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Blaine at the Grand Canyon in 2008
|Born||David Blaine White|
April 4, 1973
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Illusionist, endurance artist|
|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (November 2013)|
Blaine at the Grand Canyon in 2008
|Born||David Blaine White|
April 4, 1973
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Illusionist, endurance artist|
David Blaine (born David Blaine White; April 4, 1973) is an American magician, illusionist and endurance artist. He is best known for his high-profile feats of endurance, and has made his name as a performer of street and close-up magic. He has performed all over the world and has set and broken several world records.
Blaine was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Patrice Maureen White (1946–1995) and William Perez. His father was a half Puerto Rican and half Italian veteran of the Vietnam War, and his mother was a school teacher of Russian Jewish descent. When Blaine was four years old, he saw a magician performing magic in the subway. This sparked a lifelong interest for him. He was raised by his single mother and attended many schools in Brooklyn. When he was 10 years old, his mother married John Bukalo and they moved to Little Falls, New Jersey, where he attended Passaic Valley Regional High School. When Blaine was 17 years old, he moved to Manhattan, New York.
On May 19, 1997, Blaine's first television special, David Blaine: Street Magic aired on then NBC. 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." When asked about his performance style, David explained, “I'd like to bring magic back to the place it used to be 100 years ago.”' Time magazine commented, "his deceptively low-key, ultracool manner leaves spectators more amazed than if he'd razzle-dazzled." The concept of focusing on spectator reactions changed the way that magic has been shown on television. The New York Times wrote: "He's taken a craft that's been around for hundreds of years and done something unique and fresh with it." Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller stated: "The biggest breakthrough done in our lifetime was David Blaine's Street Magic, where his idea was to do really simple tricks but to concentrate... to turn the camera around on the people watching instead of the people doing. So to make the audience watch the audience, which that first special Street Magic, is the best TV magic special ever done and really, really does break new ground." Many people watched the show.
In Magic Man, Blaine is shown traveling across the country, entertaining unsuspecting pedestrians in Atlantic City, Compton, Dallas, the Mojave Desert, New York City, and San Francisco, 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." USA Today called Blaine the "hottest name in magic right now".
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. 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 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. A team of construction workers removed a portion of the 75 cubic feet (2.1 m3) of gravel surrounding the six-foot-deep coffin before a crane lifted the water tank. Blaine emerged 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." 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." During the preparation of the stunt, Jonathan Demme told Time Out New York, "He's the most exciting thing in America... and I'm not just talking entertainment."
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 City. 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 100-foot (30 m) high and 22-inch (0.56 m) wide pillar in Bryant Park, New York City. He was not harnessed to the pillar, so 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 mild concussion.
|This biographical article relies on references to primary sources. (November 2008)|
On October 29, 2002, Random House published David Blaine's Mysterious Stranger: A Book of 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. Editing director, Bruce Tracy, explains that “David Blaine is the most exciting and creative magician since Houdini, and now, readers have the opportunity to enjoy Blaine's unique book about magic, and they can participate by testing their own ability to discover and interpret clues.”
The treasure hunt, Blaine's $100,000 Challenge, was devised by game designer Cliff Johnson, creator of The Fool's Errand, and solved by Sherri Skanes on March 20, 2004, 16 months after the book's publication.
On September 5, 2003, Blaine began his 44-day endurance stunt sealed inside a transparent Plexiglas case suspended 9 metres (30 ft) 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 3 feet (0.9 m) by 7 feet (2.1 m) by 7 feet (2.1 m), 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." Then 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.”
A number of spectators were 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 cable supplying water to Blaine's box. According to BBC News, a hamburger was flown up to the box by a remote-controlled helicopter as a taunt.
On September 25, BBC News reported that Blaine announced via webcam that he was feeling the taste of pear drops on his tongue. A medical doctor, Adam Carey, performed an examination of Blaine before he entered the box and said that the taste was produced by ketones produced by the body burning fatty acids, which are themselves produced from fat reserves.
