Millions watching him hold his breath underwater for 17 minutes on The Oprah Winfrey Show, or 75,000 bustling by as he spends a week buried alive outside Trump Place in New York; or one person on a street corner gasping when he correctly guesses, “Your card was the seven of clubs.”
It’s all the same for magician and “endurance artist” David Blaine.
“Whether I’m shuffling a deck of cards or holding my breath [for a Guinness World Record], it’s the same satisfaction, the same hard work. Obviously there’s no such thing as magic. A magician is really a performing artist who does things that baffle the mind, making the seemingly impossible possible. For me, it’s the practicing and training and pushing through the pain to be your best.
“Being able to do magic and get people to react, that’s the highlight to me. Whether it’s on TV or a stage or on the street, there’s no difference,” adds Blaine, who will perform for the first time in Houston at the Smart Financial Centre on May 30.
Best known for highly rated TV specials and public stunts like being encased in a block of ice for 63 hours, Blaine's touring show is a combination of card tricks, sleight of hand, illusions, and physical weirdness, like plunging a metal stake through his arm, sewing his lips shut with needle and thread, and drinking kerosene and water and regurgitating them — so he can start a fire and put it out.
Blaine’s love of magic started early in Brooklyn, with a single deck of cards and a single mom working three jobs.
“We couldn’t afford those magic kits that kids get. I had one deck of cards that I would carry with me everywhere. I’d have to wait in the school library until 5:30 pm for my mother to pick me up. One day the librarian showed me a book, Self Working Book of Mathematical Card Tricks. When I did one trick for my mother, she was amazed that a kid could do this. She ran away screaming. I kept learning more and more tricks to amaze her.
“With a deck of cards, you have to develop your own ideas and presentations. With a magic kit from a toy store, it’s done for you. You just follow instructions in the box. People ask me, ‘How do I get my kid interested in magic?’ I tell them to get their kid a deck of cards and a couple of good books.”
Fans who know Blaine only from TV will see a different side of his work at the Smart Financial Centre — up close, front, back, and side. For his finale, he allows audience members to come onstage and examine a large, clear tomb of water before Blaine is lowered in and holds his breath for minutes that seem like hours. It’s the closer for Blaine’s show. It was his hero Houdini’s final act, too.
“Insurance companies won’t cover that part of the show. I push myself as far as I can, right to the breaking point, and that’s the end. Houdini died after doing this. He collapsed and was rushed to the hospital.”
“I don’t think I’m going to end up killing myself on this show.”
He can’t. He’s playing Dallas the next night.
David Blaine performs on Wednesday, May 30 at Smart Financial Centre, 18111 Lexington Blvd., in Sugar Land. Tickets start at $25.