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Mystery tops secrets of magic

If a masked magician exposed secrets on a UHF station in the woods and no one cared, did they make a sound?

School lets out this week, and magicians are looking forward to their busy season. David Copperfield plans three shows each Saturday in June. A new one called “Amazed” starts at the V Theater June 16. And no one worries that MyNetworkTV (KVMY-TV, Channel 21 locally) devoted a whole spring’s worth of Mondays to “Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed.”

What a difference 11 years makes. In late 1997, a Las Vegas magician named Valentino stepped away from his afternoon gig in “Viva Las Vegas” to become “The Masked Magician” on a Fox special.

The show drew big ratings and bigger outcry. The Review-Journal’s Michael Paskevich called Valentino “a greedy little twit,” echoing the sentiments of the magic fraternity.

The mask returned last fall with strong results for the little network. About 10 million people tuned in during November sweeps, with combined airings roughly matching the numbers for last week’s scandal-hot “Jon & Kate Plus 8.”

But no one is measuring Valentino’s neck for a rope. Las Vegas magician Rick Thomas’ only beef is that “Secrets” comes on right after the straight-forward “Masters of Illusion,” which featured him in a repeat last week. “I would have to tell you it’s the most bizarre choice of programming I have ever witnessed,” he says.

Flamingo headliner Nathan Burton says it’s rare for anyone he meets after a show to mention “Secrets.” “Anyone can go on the Internet and find out stuff,” he says. “It’s out there if you search hard enough.”

You can look it up on your iPhone. In 1998, those who had cell phones wore the big things in holsters like Old West gunslingers. Could be that too much information leads to less interest in the information.

“Most people have a short attention span,” Burton says. Thomas agrees, “They’re interested in how it’s done, but not interested in remembering it.”

Harrah’s Las Vegas comic magician Mac King says, “To me it’s never been about that anyway. It’s about the guy.”

The masked magician — not speaking, communicating with only his eyes behind the wrestling mask — accidentally proves it. “You watch a few minutes and get bored,” Burton says.

Gotta admit, I watched a few times, and he’s right. It was fun to learn the answers to questions that still nagged after years of magic shows: How does he get that hoop all the way around the levitating assistant to show there are no wires?

But a long time ago, a magician warned me the secrets of magic weren’t near as much fun as the mysteries. Thank you, masked man, for proving him right.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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