What do Magicians think of the Masked Magician?

By Scott Dietrich
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This is a question I have been asked countless times. It’s understandable, because in 1997 when Fox first aired “Breaking the Magician’s Code: Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed” starring Val Valentino (aka the Masked Magician) many people thought, “the jig was up” for magic as we know it.


In one of the final specials, when the Masked Magician’s identity was revealed, Val Valentino gave a four minute speech to the viewer, explaining his motives. He said that he was wasn’t revealing his identity because of the controversy, or pressure from fellow magicians, rather his love of magic, and fear that it had taken a backseat to movies and video games, and was in danger of being forgotten. He wanted to let the viewer in on the magic, to increase their appreciation of the art. And force magicians to reinvent; letting go of “old and tired tricks”.


1) The Masked Magician


My feeling is this was a convenient and well-constructed explanation of motives that were ultimately driven by ratings and money. The controversy these specials incited was deliberate, and served in garnering even more viewership, and higher ratings for Fox.


I agree that the secret or trick is only a part of the overall experience of magic. My father always taught me that “magic is 95% showmanship and 5% the effect (or trick)”. This is true, and why the majority of my magical journey has been spent pursuing the arts. Primarily acting, speaking, writing, dancing and other movement related arts.


However as a magician, when I watch a magic show, I’m watching from a very different perspective. Having a deep understanding of many magic principles, I’m not easily fooled, so I’m more focused on technique and the overall experience the magician is able to create for his/her audience. The performance aspects are where I find most of my enjoyment.


That being said, I love to be fooled. When I see magic that I don’t understand, it allows me that sense of wonder that most non-magicians take for granted. I feel like a kid again, and it reminds me why we do what we do. We allow people the opportunity to momentarily suspend their disbelief, and dream again; unencumbered by the rigidity of our current reality.


Now that’s not to say that teaching magic is bad, how else would the lineage continue? I think everyone should know at least a couple of tricks. It’s a great way to break the ice, and boost confidence in children and adults alike. In fact, I teach a magic trick in every show I perform. However, teaching a simple sleight of hand trick to a dozen children at a birthday party is quite different than blatantly revealing some of magic’s best kept secrets on national television.


Unfortunately, for many people when the secret is discovered, the illusion (or experience) is ruined. That is why, even if the trick itself only accounts for 5% of the whole, it’s still important to keep the secret, secret.


As discussed in my previous blog entitled “Where is the best place to learn magic?”, I shared that many of magic’s greatest secrets can readily be found with a library card and some diligence. However, how many people do? Mastery of anything takes patience, persistence and practice. For the true greats in the magical arts, Anders Ericsson’s rule of 10,000 hours holds true.


Popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his hit “Outliers”, the rule claims “that the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours.”


2) Outliers


So rather than secrets keeping the audience out of the experience, the magician’s secrecy and tireless efforts to mastering their art, allow the audience into a world of fantasy, otherwise inaccessible.


As for magic being forgotten in our fast moving world, brimming with new technologies, big budget movies and video games, I’m afraid this was another of Val’s well-crafted illusions. In 1997, the very year The Masked Magician’s specials started airing; a little book by the name of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was released. This was followed by 6 more books in the series, and eight movies that crushed in the theatres. Also, a young magician by the name of David Blaine burst on the scene, in 1997, reigniting people’s imagination with his stripped down, street magic. His stunts and specials have continued to mystify us for over a decade now.




These are just a couple of examples, of our ongoing love affair with magic. Magic wasn’t, and isn’t going anywhere. It’s one the oldest professions known to man, and continues to reinvent itself, as new technologies become available. So for Val to suggest that his specials are pushing the needle of progress was yet another fabrication.


The reality is, these specials are still being produced and aired. Throughout history people have been trying to expose magicians, yet not only are we still here, magic is thriving. I believe that is because our world needs magic now more than ever. In a harsh, cynical, and sometimes depressing world, magic offers a glimpse of hope, possibility and wonder. Support a vanishing art, hire a magician.


Scott Dietrich


Level 7 (XP: 2650)
great post! :D