Decked out in a tuxedo, velour turtleneck, black gloves and a feral black-and-silver-striped mask that has prompted passersby to stop and gawk at him, the man known as the Masked Magician sits on a Beverly Hills park bench fretting to a reporter about his fear of being unmasked. Since performing on FOX's blockbuster hit special Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed last November (part three airs May 5), the MM has discovered that revealing his craft's age-old secrets—levitation (yep, a forklift), disappearing elephants (smoke and mirrors) and women sawed in half (scrunched-up legs)—is risky business. "The magicians are out to get me," says the turncoat trickster about numerous death threats posted on the Internet. "I've put my life on the line."

Melodrama aside, the Masked Magician is convinced he's actually helping a fusty profession. "Magicians can't keep doing the same tricks century after century," he says. "I'm giving them a kick in the pants." Other magicians might prefer to give him a kick in the teeth. "It's pathetic," says David Copperfield. "FOX is putting magicians out of work."

Though the network has gotten hate mail from the likes of Nick Knock the Clown and the Amazing Larry, the Masked Magician has managed to keep his identity under wraps, despite a rumor that he's a Las Vegas magician named Valentino. How has he done it? "I'm a magician," he says without a trace of irony, "so I keep secrets all the time." Hocus bogus.