Blaine, David 1973-
BLAINE, David 1973-
Born April 4, 1973, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Patrice White. Education: Studied acting at Neighborhood Playhouse, New York, NY.
Began performing magic tricks for private parties in his late teens; starred in first television special, David Blaine: Street Magic, ABC-TV, 1997; second special, David Blaine: Magic Man, ABC-TV, 1999; third special, David Blaine: Frozen in Time, ABC-TV, 2000; fourth special, David Blaine's Vertigo, ABC-TV, 2002; David Blaine: Above the Below, BBC-Channel 4, 2003.
Mysterious Stranger: A Book of Magic, Villard (New York, NY), 2002.
Dubbed a "hipster Houdini" by People's Dan Jewel, David Blaine is a magician and endurance artist who has been buried alive for a week and stuck in a block of ice for nearly three days—both in front of the peering eyes of millions in New York's Times Square. Additionally, he has stood for a day and a half on a ninety-foot pillar in Manhattan's Bryant Park, and in September and October of 2003 he spent forty-four days fasting in a glass box dangling over the River Thames in London, in full view of British crowds, who taunted as much as encouraged the young American showman. These are not illusions, Blaine told Josh Wolk in Entertainment Weekly, but "'art pieces.'" In London, Blaine announced from his glass box, "I do not consider myself as part of an individual race or country or religion." England's Channel 4, which was covering the event, further quoted the magician on its Web site: "[I am] just simply a human being, and this is my exploration and new discovery of how strong we all are in mind, body and spirit. Peace."
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1973, to Patrice White and a half-Puerto Rican, half-Italian-American Vietnam War veteran who later abandoned the family, Blaine took his middle name as surname. At five, inspired by a subway performer, Blaine started doing magic tricks. Blaine's mother eventually remarried and the family moved to suburban New Jersey, but throughout his childhood Blaine continued to concentrate on magic tricks. As a teen he started taking acting lessons at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse, where he developed a dramatic persona that better allowed him to draw passersby on the street to his magic tricks. Such tricks included not only the standard fare of card manipulation and illusion, but also such stunts as levitation. With the death of his mother in 1994, Blaine threw himself more and more into his craft, performing privately for many of the prominent entertainers in New York City. Self-promotion soon earned the young magician an agent at International Creative Management, and in 1997 came his first television special, David Blaine: Street Magic, which attracted over ten million viewers to scenes of his street magic in New York, Atlantic City, and San Francisco. As Time's David Handelman noted, "Blaine's best magic trick may be his own career. By updating corny card and coin feints and levitation stunts with post-grunge chic, he has leapfrogged from hustling sharpie to the star of his own sweeps-month network special." Handelman further noted that Blaine's "deceptively low-key, ultracool manner leaves spectators more amazed than if he'd razzle-dazzled."
Further ABC specials followed, in 1999, 2000, and 2002, and increasingly Blaine turned from magic to feats of endurance. First came his burial underground for a week in a glass coffin; then he was ensconced upright in ice for almost sixty-two hours, suffering trauma to his feet that necessitated hospitalization. He stood on the twenty-two-inch-diameter top of a ninety-foot pillar for thirty-five hours, inspired by St. Simeon, the fifth-century shepherd who stood on pillars as a sign of devotion to God. Such endurance tests are, Blaine explained to Allan Johnson of the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, "'Just what I do.'" For each of these endurance events, Blaine trained hard. For the burial, he did a trial run of four days at his home; for his stint in the six-ton cube of ice, he trained for a year in ice-filled bathtubs. Preparing for his time on the pillar in Bryant Park, he practiced for months in advance standing atop tall poles. And in preparation for his 2003 performance, dangling from London's Tower Bridge over the Thames in a plexiglass cage, he defied medical experts who said that no one could survive for forty-four days on water alone. According to medical critics, a person's body would give out after a few weeks without salt. But Blaine did survive and left his little plastic box over the Thames after the requisite forty-four days, fifty pounds lighter in terms of weight, but six hundred thousand pounds Stirling richer. That Blaine has survived such tests has led skeptics to complain that the magician's endurance performances must also involve illusion and trickery, though Blaine insists that there is no magic at work, only physical will.
