Blaine's world

Magician David Blaine spent seven days buried alive and all he got was a one-hour ABC special.

Published April 14, 1999 7:00PM (EDT)

"I thought I'd seen everything in this town," said a smiling
Mathilda Winterson, a young mother from East Harlem. Huddled
together with her 6-year-old daughter and several hundred
other New Yorkers against the damp Monday-morning chill, she
was laughing and applauding magician David Blaine as he
emerged from the Plexiglas "coffin" in which he'd been
buried on 24-hour display for seven days. A shaky Blaine --
who fasted for six days prior to burial and lived
underground on water rations -- thanked the crowd,
smiled and left the site to see a doctor.

The 25-year-old illusionist's feat was a major local media
event and a warm-up for his TV special Wednesday night. The burial generated an
extraordinary buzz in New York, partly because Blaine is a
close friend of Leonardo DiCaprio, and drew substantial
crowds to an otherwise nondescript residential area a few
hundred yards from the Hudson River. There was
no admission fee and no tickets to count, but estimates
suggest that between 50,000 and 75,000 people visited. Many came by more than once. "I want to see what
happens when he starts hallucinating," said a ruddy,
middle-aged man. A well-pierced young woman was smitten by
the dark-haired, shirtless Blaine: "He's cute as hell in
that little box."

The visitors were as varied as the reasons for visiting. A
rainbow coalition of patient voyeurs -- construction
workers, hipsters, elderly couples, blacks, whites, Asians
and Latinos -- stood in line waiting for the chance to peer
down through a three-ton glass tank of water that covered
the coffin. (The line surged during lunch hour and when the
clubs let out at 3 or 4 in the morning.) Blaine, clearly
visible through the water, often waved and smiled at his
public when he was awake; when asleep, he looked eerily
vulnerable in the tiny, well-lit space, licking his lips,
scratching his cheek and laughing in his sleep with a white
cotton blanket pulled up to his chin.

Jonathan Baker, assistant to the chairman of the Nederlander
Organization, which ponied up more than $100,000 to stage the
event, said that he saw Blaine shortly after his exhumation,
and that the magician "looked great, was in good spirits,
but was about 20 pounds lighter" than when he descended into
the coffin.

Blaine's ABC special airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. He will perform tricks on the streets of New York,
Memphis, New Orleans and Haiti.

By Benedict Cosgrove

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