David Blaine: 1973—: Magician and Daredevil
Constantly Practiced Card Tricks
By the time he was five, Blaine had decided that he was going to become a performer. At mealtimes his hands were constantly busy practicing card manipulations. After several years of bouncing between welfare and low-wage jobs, Blaine's mother remarried and moved the family to suburban New Jersey; his stepfather John Bukalo told People that "magic was David's obsession and passion." Blaine never did magic tricks for school-mates—he didn't think they'd be interested—but he constantly honed his craft. By the end of his high school years, he was performing at private parties.
Blaine's apprenticeship ended with his mother's death from ovarian cancer. He recalled in an interview with the London Mirror that being told she was dying was like "walking into a room blindfolded and getting smacked in the face with a baseball bat." In the early 1990s Blaine began to promote himself energetically as a performer. Studying acting at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse, he developed his trademark method of accosting strangers and drawing them into his magical world. Sometimes he would videotape these encounters. In 1994 these efforts brought him an agent, Jon Podell, who represented top acts such as singer Michael Bolton. Blaine walked into Podell's office and asked him to think of a card. Then he sent the agent out to a convenience store to buy a new deck of cards. Upon unwrapping the deck, the agent found only one card—the one he had thought of.
His breakthrough came when the ABC network aired his self-produced special, David Blaine: Street Magic, in 1997. The show, which featured a levitation act that had previously baffled Blaine's personal physician, was a hit, and the buzz surrounding his exploits grew intense in New York City's entertainment community. Blaine came to number filmmakers Woody Allen and Spike Lee among his fans, and youthful folk-rock star Fiona Apple and actress Daryl Hannah were among several high-profile women with whom Blaine was rumored to be romantically linked. "I want to do for magic what Ali did for boxing," Blaine told People at the time. Blaine hung a picture of Muhammed Ali on the wall of his Manhattan apartment. And the ID number of World War II concentration camp survivor Primo Levi is tattooed on his arm.
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