In 2002, Blaine performed a new kind of magic, publishing his autobiography, Mysterious Stranger: A Book of Magic, a memoir that also contained a series of clues to a treasure worth $100,000. As Blaine noted to Publishers Weekly contributor Jeff Zaleski, he wrote the book because he thought "it would be a good way for people to get interested in magic, like the kids who come up to me from all over the place." Blaine further noted that writing has a special importance to him: "I keep writing two words every day on my arm or on my pants," Blaine told Zaleski. The magician's words of inspiration are "resistance" and "humility." He also draws sustenance from concepts such as "courage, humanity, love, God," and "spirituality."
Blaine's book is, according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, a combination of "autobiography, history of magic, how-to (do magic), interactive magic tricks and self-help advice." In the book, he details his life in New York and New Jersey, the pain he felt at his mother's death, his early attempts as a performer of magic, and also some of the difficulties he faced during his endurance performances. The reviewer for Publishers Weekly went on to call Mysterious Stranger a "spirited book," as well as "one of the most thorough and enjoyable introductions to magic in years." Similarly, Rachel Collins, writing in Library Journal, thought the book was "an enticing and thoroughly enjoyable read." For People's Dan Jewel, the real interest came in the magic tricks and history of magicians which Blaine provides in his memoir. Jewel found the book a "surprisingly captivating tale of great tricks and tricksters throughout time." Among those early magicians featured is Robert-Houdin, a nineteenth-century practitioner of the art who managed to stop an Algerian uprising with his bag of tricks. Jewel concluded, "Blaine's tricks are a treat." And in a review for Charleston.net, John Lyons wrote that Blaine's book "is at once interesting and entertaining, a fine first effort by one of the world's most famous magicians."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Economist (U.S.), September 27, 2003, "Empty Box: David Blaine," p. 56.
Entertainment Weekly, July 21, 2000, Matthew Flamm, "The Blaine Game," p. 20; November 24, 2000, Josh Wolk, "The Iceman Cometh," p. 36; November 22, 2002, Josh Wolk, interview with David Blaine, p. 36.
Esquire, March, 1999, "David Blaine Reveals the World's Greatest Scam," p. 142.
Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, November 29, 2000, Emily Gest, "Illusionist David Blaine Reaches Halfway Mark in Ice Endurance Stunt," p. K5641; May 21, 2002, Allan Johnson, "David Blaine Makes It Plain: 'It's Just What I Do,'" p. K2196; May 31, 2002, Kate O'Hare, "David Blaine Tempts Fate Again for ABC," p. K0826.
Library Journal, November 1, 2002, Rachel Collins, review of Mysterious Stranger, p. 99.
Newsweek, April 12, 1999, "David Blaine Digs Himself a Hole," p. 57.
People, May 26, 1997, "Leader of the Pack," p. 124; December 29, 1997, "David Blaine," p. 141; April 12, 1999, review of David Blaine: Magic Man, p. 29; November 27, 2000, Samantha Miller, "Online: Siteseeing on the Net," p. 27; December 23, 2002, Dan Jewel, review of Mysterious Stranger, p. 43; October 6, 2003, "It's a Bird! It's a Blaine!," p. 128.
Publishers Weekly, October 14, 2002, review of Mysterious Stranger, pp. 78-79, Jeff Zaleski interview with David Blaine, p. 79.
Time, May 19, 1997, David Handelman, "The Wizard of Grunge," p. 97; September 1, 2003, Lev Grossman, "Q & A with David Blaine," p. 71.
Vanity Fair, March, 2000, George Wayne, "David Blaine Takes His Street Magic into a New Era," p. 168.
Charleston.net, http://archives.charleston.net/ (January 5, 2003), John Lyons, review of Mysterious Stranger.
David Blaine Home Page,http://www.davidblaine.com/ (October 7, 2003).
MagicWeek,http://www.magicweek.co.uk/ (June 30, 2003), Ian Carpenter, review of Mysterious Stranger.
Salon,http://www.salon.com/ (April 13, 1999), Benedict Gosgrove, "Blaine's World."
Scotsman Online,http://www.news.scotsman.com/ (October 20, 2003), James Doherty, "After 44 Days, David Blaine's Out of His Box."
USA Today Online,http://usatoday.com/ (October 20, 2003), "David Blaine Being Tested at Hospital."*