Ahhhhh! I said no exceptions! This is supposed to be difficult, and nearly impossible. I know that everyone influences us in different ways, but surely there is one performer whom you believe has the best balance of everything a performer should ... ?
The biggest problem with that, and the reason these threads are usually "Top 5", is that having only one person to draw inspirations has a bad tendency of making you a copy cat. That is why having a few serious influences is generally a better way to look at it. That way, even if you lack the self confidence to create your own persona, at least you will be somewhat unique if only for the combination of influences you choose from.
For analogy, think of whiskey. Cheap whiskey in a mixed drink can still make a tasty cocktail but by itself cheap whiskey is just cheap whiskey.
I completely understand what you are saying. I'd like to clarify this for everyone reading: I am not advocating drawing influence from only one performer and using that performer's style and mannerisms in imitation. What I am challenging everyone to do is to consider the many facets of a great magician, and attempt to name the one whom you believe to possess all of those qualities in the best ratios.
Inspiration should indeed be drawn from as many places and people as possible! Nonetheless, I do believe that one performer likely inspires one person more than does any other. My intention with this thread is to force magicians to deliberate over what qualities ideally suit their causes and styles in magic. Once those things have been decided, I hope everyone will entertain the question of which magician from history best fit(s) that profile. The final question: How did that magician fit those criteria from your perspective, and what about this performer in particular would you wish to do just as well (not identically, mind you; rather, with as much efficacy).
Every cocktail must have the right ratios of spirits and other ingredients. Some have too much alcohol and not enough flavor. Others have too much flavor and not enough kick. The perfect cocktail is an entirely subjective concept, and may never exist. Just like a cocktail, a magician must have certain qualities in just the right proportions. The questions are, A) Which performer comes closest to the perfect mix of alcohol and flavors? B) How so? and C) Which of your own ingredients do you wish to adjust in light of observing said performer?
Also, please keep in mind that I am struggling with this topic myself, and naturally there is no correct answer due to the subjectivity of the prompt. Discussion is the ultimate goal.