Blaine emerged on schedule on October 19, murmuring "I love you all!" and was quickly hospitalized. 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.” The event was filmed by director, and close friend of Blaine, Harmony Korine.
On May 17, 2006, Blaine was submerged in an 8 feet (2.4 m) 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. 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 100% oxygen beforehand, although Blaine's attempt would not have qualified as static apnea under AIDA International rules. Due to his producers' request to make the show more exciting, Blaine attempted 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 12 seconds underwater—one minute and fifty seconds short of his goal. Although he did not take home the record for breath holding, he was called “an everyday hero for an everyday age,” by The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post stated, “Blaine represented an opportunity to see something unbelievable.”
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. 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 avoid having to be concerned with defecation.
On November 19, 2006, Blaine announced his next stunt: he would be shackled to a rotating gyroscope. His goal was to escape from his shackles after the gyroscope had been spinning for 16 hours. The gyroscope was constantly spinning at a rate of eight revolutions per minute while hanging above an empty lot in Manhattan near Times Square.
The stunt began on November 21, 2006, with Blaine declaring, "This one's exciting for me. This one's a fun one." 52 hours later, without food or water, a dehydrated and weakened Blaine landed on a wooden platform 30 feet (9.1 m) below after jumping from the hanging gyroscope.
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. Unlike many of his endurance stunts this one was never televised as a unique show.
After failing to surpass the then-current record of unassisted static apnea in his previous attempt Drowned Alive, Blaine appeared on the April 30, 2008 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, announcing that he would attempt to break the Guinness World Record for oxygen assisted static apnea set by Peter Colat of Switzerland on February 10, 2008.
Before entering his eighteen-hundred gallon water tank, Blaine spent 23 minutes inhaling pure oxygen; up to 30 minutes of "oxygen hyperventilation" is allowed under guidelines. His heart rate remained above one hundred beats per minute during much of the attempt, rising to one hundred and twenty-four bpm in the fifteenth minute. This faster heart rate increases oxygen consumption leading to painful carbon dioxide buildup. In the final minute, his heart rate became erratic and Blaine became worried he might blackout. In order to assist the medics in case he would lose consciousness, he unhooked his feet from the sphere's bottom and floated closer to the surface ; however, he kept his head submerged for a half minute longer than the previous record. Ultimately, Blaine held his breath for 17 minutes 4½ seconds, surpassing Colat's previous mark of 16 minutes 32 seconds. This was Blaine's first Guinness record and it stood for almost four and a half months, until surpassed by Tom Sietas on September 19, 2008.
During the following interview, Blaine stated: "I really thought I was not going to make it," claiming that he did so by staying in a meditative state which was helped by the studio lights reflecting off the sphere. According to Blaine, besides the pressure of performing on television, the heart-rate monitor happened to be close enough to his ear so that he heard its beeping, and he had to keep his feet locked in holds at the bottom of the sphere — instead of just floating freely, as he did in the pool on Grand Cayman months earlier. Back then he said he was so relaxed he "wasn’t even there" during most of the breath-hold. But when he emerged from the sphere today, he told Oprah, "I was pretty much here the whole time."
On September 18, 2008, Donald Trump and Blaine held a press conference at the Trump Tower in New York City to announce his latest feat, “The Upside Down Man”. Blaine was to hang upside down without a safety net for 60 hours above Central Park’s Wollman Rink, with a predicted end for 10:45 p.m. on September 24. Reportedly, Blaine risked blindness and other maladies in the stunt. Trump has helped finance this and other Blaine events. Blaine hung over the Wollman Rink and interacted with fans by lowering himself upside down. At the press conference, Blaine stated he had already gone without food for over a week and would continue to do so throughout the act. In order to drink fluid and restore circulation, he would pull himself up, all the while contending with muscle spasms and lack of sleep. Blaine began the stunt on Monday September 22, but was widely criticized when, only hours into the endurance challenge, he was seen by fans to be standing on a waiting crane platform, and not upside down, as expected. He reportedly would come down once an hour to receive a medical check, stretch and relieve himself.
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 Daily News (New York), "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.
