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David Blaine

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David Blaine
David Blaine at the Grand Canyon.jpg
Blaine at the Grand Canyon in 2008
Born David Blaine White
(1973-04-04) April 4, 1973 (age 42)
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
Occupation Magician and endurance artist
Years active 1997–present

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 set and broken several world records. Blaine’s first television special, Street Magic, has been called "the best TV magic special ever done and the biggest breakthrough in our lifetime".[1] Blaine 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. The New York Times noted that "he's taken a craft that's been around for hundreds of years and done something unique and fresh with it."[2] According to the New York Daily News, "Blaine can lay claim to his own brand of wizardry. The magic he offers operates on an uncommonly personal level."[3]

Early life[edit]

Blaine was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Patrice Maureen White (1946–1995),[4] a school teacher, and William Perez, a veteran of the Vietnam War. His father was of half Puerto Rican and half Italian descent, and his mother was of Russian Jewish ancestry.[5] When Blaine was four years old, he saw a magician performing magic in the subway. This triggered a lifelong interest for him.[6] 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,[7] where he attended Passaic Valley Regional High School.[8] When Blaine was 17 years old, he moved to Manhattan, New York.[9]

Stunts and specials[edit]

Street Magic and Magic Man[edit]

On May 19, 1997, Blaine's first television special, David Blaine: Street Magic aired on then NBC. "It really, really does break new ground." said Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller.[10]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.”'[11] Time magazine commented, "his deceptively low-key, ultracool manner leaves spectators more amazed than if he'd razzle-dazzled."[12]

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."[13] USA Today called Blaine the "hottest name in magic right now".[14]

Buried Alive[edit]

David Blaine buried underneath a 3.5 ton tank of water in New York

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, as part of a stunt titled "Buried Alive". 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 plastic coffin had six inches (152 mm) of headroom and two inches on each side. During the endurance stunt Blaine did not eat and drank only two to three tablespoons of water a day.[15] 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."[16] 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.[17] 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."[15] 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."[18]

Frozen in Time[edit]

David Blaine encased in a block of ice for Frozen in Time in Times Square, New York

On November 27, 2000, Blaine performed a stunt called "Frozen in Time," which was covered on a TV special. Blaine was shown encased in a large block of ice located in Times Square, New York City. He was lightly dressed and appeared to be shivering even before the blocks of ice were placed 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. He was removed from the ice and taken to a hospital due to fears he might be going into shock.[19] 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."[20] Blaine later said it took a month to fully recover and that he had no plans to attempt a stunt of this difficulty in the future.[21] In 2010, a magician from Israel named Hezi Dean broke Blaine's record when he was encased in a block of ice for 66 hours.[22]

David Blaine stands on a 100 ft (30 m) pole for Vertigo in the middle of Bryant Park in New York


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, although there were two retractable handles on either side of him to grasp in the event of harsh weather.[23] He remained on the pillar for 35 hours. 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[citation needed].

Mysterious Stranger[edit]

Mysterious Stranger: A Book of Magic by David Blaine was published on October 29, 2002.[24] The book is an autobiography and armchair treasure hunt with instructions on performing magic tricks. The treasure hunt was created by game designer Cliff Johnson and solved by Sherri Skanes on March 20, 2004.[25]

Above the Below[edit]

David Blaine in the box for Above the Below in front of thousands at City Hall (London)

On September 5, 2003, Blaine began an endurance stunt in which he was sealed inside a transparent Plexiglas case. The case was suspended 9 metres (30 ft) in the air next to Potters Fields Park on the south bank of the River Thames in London, and measured 3 feet (0.9 m) by 7 feet (2.1 m) by 7 feet (2.1 m). A webcam was installed inside the case so that viewers could observe his progress. The stunt lasted 44 days, during which Blaine drank 4.5 litres of water per day and did not eat.[26]

The stunt was the subject of public interest and media attention, The Times reported that "1,614 articles in the British press have made reference to the exploit."[27] 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.”[28] A number of spectators threw food and other items towards the box, including eggs, paint-filled balloons and golf balls, according to The Times.[27] A hamburger was flown up to the box by a remote-controlled helicopter as a taunt.[29] The Evening Standard reported that one man was arrested for attempting to cut the cable supplying water to Blaine's box.[30][31]

On September 25, BBC News reported that "if his endurance test is real rather than an elaborate illusion", then Blaine's claim of tasting pear drops indicates he is advancing through the first stage of starvation.[32] A medical doctor said that the taste is caused by ketones, which are produced when the body burns fat reserves.

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.[33] 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."[34]

Drowned Alive[edit]

David Blaine prepares to hold his breath on the final night of Drowned Alive at Lincoln Center, New York

On May 17, 2006, Blaine began his "Drowned Alive" stunt, which lasted 7 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.[35] 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.[36]


On November 21, 2006, Blaine began his "Revolution" stunt, where he was shackled to a rotating gyroscope for 16 hours without food or water. Blaine ended the stunt 52 hours later.[37]

Guinness World Records[edit]

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.[38] The previous record was set by Peter Colat of Switzerland on February 10, 2008.[39]

Before entering the eighteen-hundred gallon water tank, Blaine spent 23 minutes inhaling pure oxygen.[40] Blaine held his breath for 17 minutes 4½ seconds, surpassing Colat's previous mark of 16 minutes 32 seconds.[40] This record[41] stood for almost four and a half months, until surpassed by Tom Sietas on September 19, 2008.

