In an interesting and touching report, Esquire profiles magician Teller and his current unique situation.
Back in April, we posted this story: Teller sues to protect his magical work of art. Well, the claim has NOT been resolved and has gotten even more strange.
Against a crimson curtain, Bakardy had erected an easel with what looked like a large pad of white paper on it. Perhaps six feet in front of the easel sat a small wood table bearing a glass Coke bottle filled with water. That bottle also contained a single rose. A spotlight, outside of the camera’s view, cast the rose’s shadow on the paper on the easel. Dressed in a dark suit, Bakardy appeared in the frame carrying a large knife in his right hand. He sliced it deep into the rose’s shadow. And when he cut into its shadow, something impossible happened: The corresponding part of the rose fell off the stem and onto the table. Petal by petal, Bakardy cut at the rose’s shadow until that Coke bottle somehow held only a decapitated stem, which he removed as though to demonstrate the absence of wires. He then lifted up the bottle itself — still no strings attached — and poured out the water. Ta-da.
The video ended with Bakardy’s e-mail address and an offer to sell the props necessary for the Rose & Her Shadow for what turned out to be 2,450 euros, or about $3,050 at the time. In bold white type across the bottom of the screen, Bakardy left a final message for his fellow magicians, including a dumbstruck Teller: EASY TO PERFORM.
Except that is the trick that Teller had previously copyrighted.
In 1983, he obtained a U. S. certificate of copyright registration for Shadows. It was the first time he’d attempted anything of the sort. Teller knew that Houdini, beset by copyists, had tried to protect his tricks by writing them into one-act plays. (Pantomimes were, and remain, protected by law.) Teller wasn’t seeking to defend Shadows as a magic trick, but more as a piece of performance art. His filing even included a typewritten description of the trick in which he refers to himself as “the Murderer,” along with an illustration of a grinning Teller, clad entirely in black, carving up a rose by slicing into its shadow.
Until Bakardy came along, Teller had never needed his copyright filings to stake a claim. “It’s not like good manners and generosity are inappropriate ways to behave in the world,” he says. When he has contacted light-fingered magicians in the past, they have always apologized and stopped performing the trick.
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“It’s so beautiful, I have tears in my eyes when he’s finished, I really do,” says the Amazing Randi. “The hush in the audience, my God, nobody breathes. I swear they’re turning blue. You hardly blink. That’s what makes it a very brave trick.”
It is art, I agree, having also seen it in person. I’m a fan of Penn & Teller magic as beautiful, entertaining, enlightening, and AS AN ART.
But this case with Bakardy has taken a bizarre turn. He has disappeared. Thus, the paperwork for the lawsuit can not be served. An update at the end of the article notes that someone claiming to be Bakardy contacted Esquire and claims to have filed a complaint in Belgian court against Teller for “libel, slander, defaming, fraud, extortion-blackmail, etc.”