On June 17, 2011, Blaine announced on a live video chat that he would be doing a show in May 2012. During this video chat he also demonstrated a few of his new tricks, showed a video of him swimming with Great White Sharks and announced his new card deck called the white lions. He stated that the show will be 100% street magic and full of completely new material. However, due to no real public enthusiasm for such a project he decided to perform an endurance stunt titled 'Electrified: One Million Volts Always On'.
On October 5, 2012, Blaine began performing a 72-hour endurance stunt called "Electrified: One Million Volts Always On" atop a 22-foot high pillar on Pier 54 in New York City, produced by Intel and Vice and livestreamed via YouTube. ArcAttack built a system of seven Tesla coils producing an electric discharge of at least one million volts continuously for the duration. These seven Tesla coils were directed at Blaine for the entirety of the endurance stunt, during which he neither ate food nor slept. He wore 34 lbs of gear, including a chainmail Faraday suit. John Belcher, a physics professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reportedly said, “He has a conducting suit, all the current is going through the suit, nothing through his body. There is no danger in this that I see. I would do it, and I am 69 years old and risk-averse." At night, Blaine was visibly shivering uncontrollably from the inclement weather. The Science Times of The New York Times published an article describing the science behind Blaine’s stunt and featured it on page one of nytimes.com. A number of notables visited the event, including performance artist Marina Abramović, film director Darren Aronofsky, comedian Chris Rock, musician Pharrell Williams, and rocker Andrew W.K., with the latter two musicians performing solos on a keyboard controlling the electric discharge.
At the conclusion of the event on October 8, 2012 at 8:44 PM, Blaine was weary, but was able to walk with assistance and kiss his fiance, Alizee Guinochet. An ambulance transported him to a hospital for checkups.
Blaine starred in a 90-minute ABC television special, "David Blaine: Real or Magic", on November 19, 2013. The special was directed by Emmy Award winning director Matthew Akers and featured Blaine performing magic for his favorite celebrities and public figures including Woody Allen, Robert De Niro, George W. Bush, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Harrison Ford, Kanye West, Jamie Foxx, Ricky Gervais, Woody Harrelson, Stephen Hawking, Lenny Kravitz, Macklemore, Olivia Munn, Katy Perry, Michael Phelps, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jon Stewart, Psy, Emmy Rossum, Olivia Wilde, and Jason Sudeikis.
In "Real or Magic" David Blaine blurred the lines between reality and illusion and elicited a range of reactions from both celebrities and impromptu street crowds. At one point Blaine's performance even caused Harrison Ford to say, "“Get the f— out of my house.” Real or Magic aired from 9:30-11:00 PM, drew a 2.5 rating with the 18-49 age bracket, won its time slot, and posted the best numbers in the time slot for ABC's 2013 season.
Every year, David Blaine has traveled all across the country and the world to perform magic for children’s hospital wards, burn units and juvenile wards, including Spofford, Bridges, Horizon, and Crossroads. Blaine has spent time performing magic for Paul Newman and the children diagnosed with serious illnesses at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.
On Friday, January 15, 2010 at 9 A.M. David Blaine started performing "Magic for Haiti" in Times Square until Monday, January 18, 2010 at 9 A.M, performing for the course of 72 hours and raising nearly one hundred thousand dollars.
David Blaine has traveled internationally performing magic privately for President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President George W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Henry Kissinger, Bill Gates and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He has also performed magic for the President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, the President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, the President of Ukraine Victor Yanukovych, and the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev. Additionally, David Blaine has performed for Lakshmi Mittal.
Blaine has performed for many other public and private entities, including Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Stephen Hawking, Woody Allen, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Muhammad Ali. Blaine has also performed magic alongside Michael Jackson.
Blaine has one half-brother. Blaine and his fiancée, Alizee Guinochet, have one daughter, Dessa, born on January 27, 2011. At the time that Guinochet went into labor, there was a massive blizzard where they lived in New York. Due to the intense weather, no cars or taxis were on the road, so Blaine had to hail a snowplow, which transported the couple to the hospital.
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