Last week, David Blaine was a guest on the In Depth with Graham Bensinger podcast. He took the time to share some magic with Graham, his wife and the team. In the clip, Blaine performs a version of Double Cross (which officially settles it: every magician in the world performs Double Cross) and some card tricks you may have seen before.
When Blaine initially took the world by storm, he caused quite a stir in the magic community: many magicians were taken aback and angered by the fact he was, in their words, simply performing ‘off-the-shelf magic tricks on the street.’ The thought of these magicians getting so upset by such a thing bemuses me. Especially when, years later, working with Dynamo, the number one complaint I heard from magicians was that Dynamo was performing magic that they couldn’t buy and do at their gigs too.
Blaine’s early TV work featured commercially available tricks like the coin bite, rising card and self-tying shoelaces (all brilliant tricks). I remember reading a quote from Blaine along the lines of being in disbelief that a deck of cards had taken him all around the world.
So, what is it about Blaine that’s led to his success? If anyone can buy or learn these tricks, what makes him so special? Is it his choice of magic? Perhaps it’s his relentless pursuit and devotion to the history and future of the craft or the talented humans he surrounds himself with.
I remember working with a talent booker at the BBC. She adamantly swore that the only magicians who become world-famous are the ones who are interesting without the tricks. If people want to watch a magician on a talk show for ten minutes and they’re not thinking, c’mon, then show us a trick already, then you may have found a new star.
But Blaine performing Double Cross genuinely surprised me. The two subtleties he adds are nice. Blaine performs a version that is unique to him, for being unique-to-him’s sake. But will spectators notice it is any different from the regular version?
Heck, I’ve seen people perform Double Cross to spectators who have said they’ve seen this one before. It’s perhaps the most done-to-death trick of recent years.
While I was working with Dynamo, he began performing an excellent addition for a version of a well-known kiss card trick. He wanted to perform a version no one else could—because he wanted to perform that trick because it’s brilliant.
I recall being incredibly proud of the addition but unsure of its impact. Years later, I still get asked about it by hobbyists and professional magicians alike.
On a magic project abroad, the director only recently asked about how Dynamo did the trick. “I’ve YouTube’d it,” they said, “but no one explains how he can show the card one last time! That’s real magic, that.”
Of course, no layperson has ever mentioned the variation to me.
But that’s beside the point, perhaps; Dynamo was able to perform a good trick knowing no one else could do it the exact same way.
I suppose even I, preacher of the idea that you don’t need more tricks, sometimes need a reminder.
This new Blaine video was that reminder.
Focus on good magic.
Perform it well.