Tuesday, May 09, 2006

David Blaine

[This guy is such a nut, but you know you can't get enough of him...]
David Blaine (born April 4, 1973) is an American illusionist and stunt performer born in Brooklyn, New York City. He made his name as a performer of close-up magic, usually working on the streets. Born David Blaine White, his father is Puerto Rican and his mother was Jewish of Russian descent....

Blaine began his career with street magic, performing card tricks and illusions such as levitation or bringing apparently dead flies back to life. Recorded live in front of everyday people by a small camera crew, this act provided the basis for his television specials, David Blaine: Street Magic, David Blaine: Magic Man, and David Blaine: Mystifier.

He later turned his attention to feats of endurance; these included being buried alive for seven days, spending 61 hours encased in ice, standing on a tiny, 22 inch (56 cm) wide platform at the top of a 90 foot (27 m) high pole for 35 hours, living in a transparent box for 44 days without food, and living underwater for 7 days.

Though not the first entertainer to perform street magic or survive endurance stunts, Blaine's unique contribution to magic was his charismatic use of video and television to reach the MTV Generation in a decade where magicians were out of touch with younger audiences.

Premature Burial

On April 5, 1999, Blaine spent seven days buried inside a glass coffin at the bottom of an open pit in front of an office building in New York City where passersby could view him, 24 hours a day.

"There were Jewish Hasids standing next to Muslim cabdrivers who were next to Black kids. Businessmen in designer suits stood beside heavily pierced street kids. Every conceiveable social type was represented," recalls Blaine. "I saw something truly incredible. I saw every race, every age-group, and every religion gathered together smiling, and that made everything worth it. I saw magic!"

Frozen in Time

On Monday, November 27, 2000, Blaine began a stunt called 'Frozen in Time'. Blaine spent time in a closet of ice located in Times Square, New York. A tube provided him with air and water, and a tube was provided for removal of his urine. He was encased in ice for 61 hours, 40 minutes, and 15 seconds before being removed. The block of ice was on a stand, with space between the ground, and the ice was transparent, to prove to skeptics that he was inside the ice the whole time. He was taken to the hospital immediately after being removed because doctors feared he was going into shock. He says he still could not walk normally a month after the stunt. A TV special aired covering the stunt.


On Monday 22 May 2002 Blaine began a stunt he named 'Vertigo'. Blaine was lifted by crane onto a 90 foot (27 m) high pillar in Bryant Park, New York City. He remained on the pillar, which was 22 inches (56 cm) wide, for nearly 35 hours without food or water or anything to lean on. Blaine appeared to be without safety harnesses and had no safety nets underneath him for almost the duration of the stunt. He ended the feat by jumping down onto a landing platform made of a 12 foot (3.7 m) high pile of cardboard boxes. He suffered a minor concussion on the way down because he hit his head on the boxes, from which he fully recovered.[1]

Mysterious Stranger

On October 29, 2002, Random House published Mysterious Stranger: A Book of Magic by David Blaine. Part autobiography, part history of magic, and part armchair treasure hunt, the book also includes instructions on how to perform card tricks and illusions.

The treasure hunt, Blaine's $100,000 Challenge, was devised by game designer Cliff Johnson, creator of The Fool's Errand, and was solved by Sherri Skanes on March 20, 2004, 16 months after the book's publication.

Above the Below

David Blaine suspended in front of City Hall, London (October 3, 2003)
David Blaine suspended in front of City Hall, London (October 3, 2003)

On September 5, 2003, Blaine began his 44-day endurance stunt sealed inside a transparent Plexiglas case suspended 30 feet (9 m) in the air over Potters Fields Park on the south bank of the River Thames in London. The case, measuring 7ft by 7ft by 3ft (2.1 x 2.1 x 0.9 m), had a webcam installed so that viewers could observe his progress. During this period the magician reportedly received no food but only water.

Contrary to his New York City stunt Premature Burial, the majority of Londoners were generally against the performance happening in their city, although at first there were little signs of protest. Later, the stunt became the subject of much press and media attention.

Newspapers reported that eggs, lemons, sausages, bacon, water bottles, beer cans, paint-filled balloons and golf balls had all been thrown at the box; a hamburger was flown round the box by radio-controlled model helicopter (a stunt organised and implemented by a British 'lads' magazine); one man was arrested for climbing the scaffolding supporting Blaine's box and attempting to cut the power and water supply to the box; and the magician was treated to numerous displays of bare bottoms and breasts.

"You've picked the wrong town to be hung in, Mr Blaine," wrote The Sunday Times. "What is clear from the start is that Londoners are not taking Blaine quite as seriously as he takes himself. ... Really, it makes you proud to be British."

A gaunt Blaine emerged on schedule on October 19, murmuring "I love you all!" and was quickly hospitalized. A subsequent letter in the New England Journal of Medicine, co-written by Blaine, described his nutritional recovery, revealing similar symptoms often exhibited by the malnourished who are being reintroduced to liquid and solid foods. The letter reported that Blaine had lost 54 pounds (24.5 kg) during his fast.

Drowned Alive

David Blaine at Lincoln Center, sharing a moment with a fan as spectators look on (2 May 2006).
David Blaine at Lincoln Center, sharing a moment with a fan as spectators look on (2 May 2006).

On May 1, 2006, Blaine was submerged in an 8 foot (2.4 m) diameter, water-filled sphere (isotonic saline, 0.9% salt) in front of the Lincoln Center in New York for a planned seven days and seven nights, using tubes for air and nutrition. He concluded this event by attempting to hold his breath underwater to break the world record of 8 minutes, 58 seconds. In a change to the original stunt plans, whilst attempting to break this record, Blaine also tried to free himself from handcuffs and chains put on him upon coming out after the week in the sphere.[2] Blaine held his breath for seven minutes and eight seconds before being pulled up by the support divers, thus failing in his attempt.

Critics such as Mark Harris of the British Free Diving Association have been reported before the stunt saying that Blaine would have had an unfair advantage.[3] In any case, Blaine's feat could not have been officially recognized, as judges from the International Association for the Development of Apnea (IADA) were not present to verify that Blaine breathed no pure oxygen for at least two hours prior to beginning his attempt. For reference, the world record for holding one's breath after having breathed pure oxygen is closer to fifteen minutes.[4]

Blaine did nonetheless succeed in setting a record (as yet unrecognized by any record-keeping institution) for being fully submerged in water for more than seven days straight (170+ hours).

It is expected that Blaine will suffer medical problems as a result of his stunt.[5]

In an interview on the Howard Stern Show on Sirius satellite radio, Blaine spoke of the week long fasting he did before the "drowning alive" stunt, to prevent the need for solid waste issues. For urine, he wore an external, condom-style catheter.


1 comment:

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