Who is David Blaine?
Magician, Stunt Performer, or Crazy Human...
David Blaine is a polarising figure: I’m not the first to write this about the infamous magician and I surely won’t be the last. Whether you love him or not, you’ve undoubtedly heard of him. But do any of us really know who he is?
Personally, I’m a big believer that art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable, and Blaine’s magic embodies this. He’s mostly known for his dangerous stunts and performances which have left him with several injuries and frequently reward him with gasps of shock and horror. I don’t know a single person who can watch him sew his own mouth shut with a needle and thread without being disturbed.
But in 2020, when the world stood still and we were all looking for a sign of hope, Blaine took to the skies with 52 colorful balloons and gave us all the lift we needed with his latest stunt Ascension.
Most of Blaine’s tricks and stunts are performed for real. Blaine has risked permanent damage and even death performing these feats, and he’s suffered from a severe concussion, starvation, hallucinations, internal organ damage, and been rushed to hospital on numerous occasions. His magic is no joke and the consequences are frighteningly real.
So, does that make him a madman?
Who would go to such lengths in the name of entertainment?
The British public certainly wasn’t impressed by his 44-day stay suspended above the River Thames in a transparent box in his 2003 stunt Above The Below. Some were, understandably, offended by Blaine’s self-imposed starvation when, for millions around the world, it’s a harsh reality. The magician didn’t use this as an opportunity to raise awareness or fundraise for others, and many viewed it as a narcissistic call for attention.
But that doesn’t make Blaine’s performances selfish or meaningless. Blaine views the stunts as a search for “the ultimate truth.” After one of the earlier stunts in his career Buried Alive, Blaine emerged from the underground tomb that had been his home for seven days saying he’d had “a vision of every race, religion and age group banding together.” He seems to be a man driven by a desire to understand the world around him, to find commonalities in a species so often lost in conflict, and to prove to himself and others that humans can survive the unimaginable.
And he hasn’t shied away from helping those in need. In 2006, he spent 52 hours shackled to a spinning gyroscope to raise money for The Salvation Army. In 2010, the magician raised $100,000 for Haiti’s earthquake victims with a 72-hour stunt. And he frequently performs in hospitals for children and has spoken about some of the moving experiences he’s had in this area of his career. Even during lockdown, he continued to entertain the sick by moving his performances online.
“The greatest satisfaction as a magician is bringing joy to the people who can really use it.”
Blaine was born in 1973 in Brooklyn, New York City. His career and personal life both seem to have been shaped by the hardships he faced as a young boy, whether it was the death of his mother or being born with his feet turned in. His performances reveal an obsession with death and overcoming trying torments.