David Blaine: Inspiring Humanity with Magic, Stunts and Wizardry

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David Blaine is one of the world’s top magicians and escape artists best known for his high-profile feats of endurance, which has set and broken several world records.

He revolutionized the way magic is shown on television by focusing on spectator reactions. His idea was to turn the camera around on the people watching instead of the performer, to make the audience watch the audience, doing something unique and fresh with a craft that’s been around for hundreds of years.

Born April 4, 1973, his father William Perez was half Puerto Rican, a veteran of the Vietnam War and half Italian descent, and his mother Patrice Maureen White was of Russian Jewish ancestry a school teacher. Blaine was raised in Brooklyn, New York by his single mother and attended many schools in Brooklyn. When he was 10 years old, his mother married another man and they moved to Little Falls where he continued his education.

Blaine has a half-brother, Michael Bukalo, Blaine and Alizée Guinochet have one daughter, Dessa, who was born on January 27, 2011.

Blaine’s lifelong interest was triggered after he saw a magician performing magic in the subway when he was four years old.

Dave has survived numerous magical feats. He has been buried alive for an entire week, being frozen in a block of ice for 63 hours, and being submerged for seven days and seven nights. David has also dazzled both live and television audiences with his card tricks and other feats of prestidigitation, while also using his fame and his talents to give back to those in need. Things haven’t always been easy for this biracial achiever, though. Dave’s magic performance helped him deal with the early death of his mother, as well as how he overcame critics and hecklers during some of his recent feats of endurance. His story is as inspiring as it is magical.

Outstanding among his performances was being entombed for seven days in an underground plastic box underneath a 3-ton water-filled tank, as part of a stunt titled “Buried Alive,” only communicating with the world via a hand buzzer. BBC News reported that the plastic coffin had six inches (150 millimetres) of headroom and two inches (51 millimetres) on each side. During the endurance stunt Blaine did not eat and drank only two to three US tablespoons (30 to 44 millilitres) of water a day.

On November 27, 2000, Blaine performed a stunt called Frozen in Time, in which he was shown encased in a large block of ice located in Times Square, New York City, lightly dressed and seemed to be shivering even before the blocks of ice were placed around him. He was supplied with air and water by a tube 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, which was covered on a TV special. It took a month for Blaine to fully recover from the stunt..

On May 22, 2002, a crane lifted Blaine onto a 100 feet (30 metres) high and 22 inches (0.56 metres) wide pillar in Bryant Park, New York City on which he stood for 35 hours,  ending the feat by jumping down onto a landing platform made out of a 12 feet (3.7 metres) high pile of cardboard boxes.

Blaine suffered a mild concussion as well as severe hallucinations in the final hours of this stunt.

On October 29, 2002, ‘Mysterious Stranger’, an autobiography and armchair treasure hunt with instructions on performing magic tricks by David Blaine was published. The treasure hunt was created by game designer Cliff Johnson and solved by Sherri Skanes on March 20, 2004 and on September 5, 2003, Blaine began an endurance stunt in which he was sealed inside a transparent Plexiglas case. The case was suspended 30 feet (9.1 metres) in the air next to Potters Fields Park on the south bank of the River Thames in London, and measured 3 feet (0.9 metres) by 7 feet (2.1 metres) by 7 feet (2.1 metres). A webcam was installed inside the case so that viewers could observe his progress. The stunt lasted 44 days, during which Blaine drank 1.2 US gallons (4.5 litres) of water per day and did not eat.

This particular stunt drew wide media interest as 1,614 articles in the British press made reference to the exploit.

After the feat Blaine claimed he tasted pear drops and according to a medical doctor, the taste is caused by ketones, which are produced when the body burns fat reserves. It showed that he was advancing through the first stage of starvation

The stunt ended on October 19, and Blaine emerged saying “I love you all!” and was subsequently hospitalized. The New England Journal of Medicine published a paper that documented his 44-day fast and stated his re-feeding was perhaps the most dangerous part of the stunt. Despite cautious management, he had hypophosphatemia and fluid retention, important elements of the re-feeding syndrome.”

On May 1, 2006, Blaine began his Drowned Alive stunt, which lasted seven days and involved a submersion in an 8 feet (2.4 m) diameter, water-filled sphere containing isotonic saline in front of the Lincoln Center in New York City. At the end of the stunt, Blaine attempted to free himself from handcuffs and chains after exiting the sphere. After the stunt, Blaine entered into an agreement with researchers at Yale University to monitor him in order to study the human physiological reaction to prolonged submersion.

His Revolution stunt began on November 21, 2006, where he was shackled to a rotating gyroscope without food or water, intending to escape within 16 hours. Blaine completed the stunt 52 hours later.

Blaine appeared on the April 30, 2008 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for oxygen assisted static apnea, following his failure to break the then-current record of unassisted static apnea in his previous attempt Drowned Alive.The previous record was set by Peter Colat of Switzerland on February 10, 2008.

Before entering the 1,800-US-gallon (6.8-cubic-metre) water tank, Blaine spent 23 minutes inhaling pure oxygen. Blaine held his breath for 17 minutes 4-1/2 seconds, surpassing Colat’s previous mark of 16 minutes 32 seconds. This record stood for almost four and a half months, until surpassed by Tom Sietas on September 19, 2008.

On September 18, 2008, Donald Trump and Blaine announced his latest feat, The Upside Down Man, in which he planned to hang upside down without a safety net for 60 hours. On September 22, Blaine began his stunt Dive of Death, hanging over Wollman Rink in Central Park and interacting with fans by lowering himself upside down. He pulled himself up to drink fluid and restore normal circulation. He reportedly risked blindness and other maladies in the stunt.

Another stunning feat of Blaine was when in a 42-minute television special, Blaine caught a .22 caliber bullet fired from a rifle into a small metal cup in his mouth and 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, which was streamed live on YouTube. During the stunt, Blaine stood on the pillar surrounded by seven Tesla coils producing an electric discharge of one million volts or more continuously. The coils were directed at Blaine for the entirety of the endurance stunt, during which he did not eat or sleep.

At night, Blaine shivered uncontrollably from the inclement weather. The New York Times published an article describing the science behind Blaine’s stunt. Members of the public were able to control the pattern of electric current by accessing screens, and musicians Pharrell Williams and Andrew W.K. performed solos on a keyboard which controlled the electric discharge.

The event concluded on October 8, 2012 at 8:44 pm. Blaine was able to walk away with assistance, and was transported to a hospital for a medical check. Blaine donated two of the Tesla coils to the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey to be exhibited on permanent display.

Annually, Blaine visits children’s hospitals and burn units in the US and elsewhere to perform, including Spofford, Bridges, Horizon, and Crossroads. He has performed at Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a summer camp for children diagnosed with serious illnesses, and led 100 children on a shopping spree funded by Target and selected by The Salvation Army. On January 15, 2010, Blaine performed “Magic for Haiti” in Times Square, a performance lasting 72 hours which raised nearly US$100,000 for Haiti earthquake relief.

He has performed for US presidents from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barack Obama in the Oval Office, as well as a number of international leaders and prominent figures such as Henry Kissinger, Michael Bloomberg, Stephen Hawking, Michael Jackson, Muhammad Ali, among others.

Blaine has one half-brother, Michael Bukalo. Blaine and Alizée Guinochet have one daughter, Dessa, who was born on January 27, 2011. At the time that Guinochet went into labor, there was a blizzard where they lived in New York. No cars were on the road, so Blaine had to hail a snowplow, which transported the couple to the hospital.


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