Meet the magician being called the next David Blaine
Hezi Dean's extreme stunts are gaining him fans around the world. So what's up his sleeve next?
There are magicians, and there are illusionists. Then there's Hezi Dean.
The Tel Aviv native likes to use the term "extreme magician," because he thinks that describes what he does best, whether on stage, doing street magic, or performing a stunt that goes viral.
"It doesn’t matter if you take a coin and vanish the coin in your hand or you’re standing on the edge of a pole for two days, Dean told From The Grapevine. "They’re both cases that you did something that most people cannot do. I’m doing the impossible."
Dean has earned a huge following in Israel and elsewhere through the extreme stunts he's performed during the past decade. For instance, he recently levitated over a busy square in Tel Aviv for an entire day, making himself look like he was holding onto a building with only one hand. It was a stunt that went viral.
Dean has also performed stunts that broke the endurance records of one of the world's most famous magicians, American David Blaine. In 2010, Dean spent 66 hours encased in a block of ice, and in 2011, he spent 35 hours standing atop a pole nine stories above Tel Aviv.
Magic has been a part of Dean's life since he was 6. A uncle in New York showed Dean a basic trick before a birthday party.
"He showed me how to take a match, break it and then make it one piece again," Dean said. "I did it before an audience. Everybody was in shock. It was amazing because everybody was standing watching you, and you can see the faces of everybody and their eyes. You understand that they’re asking, 'How did you do that?'"
Dean continued to practice magic through high school, studying legends like David Copperfield and Harry Houdini, and performing mostly at birthday parties. After graduation, Dean added street magic to his stage-based illusions, mostly from watching Blaine's television specials.
"You’re not doing things on a stage, with big lights and a big show," Dean said. "It was something genius for me because it was so small. I think, 'This is real magic.'"
When he was in his mid-20s, Dean knew he had to kick the size and scope of his illusions up a notch, mainly so he could get noticed. "I saw that I needed something new, something bigger," he said. "The other reason for those stunts is publicity. There is something very beautiful when you do it on the street. Houdini used to do it before there was television."
Dean's performed many major stunts, like having a car roll over him while lying in broken glass, or performing Houdini's straight-jacket escape while strung up between two high rises with ropes set afire. But the pole and ice endurance stunts implied that Dean saw Blaine as direct competition. According to Dean, however, nothing could be further from the truth.
"It’s just a gimmick, that’s it," he said. "David Blaine is a genius. For me, he’s the master. I’m not trying to be an enemy of David Blaine."
He doesn't pretend to decipher how people like Blaine and Copperfield do their stunts. He was interested, however, in the mental discipline needed to endure them.
"There is no trick when you are in an ice cube for a few days," Dean said. "You need to know how to think, how to act. I don’t know how and what David Blaine thinks, so I need to develop something for me," he said. "My trick, if you can call it a trick, is that I think everybody can do everything, but you must have a reason. You need to do it for something."
In other words, the attention Dean receives is the motivation that keeps him from breaking during those stunts. In the case of the levitation stunt, he had a live show to promote.
"I like to do things that make hype, that everybody’s talking about," he said. "Everybody has a laptop and Facebook, and it was something amazing. In six hours, eight hours, the pictures went to so many people and went out of Israel to a lot of places. It’s something cool."
His live show has stage-based stunts that also incorporate segments where Dean leaves the stage and goes to the lobby or a nearby street. All of these illusions take a lot of planning, and Dean is constantly thinking about how tricks are designed.
"All the biggest magicians in the world, we have the same problem. We’re working 24 hours a day," he said. "I’m dreaming about the trick. This is something that I have all the time in my head, and all the time I’m trying to develop new things."
For example, Dean said he thought about the levitation stunt for two years. He estimates it took five to six months for his team to plan and design.
Because the levitation stunt introduced him to a wider audience, he's started to schedule shows outside of Israel for the first time. He's planning a television special in Barcelona and is looking to perform the levitation trick in Shanghai. He's also planning for his next big stunt, which he claims "no one in the world has done."
"This is something that I have on my mind for a long time," he said. "I’m thinking when I do it, it will be something that [will be seen] all over the world. I know that it makes you curious, but I’m sorry. You want to know what I’m talking about, but this is something that I’m leaving to myself until I do it."
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