Dive of Death[edit]

Donald Trump with David Blaine announcing Blaine's next event in the atrium of the Trump Tower

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. Reportedly, Blaine risked blindness and other maladies in the stunt.[42] He was widely[POV? ] criticized when, only hours into the endurance challenge, he was seen standing on a waiting crane platform, not upside down as expected.[43] During the stunt, he came down once an hour for a medical check and to use the bathroom.[44]

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."[45] The plan had been for Blaine to be pulled up into the air by helium balloons and disappear into the atmosphere.[45] Blaine attributed the problem to changes in weather conditions that occurred after the stunt was delayed due to an address by President Bush.[45]

Electrified: One Million Volts Always On[edit]

David Blaine was the target for the electrical discharge produced by seven Tesla coils on Pier 54, New York City

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.[46] 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. He wore 34 lbs of gear, including a chainmail Faraday suit, designed to prevent electrical current from traveling through the body.[47] 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."[47]

At night, Blaine shivered uncontrollably from the inclement weather. The New York Times published an article describing the science behind Blaine’s stunt.[48] Members of the public were able to control the pattern of electric current by accessing screens,[49] and musicians Pharrell Williams[50] and Andrew W.K.[51] 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.[52][53] David Blaine donated two of the Tesla coils to the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey to be exhibited on permanent display.[54]

David Blaine: Real or Magic[edit]

Blaine starred in a 90-minute ABC television special, "David Blaine: Real or Magic", on November 19, 2013.[55] The special featured Blaine performing magic for celebrities and public figures.[56] Real or Magic achieved a 2.5 rating in the 18-49 age bracket, and posted the best numbers in the 9:30–11:00 pm time slot for ABC's 2013 season.[57]

Charity and private appearances[edit]

David Blaine performs for President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as President George W. Bush
David Blaine performs for Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger and Michael Bloomberg


David Blaine makes an annual visit to perform at children's hospitals and burn units in the US and elsewhere, 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 $100,000 for Haiti earthquake relief.[58]

Private appearances[edit]

He has performed privately for a number of celebrities and world leaders, and performed magic alongside Michael Jackson. He gave a TED talk in 2013, describing his Guinness World Record of oxygen-assisted static apnea.[59]

Personal life[edit]

