Live Report: Criss Angel Cement Block Escape, Part 1

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As you may have read in this weeks B&C Week column, Criss Angel, A&E’s master illusionist/magician is pulling a Houdini/Blaine (hopefully more Houdini than Blaine) and attempting an escape in the heart of New York’s (rainy) Times Square. Angel has been placed in a box, surrounded by concrete, and hoisted 4 stories up. He will try and escape by 7:30 am tomorrow… or else. I dropped by and chatted with a few of the observers, as well as Criss Angel: Mindfreak magic consultant Banachek about what exactly the escape entailed.

On 46th st. between Broadway and 8th ave. a crowd was gathered in the rain, a mix of young and old, die hard fans and curious passersby. A young woman named Allison, wearing all black, was standing right by the front of the crowd, as Banachek took the mic, asking the crowd to cheer Criss on, she was one of the most vocal supporters. “I love Criss and his show! It is so cool that I get to see him doing this in person, it is awesome,” Allison exclaimed. “When he escapes tomorrow morning, I want to be in the front of everybody. I am so excited to see this, and I might get to be on the show!”

Also mingling with the crowd was Jeff Willows, who was visiting New York from Dallas. “I was just walking from our hotel with my wife Emily, and we saw this crowd here, and we thought we would check it out,” said Jeff. “I have never seen his show, but this is pretty wild stuff, I might check it out and see if we appear in the background.” Jeff went on: “It is really pretty incredible, you know, just walking around here, you see so much crazy stuff, I mean, you walk down the street and, you know, there’s a Starbucks, there’s a McDonald's, there’s a guy like Houdini and hanging however many feet above the ground, just wild.”

After talking to some of the members of the crowd, I spoke to Banachek, one of the magic consultants on Criss Angel’s show, and a mentalist and magician in his own right:

Video clip from the (now defunct) TechTV show Unscrewed.

B&C: Did you help Criss prepare for this escape?

Banachek: : No real preparation really, I mean, what you see is what you get. Criss says that he is going to do it for real, he says he is going to escape from there and he will figure it out as he does it. Building it and putting it together that was actually Bob North that put together the whole thing. We’ve got two cubes, so that one cube goes inside the other, we put cement inside of the outer box first, than they put the other cube in, and then Criss went inside and they bolted the top down, then they put cement along the sides of the outer cube, right now it is about 13 inches up, 3 and a half inches thick. Next comes the second phase, where we will pour cement all along the sides, and over the top. There is a camera in there, and it is an infared camera, so you can watch everything all the time, even when it is dark, Criss is not going to try and escape until it (the cement) is entirely cured. The whole thing will weigh about 6,000 pounds total.

B&C: What did Criss do to prepare for this?

Banachek: Mentally he prepares inside the box, he tries not to think about it a lot or do too much ahead of time, he told me what he was going to try and do was force his way through, I have been told that that is not possible, but with Criss, anything is possible.

B&C: Could you give us a preview of the upcoming season? Anything that you have been involved with?

Banachek: Right, well, I am the magic producer so I am involved with almost every aspect of the magic all the way through. From the inception in the beginning to the execution. We actually had to sit in a room for over two weeks and come up with over 350 tricks for this season, some of it is extra stuff that we know won’t be seen, some of that footage makes it out later, because it is still some pretty cool stuff it just didn’t fit into the episodes. What we are doing this Tuesday is that Criss, is going to be floating about 500 feet above Las Vegas Boulevard, but not just over Las Vegas Boulevard, but atop the light on the Luxor, in the light. That was an incredible stunt, in fact it took us almost the entire season to figure out exactly how to do that… we had to deal with 40-60 mile per hour winds, because the winds all get funneled up and they all meet up in that area over there. I mean it is one of the two structures you can see from space… And it is one more stunt that when you watch it, he is up there all by himself, it is one of those things that you can’t have someone else be there, he had to do it by himself.

B&C: thank you for talking to us.

Banachek: no problem

So that is the B&C magic/escape artist report for today, stop by again tomorrow, when we will see if Criss Angel lives… or dies. Hopefully he will live, because we have an interview scheduled.

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