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Avon Lake illusionist says NBC pushed changes


‘Phenomenon` contestant`s routine hurt by late change

Although she didn`t exactly wow famed illusionist-judges Uri Geller and Criss Angel on Wednesday night`s episode of NBC`s "Phenomenon," Avon Lake`s Angela Funovits said that didn`t bother her as much as network officials asking her and others to alter their routines before airtime.


"It really tested my ability to think on my feet and act like nothing had happened," Funovits, 20, said by phone Thursday morning from Los Angeles - less than 12 hours after her feats of magic failed to earn the same praise as her earlier performances did.

"I can`t really go into detail because we can`t reveal any methods or secrets, but I can say that the performance and the effect I had planned were supposed to be different," Funovits said. "It wasn`t quite working, so I had to go with something else" after NBC officials urged a change.

"Sometimes, it was just hours before we were to go live, and I was still making adjustments. It was pretty stressful."

Funovits is one of five finalists to advance to next week`s finale, where a winner will be awarded $250,000 as determined by votes of callers and online participants.

Performing first on Wednesday`s program, the model and actress crowned Miss Teen Cleveland in 2004 pulled off her illusion`s major setpiece when an instant photo she took of "Extra" co-host Dayna Devon showed the name "Brent" appearing above Devon`s head.

Brent was the previously unidentified person Devon was thinking of.

But Geller said the routine "failed to mystify me," while Angel said Funovits didn`t engage the audience.

A 2005 Avon Lake High grad and medical student, Funovits said there were various reasons behind the changes.

"They were pushing things to have more of an element of danger and to be more visual. Mentalism is inherently not that visual."

A mentalist is defined as someone with the ability to know not only what another person is thinking, but to be able to influence that other person`s thoughts.

The daughter of William and Fong Funovits, Angela said she wasn`t the only contestant asked to alter their act prior to airtime.

"One of the other contestants had to make much bigger changes. It was 180 degrees," she said.

She added that the changes sought were a healthy challenge. "It pushed me, but that`s the risk you take with live TV. You have to adjust."

The experience had a silver lining, she said, in that it resulted in the competing illusionists working together.

"Everybody helped each other out," Funovits said. "It was great to see how everybody supported each other. We`ve become a second family, and no matter what happens, I`ve made lifelong friends here."

Funovits said she couldn`t reveal her final illusion for next week`s program, but she said it will be more visual in nature and involve the audience more.

She said she has become homesick since going to L.A. for the program in early October.

"This hotel room has become my home. I really miss my family, home-cooked meals and my dog begging for food," she said. "It`ll be good to get back there."

Contact Steve Fogarty at 328-7139 or

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