Blaine has one half-brother. Blaine and Alizee Guinochet have one daughter, Dessa, born on January 27, 2011.[60] 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.[61]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ What Will Magic Be Like in the Future? Big Think, 2010-07-08
  2. ^ If He Can Conjure Magical Ratings, That's Some Trick, The New York Times, 1997-05-11
  3. ^ Magic special turns out to be both, Daily News (New York), 1997-05-19
  4. ^ Record of Maureen P. Bukalo, Social Security Death Index.
  5. ^ "Life's a magic box of tricks". The Scotsman. 2003-09-20. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  6. ^ "David Blaine". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  7. ^ Finn, Holly. "Through the Plexiglass darkly: David Blaine exposes Britain's nasty underbelly", The Times, September 25, 2003, p. 20.
  8. ^ Behrens, David. "THE ARTr OF WONDER / From performing death-defying stunts to launching readers of his new book on an old-fashioned treasure hunt, David Blaine delights in surprises", Newsday, November 7, 2002. Accessed September 18, 2007. "Later, they moved to Blackish, New Jersey, where he attended Passaic Valley High School in Little Falls."
  9. ^ "David Blaine: the Man, the Magician". Magic Directory. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  10. ^ What Will Magic Be Like in the Future? Big Think, 2010-07-08
  11. ^ If He Can Conjure Magical Ratings, That's Some Trick, The New York Times, 1997-05-11
  12. ^ The Wizard of Grunge, Time, 1997-05-19
  13. ^ "Bingo Bango!". 2002-05-27. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  14. ^ He's a nice guy, that David Blaine, USA Today, 2000-11-20
  15. ^ a b Magician surfaces from watery grave after weeklong burial, CNN, 1999-04-12
  16. ^ Kuntzman, Gersh. Magician Makes It Out Alive, New York Post, April 13, 1999. Accessed April 27, 2012.
  17. ^ Breen, Virginia. Magician is in deep for week-long stunt, Daily News (New York), April 6, 1999. Accessed April 27, 2012.
  18. ^ Americas Magician emerges from grave, BBC News, 1999-04-12
  19. ^ David Blaine0 – Fearless (DVD), Buena Vista Home Entertainment, shows footage of his hospitalization including the exclamation "He is going into shock!"
  20. ^ McKinley, Jesse. Magician Emerges From Icy Stunt, The New York Times, November 30, 2000. Accessed April 27, 2012.
  21. ^ "David Blaine: Electrified and his greatest ever stunts". Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ Burkeman, Oliver. New York's pillar-dweller jumps, The Guardian, May 23, 2002. Accessed April 27, 2012.
  24. ^ Mysterious Stranger, Copyright 2002 by David Blaine. Published 2002, in the United States and Canada, by Villard Books, a division of Random House, Inc. ISBN 0-375-50573-3. First Edition.
  25. ^ The Armchair Treasure Hunt Club Mysterious Stranger: A Book of Magic, The Armchair Treasure Hunt Club
  26. ^ "Blaine begins starvation stunt". BBC News. 5 September 2003. Retrieved 6 October 2010. Heard, Chris (11 September 2003). "All's quiet with Blaine in the rain". BBC News. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  27. ^ a b Illusionist and the facts of life, 2003-10-20
  28. ^ Remarks by the President Bush at Whitehall, "From 9-11 to the Iraq War 2003", 2003-11-19
  29. ^ 2003: David Blaine ends glass box stunt, BBC News, 2003-10-19
  30. ^ Blaine cage attack, Evening Standard, 2003-09-16
  31. ^ "Punters expect Blaine to fail". BBC News. 18 September 2003. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  32. ^ What's going on inside David Blaine's body?, BBC News Online, 2003-09-25
  33. ^ Korbonits M, Blaine D, Elia M, Powell-Tuck J (November 2005). "Refeeding David Blaine--studies after a 44-day fast". N. Engl. J. Med. 353 (21): 2306–7. doi:10.1056/NEJM200511243532124. PMID 16306536. 
  34. ^ Refeeding David Blaine: studies after a 44-day fast", David Blaine Library
  35. ^ Blaine Out For Record, Sky News, 2006-05-01
  36. ^ – David Blaine out of hospital Archived May 29, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ "Magician Blaine Ends Times Square Stunt". The Washington Post. 2006-11-24. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  38. ^ Jackson, Kate (2 May 2008). "As David Blaine breaks the record for holding his breath we find more Superhuman feats". Daily Mirror (London). Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  39. ^ "David Blaine Breaks Record for Holding Breath". NutTv. May 1, 2008. 
  40. ^ a b "Longest breath holding-world record set by David Blaine". Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  41. ^ Tierney, John (2008-04-30). "David Blaine Sets Breath-Holding Record". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  42. ^ Blaine Stunt Could Cause Blindness, The Associated Press Archived September 27, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  43. ^ "David Blaine is only upside down for 50 minutes per hour". MyParkMag. 2008-09-24. Archived from the original on 2008-09-25. 
  44. ^ "David Blaine Caught Taking Standing-Up Breaks". 2008-09-23. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  45. ^ a b c David Blaine: President Bush's speech messed up my Dive of Death, Daily News (New York), September 25, 2008
  46. ^ Hutchinson, Bill. "David Blaine to risk electrocution in 1 million-volt charge stunt". The New York Daily News. Retrieved 25 September 2012. 
  47. ^ a b Alexander, Harriet. "David Blaine's 'electrifying' New York stunt", The Daily Telegraph, October 6, 2012. Accessed October 16 , 2012.
  48. ^ Tierney, John. "If He Starts Nodding Off, Try Another Million Volts", The New York Times, October 1, 2012. Accessed October 16 , 2012.
  49. ^ "Darren Aronofsky stops by David Blaine’ latest electrifying stunt ", New York Post, October 8, 2012. Accessed October 16 , 2012.
  50. ^ Johnson, Miranda. "Pharrell Assists David Blaine With Electrocution Stunt ", MTV, October 8, 2012. Accessed October 16 , 2012.
  51. ^ Berman, Taylor. " Watch: Andrew W.K. Shocks David Blaine With One Million-Volt Keyboard ", MTV, October 8, 2012. Accessed October 16 , 2012.
  52. ^ Boyle, Alan. "David Blaine gets a checkup after high-voltage stunt". MSNBC. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  53. ^ "He's fine, just a bit frazzled: David Blaine completes One Million Volts stunt in New York after three days playing conductor". Daily Mail (London). 9 October 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  54. ^ " David Blaine to Donate Two $1 Million Tesla Coils to Liberty Science Center After ELECTRIFIED Event", Liberty Science Center, October 3, 2012. Accessed October 16, 2012.
  55. ^ Highfill, Samantha. "David Blaine returns to television with celebrity-filled ABC special". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  56. ^ Gavin Edwards (2013-11-19). "David Blaine's 'Real or Magic': Ranking the Celebrity Reactions". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  57. ^ Andreeva, Nellie. "Ratings Rat Race: ABC Scores With David Blaine Special, CBS Nabs First Tuesday Win". Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  58. ^ Halperin, Carrie (January 15, 2010). "David Blaine's Times Square Marathon for Haiti". ABC News. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  59. ^ "How I held my breath for 17 minutes". TED. October 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  60. ^ "Plow's baby magic for Blaine". New York Post. 2011-02-02. 
  61. ^ "David Blaine's Pregnant Fiancee Hitches Snow Plow to Deliver Baby". 2011-02-03. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 

External links[edit]