David Blaine (born April 4, 1973) is an American illusionist and stunt performer born in Brooklyn, New York City. He made his name as a performer of close-up magic, usually working on the streets. Amongst magicians this is commonly known as street magic. His act includes a variation of the Balducci levitation illusion and bringing apparently dead flies back to life. This format, recorded by a small camera crew, provided the basis for his breakthrough television special, "David Blaine: Street Magician". He stayed with the format for David Blaine: Magic Man and David Blaine: Mystifier.
He later turned his attention to feats of endurance, including being buried alive for five days and spending 61 hours encased in ice. In 2002 Blaine stood on a tiny platform at the top of a 100 foot high pole in Bryant Park for 35 hours (see Vertigo below). In 2003 Blaine lived in a transparent perspex box for 44 days without food (see Blaine's London stunt below).
The show-business press often describe Blaine as a modern day Harry Houdini and indeed Blaine himself has cited Houdini as one of his inspirations.
On Monday 22 May 2002 Blaine began a stunt he named 'Vertigo'. Blaine was lifted by crane onto a 105 feet high pillar in Bryant Park, New York. He remained on the pillar, which was 22 inches wide, for nearly 35 hours without food or water or anything to lean on. Blaine appeared to be without safety harnesses and had no safety nets underneath him for almost the duration of the stunt. He ended the feat by jumping down onto a landing platform made of a 12 feet high pile of cardboard boxes. Blaine appeared to survive his jump without injury and attempted to talk to spectators. However he was promptly taken to hospital for medical checks. Further details (http://www.magicdirectory.com/blaine/vertigo.shtml).
October 29, 2002, David Blaine's book, Mysterious Stranger: A Book of Magic, is published by Random House. Part autobiography, part magic history, the book announced Blaine's $100,000 Challenge, a treasure hunt designed by Cliff Johnson of The Fool's Errand fame. The Challenge was solved by Sherri Skanes on March 20, 2004 after 16 months of hunting. (Read Solution.) (http://www.fools-errand.com/08-curiosities/david-blaine.htm)
Blaine's London stunt: Above the Below
On September 5, 2003 in London, he commenced a 44-day feat in which he remained sealed inside a transparent case suspended 30 feet in the air on the south bank of the River Thames close to Tower Bridge. During this period he received no food (there was however much speculation that he received glucose supplements, though medical tests offered by the stunt organisers disproved this). Another tube carried away his urine. The case, measuring 7ft by 7ft by 3ft, had a webcam installed so that viewers could observe his progress.
The week prior to the stunt saw an enormous amount of publicity. Blaine stood on top of one of the capsules of the London Eye whilst the giant wheel carried out a full revolution. Later, when asked at a press conference at the Savoy Hotel, to perform a magic trick, Blaine proceeded to cut off his ear with a Swiss Army knife. Both stunts were quickly shown to be not all they seemed. Blaine was attached to the Eye by a harness running to his leg. The 'blood' pouring from Blaine's ear area was fake.
London mayor Ken Livingstone criticised the stunt, saying it was disrespectful to IRA members who died in prison in the early 1980s whilst on hunger strike. "Those people who remember the situation of the 10 hunger strikers who starved to death and have ever met their relatives who visited them in the final days will know it is an absolutely horrifying risk. It has painful memories for a lot of people in society," he said. These remarks were themselves criticised as disrespectful to the families of IRA bomb victims.
Before it had even begun, the Guinness Book of Records had announced that Blaine's stunt would not be included in a future edition of its book. It said it did not wish to encourage fasting records and that in any case the IRA hunger strikers Bobby Sands (who died after 66 days without food) and Laurence McKeown (who went into a coma after 70 days and was then force-fed) had already lasted longer unfed than Blaine intends.
The stunt was the subject of much press and media attention. However the focus has not so much been Blaine's level of endurance, or on whether the stunt was indeed what it appeared to be, but the antics of the crowds of people who went to Tower Bridge to observe him. Whilst the vast majority of the visitors were generally supportive, seeking little more than a wave from the magician, a substantial minority were more mischievous or outright hostile to Blaine's presence. Newspapers reported that eggs, lemons, sausages, bacon, water bottles, beer cans, paint-filled balloons and golf balls had all been thrown at the box. One man was arrested for climbing the scaffolding supporting Blaine's box and attempting to cut the power and water supply to the box. An internet message board  (http://wakedavid.proboards12.com/index.cgi) was set up, dedicated to keeping Blaine awake for the whole 44 days.
Blaine was treated to numerous displays of bare bottoms and breasts. A hamburger was flown round the box by radio-controlled model helicopter. "You've picked the wrong town to be hung in, Mr Blaine," wrote The Sunday Times. "What is clear from the start is that Londoners are not taking Blaine quite as seriously as he takes himself. ... Really, it makes you proud to be British." Amongst the continuing antics, shows of support continued (see e.g. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/news/story/0,11711,1046465,00.html)). However Sir John Stevens of the London Metropolitan Police confirmed that Blaine's production will be asked to bear the extra costs of policing the area around the stunt's location. Arrests due to the disruptive behaviour outlined above and traffic jams on the Tower Bridge Road due to onlookers visiting Blaine have required extra police resources.
On September 20 the London Evening Standard  (http://www.thisislondon.com/news/showbiz/articles/6820568?source=Evening%20Standard) reported that Blaine's management company was "appalled" by various aspects of the crowd's behaviour, and was considering ending the stunt early because of the bad publicity. The report, whose sources were unattributed, was strangely at odds with the reality that Blaine's stunt was a great success in terms of publicity, and was perhaps itself just the result of a desire to print something about Blaine, whose name was continuing to be a good newspaper-seller at the time.
On September 25 Blaine reported to his webcam that he was feeling the taste of pear drops on his tongue  (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3138658.stm). 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.
Channel 4 and Sky Television paid around £1m to Blaine's production company for the right to televise the stunt. Sky broadcast views of the event live, 24 hours per day, on an "interactive" channel. This also carried a "ticker" displaying e-mail and SMS text messages from well-wishers. Channel 4 books' publication of Blaine's autobiography in paperback coincided with the beginning of the stunt.
Blaine emerged on schedule on October 19, murmuring "I love you all". He was quickly hospitalized. He was fed on liquid food until his body was deemed ready for solids again.
Some people questioned whether Blaine had starved himself, or had been receiving liquid food from the tube supposedly only for water. This was covered, for instance, on the tabloid American television program, "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" on cable channel MSNBC (October 20, 2003). The report claimed that Blaine's people have said he lost 30 pounds, then 60 pounds, and then 40 pounds. The program did not note that these figures were estimates given when Blaine was in the box, where he could not be weighed. The broadcast then displayed a shirtless photo of Blaine on September 19 and a shirtless photo of Blaine on October 19, the last day of the stunt. Blaine's weight appeared identical in both photos. In other photos Blaine looks dramatically thinner and more gaunt coming out the box than going in.