David Blaine White, known simply as David Blaine (born April 4, 1973) is an American Guinness Book of Records world record-holder, magician, and endurance artist. He made his name as a performer of street and close-up magic.
On May 19, 1997, Blaine's first television special, David Blaine: Street Magic aired on the ABC network. According to The New York Daily News, “Blaine can lay claim to his own brand of wizardry. The magic he offers in tonight’s show operates on an uncommonly personal level.”
In Street Magic, Blaine is shown traveling across the country, entertaining unsuspecting pedestrians in New York City, Atlantic City, Dallas, San Francisco, Compton, and the Mojave Desert recorded by a small crew with handheld cameras. Jon Racherbaumer commented, "Make no mistake about it, the focus of this show, boys and girls, is not Blaine. It is really about theatrical proxemics; about the show-within-a-show and the spontaneous, visceral reactions of people being astonished.
On April 5 1999, Blaine was entombed in an underground plastic box underneath a 3-ton water-filled tank for seven days across from Trump Place on 68th St. and Riverside Drive. The New York Daily News' Virginia Breen wrote, "Developer Donald Trump, who donated use of the space, tossed a shovelful of gravel into the grave in mock solemnity." According to CNN, "Blaine's only communication to the outside world was by a hand buzzer, which could have alerted an around-the-clock emergency crew standing by." BBC News reported that the cramped plastic coffin offered six inches (152 mm) of headroom and two inches on each side. During the seven days of the endurance stunt, Blaine ate nothing and drank only two to three tablespoons of water a day. An estimated 75,000 people visited the site, including Marie Blood, Harry Houdini's niece, who said, "My uncle did some amazing things, but he could not have done this. On the final day of the stunt, April 12, hundreds of news teams were stationed at the site for the coffin-opening ceremony. A team of construction workers removed a portion of the of gravel surrounding the six-foot deep coffin before a crane lifted the 3-ton water tank. Blaine emerged from his underground coffin and told the crowd "I saw something very prophetic ... a vision of every race, every religion, every age group banding together, and that made all this worthwhile." Reiterating Marie Blood's remarks, BBC News stated,"The 26-year-old magician has outdone his hero, Harry Houdini, who had planned a similar feat but died in 1926 before he could perform it.
On November 27, 2000, Blaine began a stunt called "Frozen in Time", which was covered on a TV special. Blaine stood encased in a massive block of ice located in Times Square, New York. He was lightly dressed and seen to be shivering even before the blocks of ice were sealed around him. A tube supplied him with air and water while his urine was removed with another tube. He was encased in the box of ice for 63 hours, 42 minutes and 15 seconds before being removed with chain saws. The ice was transparent and resting on an elevated platform to show that he was actually inside the ice the entire time. CNN confirmed that "thousands of people braved the pouring rain Wednesday night to catch a glimpse of Blaine as workers cut away at the ice. He was removed from the ice in an obviously dazed and disoriented state, wrapped in blankets and taken to the hospital immediately because doctors feared he might be going into shock. The New York Times reported, "The magician who emerged from the increasingly unstable ice box seemed a shadow of the confident, robust, shirtless fellow who entered two days before. Blaine said in the documentary follow-up to this feat that it took "a month" before he was able to walk again and that he had no plans to ever again attempt a stunt of this difficulty.
On May 22 2002, a crane lifted Blaine onto a 90 ft (22 m) high and 22 in (55.88 cm) wide pillar in Bryant Park, New York City. Although he was not harnessed to the pillar, there were two retractable handles on either side of him to grasp in the event of harsh weather. The Evening Standard's James Langton wrote, "He was battered by high winds and unusually cold May weather during his first night and would have been killed or seriously injured if he had fallen. He remained on the pillar for exactly 35 hours. The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik wrote, “David Blaine, standing up there, is actually as good a magical metaphor for the moment as Houdini, fighting his way out of the straitjacket of immigrant identity toward prosperity, was for his. With his legs weak from standing atop the pillar for so long, he ended the feat by jumping down onto a landing platform made out of a 12 foot (3.7 m) high pile of cardboard boxes and suffered a concussion.
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 next to Potters Fields Park on the south bank of the River Thames, the area between City Hall and Tower Bridge in London. The case, measuring by by , had a webcam installed so that viewers could observe his progress. During the 44 day period, Blaine went without any food or nutrients and survived on just 4.5 litres of water per day.
The endurance stunt became the subject of much media attention. The Guardian wrote, "Blaine has created one of the most eloquent and telling visual images of our time. The Times reported that "1,614 articles in the British press have made reference to the exploit." U.S. President George W. Bush referred to Blaine’s stunt in a speech at the Whitehall Palace in London, saying “The last noted American to visit London stayed in a glass box dangling over the Thames. A few might have been happy to provide similar arrangements for me.”
While the majority of visitors were supportive, a minority were more mischievous or hostile towards the endurance artist. The Times reported that eggs, lemons, sausages, bacon, water bottles, beer cans, paint-filled balloons and golf balls had all been thrown at the box. The Evening Standard reported that one man was arrested for attempting to cut the water supply to Blaine's box. According to BBC News, Page 3 girls and glamour models from various men's magazines flashed at him and a burger was flown up to the box by a remote-controlled helicopter as a taunt.
