When the star of a show calmly jokes that he might die on stage, the audience is likely to brush it off. But when the performer making the announcement has a history of holding his breath for 17 minutes, the proclamation might not be far off. Such was the warning David Blaine, magician and illusionist extraordinaire, calmly told the sold-out crowd at Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre last Thursday night. He then proceeded to hold his breath for 10 minutes while in a transparent tank underwater.
Many cheered as the clock ticked. Others looked on in horror and disbelief.
“Please nobody ever do any of the things that you’ve seen,” Blaine, 45, told the audience after coming out of the tank, shaking and covered in a towel. “You might just be holding your breath and you think you’re fighting to hold your breath and all of a sudden what happens is you black out, you go unconscious and then the next thing that happens is you inhale water into your lungs and you will die and drown,” he warned.
The show on Thursday was the first of two sold out performances in New York City, culminating the end of a Summer tour around the states.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, the Jewish magician made his first impression in 1997 with an ABC special on street magic. But his shot to fame came with his high profile endurance exhibitions such as his “Buried Alive” stunt where he was entombed in an underground plastic box underneath a 3-ton water-filled tank for seven days in the Upper West Side. In another one, Blaine encased himself in a block of ice in Times Square for nearly 64 hours. In a 2008 taping of the Oprah Winfrey show he broke the world record, holding his breath underwater for 17 minutes and four seconds.
Back at the Kings Theater here, Blaine shocked the gasping audience by stabbing his arm with an icepick, and not drawing any blood when the icepick was removed. He also swallowed an audience member’s wedding ring, retrieving it with the help of a hanger. More swallowing tricks included coughing up his pet frog from his stomach.
The tension was palpable, similar to that of a horror movie, when he had two volunteers place an icepick underneath one of three cups. After the cups were moved around, Blaine, who was blindfolded, magically slammed his hands down on the two cups without the icepick. Many turned away as he did the trick, unable to cope with the anxiety.
“I kind of wanted to give everything of myself to the show,” Blaine told the audience. “It was also a curiosity like could these things, [That are] done back to back night after night, all [be] combined into one evening.”
In another stunt he downed several huge pitchers of water, sipped some kerosene and was able to spit out much of the water to extinguish a prop of his logo that was on fire.
Throughout the show Blaine performed with supreme confidence and the nonchalance of someone tossing out bags of garbage. The fact that he never raised his voice made his performance all the more mesmerizing and other-worldly. He told the crowd that he eats no food on the days he performs.
After the show, fans were mystified.
“The amount of self-discipline this guy has is unbelievable,” Shlomo Golombeck of New Jersey told The Jewish Week.
Eli Garber, who came in from Monsey to attend the show, shook his head. “It was way better than I expected. It was unbelievable. He brought a frog out of his stomach and a ring. I don’t know what’s going on there. It’s crazy.”
On stage, Blaine referenced Harry Houdini and the other great magicians who inspired him.
Manhattan resident Jacob Gitzis, said he loved that Blaine is Jewish and he was happy he got a chance to see such a performer in the flesh.
“I think David Blaine does a great job of connecting with his audience and puts an emphasis on making his show feel authentic,” Gitzis said. “Overall, he’s a terrific showman and a legend of our time! One day the young ‘magicians’ in his audience that he addressed several times will be quoting his name on stage.”