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Published: 5/12/2006

Irish magic man: Keith Barry confounds close-watching celebs on CBS special

BY MIKE KELLY
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE
Keith Barry Keith Barry
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Do you believe in magic?

Most people don't, and rightfully so, but after watching Keith Barry in action tonight on CBS, you might just be inclined to suspend your disbelief.

Keith Barry: Extraordinary, which airs from 8 to 9 p.m., features the Irish-born magician in his first U.S. prime time TV special. The 30-year-old Barry - who calls himself a "psychological illusionist" - has been big in Europe for years, and he made his first splash in the U.S. in 2004 with a popular MTV special called Brainwashed. He now performs regularly before Hollywood audiences, becoming a self-styled "magician to the stars."

The spiky-haired Barry is not to be confused with ABC's own resident illusionist, David Blaine, who earlier this week topped off a week long stay in a giant fishbowl by trying to hold his breath for 9 minutes. (He didn't succeed, and wound up spending the night in a hospital.)

Rather than bizarre and flashy stunts like that, Barry concentrates mostly on a stock assortment of parlor tricks, but he gives his routines a glitzy twist by performing them before an array of show business celebrities and semi-celebs.

In tonight's show, he rolls out a variation on the old three-shell game, but turns it into a kind of Russian roulette with actor Elijah Wood and super model Rachel Hunter, both of whom must trust their instincts - and Barry's sleight-of-hand abilities - to avoid impaling their hands on sharpened spikes hidden under one of several cones.

He offers actress Vivica Fox and two pals $1 million in cash if he can't pull off a card trick involving all three of them.

Others who drive themselves crazy trying to figure out Barry's tricks while sitting just a few feet away from him include actors Matthew McConaughey, Nicollette Sheridan (Desperate Housewives), David Krumholtz (Numb3ers), and Wilmer Valderrama (That '70s Show).

He even performs a "mind-control experiment" on singer-actress Jessica Simpson. (We'll pause here for a second while you come up with your own one-liner about that.)

Like any good illusionist, Barry also includes a couple of "death-defying" stunts in his program.

While blindfolded and hooded, he takes a couple of spins in a convertible along a winding, hilly road - each time accompanied by a terrified passenger. First to ride shotgun is Nicole Scherzinger, lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls, who gasps, "How did you do that?!"

His next passenger, the rapper Eve, is even more impressed. When the car screeches to a stop and Barry's blindfold comes off, she has only one thing to say to Barry: "Let me drive!"

In another dangerous-looking stunt, the illusionist must try to escape a hangman's noose during a public "execution."

Barry, who is contracted with CBS for several more specials over the next few years, may be the network's heir apparent to veteran hocus-pocus master David Copperfield, 49, who has been making people and things disappear in a string of specials on CBS for more than two decades.

If the network ever decides that it's Copperfield's turn to disappear, Keith Barry will be ready to replace him faster than you can say abracadabra!



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