One notable critic of the stunt was British satirist Marcus Brigstocke. Brigstocke commented on the negative attitude of the British public had towards the stunt on BBC Radio 4 comedy program The Now Show by saying that:
"I have never been more proud of the British public that I have been over the past six weeks. The depth of cynicism that we can sink to within mere moments of an idiot doing something idiotic that isn't for charity. It's truly magnificent. There's no apathy in this country - not when there's a moron in a box doing something moronic. We're out in force. He was about as near to the East End as he dared to get, I tell you. Another 200 yards downriver and that police bill would have been a lot higher. He wouldn't have been wiping eggs off the side of his box, it would have been skulls. … I'll be honest folks, it was my hope that David Blaine would die in that box and we could leave him there as a warning to all numb-nutted wizard scum that we won't tolerate this nonsense here. … Go home David Blaine, spend the $5,000,000 you made well. If you want to beat your 44 day record, I can only suggest you attempt to double it underwater.
On September 25, BBC News reported that Blaine announced via webcam that he was feeling the taste of pear drops on his tongue. Dr. Adam Carey, who performed a medical examination of Blaine before he entered the box, said that the taste was produced by ketones produced by the body burning fatty acids, which are themselves produced from fat reserves via glycerol.
Blaine emerged on schedule on October 19, murmuring "I love you all!" and was quickly hospitalized. The crowd jeered back. The New England Journal of Medicine published a paper that documented his 44 day fast and stated that his re-feeding was perhaps the most dangerous part of the stunt. The study reported, “He lost 24.5 kg (25 percent of his original body weight), and his body-mass index dropped from 29.0 to 21.6. His appearance and body-mass index after his fast would not by themselves have alerted us to the risks of refeeding. Despite cautious management, he had hypophosphatemia and fluid retention, important elements of the refeeding syndrome.”
On May 1, 2006, Blaine was submerged in an diameter, water-filled sphere (isotonic saline, 0.9% salt) in front of the Lincoln Center in New York City for a planned seven days and seven nights, using tubes for air and nutrition. During the stunt, doctors witnessed skin breakdown at the hands and feet, and liver failure. The New York Times' Kenneth Silverman wrote "his feat of endurance brought a diverse crowd of thousands of New Yorkers together, renewing for a while the city's waning spirit of democratic community.
He concluded this event by attempting to hold his breath underwater to break the then-current world record of 8 minutes, 58 seconds held by Tom Sietas for static apnea—holding one's breath without the aid of breathing oxygen beforehand, although Blaine's attempt would not have qualified as static apnea under AIDA International rules. Blaine also tried to free himself from handcuffs and chains put on him upon coming out after the week in the sphere. He seemed to have trouble escaping from the last of the handcuffs. Around the 7 minute mark, he showed some signs of distress. He was pulled up and out of the water by his support divers after 7 minutes and 8 seconds underwater—one minute and fifty seconds short of his goal. Blaine did claim to have succeeded in setting a record for being fully submerged in water for more than seven days straight (177 hours), and has since broken the record for holding one's breath using oxygen (as permitted by the Guinness book of records)—see below.
Blaine underwent multiple short hospital visits after the stunt ended and has entered an agreement with doctors from Yale University to monitor him in order to study the human physiological reaction to prolonged submersion.
The stunt began on November 21 2006, with Blaine declaring, "This one's exciting for me. This one's a fun one." After spinning in shackles in the gyroscope for two days, Blaine emerged with a crash a half hour after being allowed to try.
As a result of his success, Blaine led 100 children selected by The Salvation Army on a shopping spree at Target, after each child received a $500 gift certificate from the retailer. Blaine said the stunt was particularly important since The Salvation Army had provided him with clothing while he was growing up. "This challenge is close to my heart," Blaine said.
When the "Dive of Death" took place, Blaine came down from the platform on a cable, and lightly touched the stage. He was then pulled back up into the air, and, in the words of the New York Daily News, "hung in the air like a sack of potatoes with a goofy grin on his face, occasionally kicking his legs as though he were running." The plan had been for Blaine to be pulled up into the air by helium balloons and disappear into the atmosphere. Blaine attributed the problem to changes in weather conditions that occurred after the stunt was delayed due to an address by President Bush. The finale was not well-received by spectators.
On October 29 2002, Random House published David Blaine's Mysterious Stranger: A Book of unique Magic. Part autobiography, part history of magic, and part armchair treasure hunt, the book also includes instructions on how to perform card tricks and illusions.
In his chapter, Discovery of Magic, Blaine tells stories of his childhood, of how he became interested in magic, and of his devotion to his late mother.
In The Three Magi, he acknowledges Robert-Houdin, Max Malini and Alexander Herrmann as major influences; in Confidence, he cites Orson Welles and Titanic Thompson as inspiration for his street magic persona; and in Ehrich Weiss, he celebrates the man we know as Houdini.
In The Man Ain't Right, Blaine describes the evolution of his street magic act and how a card trick cinched his television deal with ABC.
In Premature Burial, Frozen in Time, and Vertigo, Blaine details his regime in preparation for each of his stunts of endurance, respectively, being buried in a glass coffin for seven days, standing inside a block of ice for sixty-one hours, and standing atop a 100-foot pole in high winds for thirty-five hours.
Scattered throughout the book are clues to Blaine's $100,000 Challenge, an armchair treasure hunt of visual ciphers and logic deduction devised by game designer Cliff Johnson, creator of The Fool's Errand. The Challenge was solved by Sherri Skanes on March 20 2004, 16 months after the book's publication.
Blaine has a full reproduction tattoo of Salvador Dali's "Christ of St. John of the Cross" spanning his entire back. He also has Primo Levi's concentration camp number, 174517, tattooed on his left forearm.
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