Believe” on Fremont Street Downtown, while David shot a segment of his ABC 90-minute special at the new Nobu Caesars Palace.

Our Cirque du Soleil “Believe” headliner at the Luxor pays tribute to horror-film legend Clive Barker with one of the most frightening and incredible illusions ever. “Lord of Illusions — Death Premonition” is derived from Clive’s 1995 movie.

Criss is the only, and first, magician in the world granted permission from the inventor and filmmaker to re-create the film’s death-defying stunt.

Criss will lay beneath a suspended circle of swords. If his prediction with audience volunteers selecting the sharp blades goes off-track, he faces certain death, as the wrong one would instantly penetrate his heart. He has to correctly predict the order of six falling swords chosen at random by a spectator selected via a thrown bouncing ball — and escape the final one before it kills him.

The highly dangerous demonstration filmed on Fremont Street kicks off the second half of his Spike series. It’s the fifth time in the past seven episodes that he cheats serious injury — or death.

When filming was completed, critics claimed another Las Vegas magician had developed the illusions, but a Spike senior production exec blasted the allegation:

“The demonstration Criss created for his new TV series was inspired by the ‘Lord of Illusion’ himself Clive Barker. He has been a huge proponent of Criss’ since the ’90s. Mr. Barker contacted Criss originally in 1995 to work on the ‘Lord of Illusions’ film. Soon after, Mr. Barker recorded the intro for Criss’s album ‘World of Illusion: System 1’ in the trilogy, and two decades ago said this: ‘Criss Angel is extraordinary, a spectacular mix of visionary magic. This is the future, and it can’t come quickly enough.’

“Before Criss even began the creative process for this demonstration, he sought out Mr. Barker and was given his wholehearted approval of the homage. Mr. Barker also filmed the introduction for this illusion and is appearing in this episode on Spike. Criss is the only magician to whom Clive has given his permission and blessing to re-create this demonstration, and no one else should be performing it without Mr. Barker's permission. Clive summed it up best by stating, ‘Criss is our real-life Lord of Illusion!’ ”

Criss told me: “He gave me the rights, and I brought it to life as it was depicted in the movie. It turned out to be an enormous success, with literally thousands of people who showed up to witness it. It was very dramatic, and it is going to make for an amazing episode. It worked out really great for the television show.

“It is just an amazing situation to be in to have Clive Barker, the king of horror movies, be there and such a proponent of me doing this. Anybody else who is doing anything like that, with that imagery, is doing it without Clive’s permission. It is something that I sought out from Clive, and he gave me the appropriate permission.

“If you go to my website and you look under movies, you will see Clive Barker’s video that he made for me. The demonstration I undertook to re-create was in a movie from 1995 that shows this very illusion. To say I stole it is absolutely crazy when I had the permission to bring it to life from the original movie.

“I had six swords hanging above my body, and I had to predict, which I did days prior, the sequence of those six swords falling. The falling swords were randomly chosen live on Fremont Street by having a woman throw a ball into thousands of people. One would pick a number between 1 and 6. As they picked the number between 1 and 6, each number was assigned to align a rope that was holding that particular sword.

“Whatever sequence the audience called the numbers out is the order that the swords fell. I had to predict it correctly to saved my life in front of the crowd. I dreamed that it was going to be the order that it was going to be, and, if it was, I’d be safe. If it wasn’t, and I was one number off, then that sword would cut right through my heart.

“Essentially, I lay there, and the swords came down literally inches from my body. One hung 16 to 17 feet in the air directly over my heart. The other issue was even if I was correct with the sequence, I had to deal with wind and weather. Having the slightest gust of wind, I could have still gotten nailed with a sword. I had two things to deal with: I had to have the correct prediction of sequence, and I had to deal with other outside elements like the weather, like the wind.

“We have no control of those uncertainties to work just right when the swords fell, that they would just miss my body with the exception of the one over my heart, and that one would only fall over my heart if that wasn’t the last sword and I wasn’t correct in my prediction.

“Essentially, it came down to two swords that hung in the air. There was a 50/50 shot that she would pull either the right sword or the wrong sword, and she, fortunately, changed her mind and pulled the other sword, and that sword came down and just missed me. The final sword left hanging was directly above my heart. I got off the table and released that sword to show that it indeed fell literally where I would have been impaled right through my heart.

“We built up the drama of the demonstration especially for television, so immediately some critics said I was screwing up and getting it wrong. But it was designed that way, and they don’t understand television nor are they appearing on it. We had to have the tease and the excitement before the commercial break before the final 6 minutes of the falling swords.

“The entire time, though, I had to believe in my ability and my talent. I lay on the table and prayed I was dead right so I wouldn’t be dead.”

DAVID BLAINE

Nobu Caesars Palace Hotel Sake Ceremony, David Blaine Filming

The Nobu Caesars Palace Hotel grand-opening celebration sake ceremony and David Blaine filming Sunday, April 28, 2013. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

David Blaine, right, with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, on Blaine's ABC special "Real or Magic."

Click to enlarge photo

David Blaine, right, with Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jaden Smith and Trey Smith, on Blaine's ABC special "Real or Magic."

Street magician David Blaine is known for tests of endurance during his death-defying feats. He’s trapped himself for three days inside a 6-foot block of ice, jailed himself for a week inside a metal globe of sparking electricity, hung suspended in a box without food or water for seven days in New York’s Time Square and beaten drowning while locked inside a bubble below water. He even broke the world record and held his breath for more than 17 minutes on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

Tonight, it’s a little more comfortable with “Real or Magic” on ABC as he entertains a slew of stars including Katy Perry, Woody Allen, Ricky Gervais, Jamie Foxx, Bryan Cranston, Kanye West, Harrison Ford, Stephen Hawking and former President George W. Bush.

He demonstrated an amazing illusion with an astonished Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. At Nobu Caesars Palace, Nobu Matsuhisa and Robert De Niro welcomed David to the opening of their new boutique hotel and restaurant at Caesars Palace. I watched as David drank several bottles of water for one illusion and then regurgitated it with goldfish into an aquarium. Then we all had to move back as he blew huge flames from his mouth!

Said David: “For years, I’ve been doing stunts, and everybody says to me, ‘Do what you do best, in magic.’ But I like doing the stunts so much. I finally agreed to do a magic show because for the last couple years, I have been doing magic every single day everywhere I go.

“And now, with these little iPhones, you can film everything. I would be doing magic for the president, for President Bush or Stephen Hawking. And I’d capture it. Wow, this is what the show needs to be!”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade 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 Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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