The death of magic

When public starvation becomes magic, magicians should just go ahead and release the bunnies back to the wild

David Blaine is magically transformed from a morose street magician to a morose and hungry public spectacle.

David Blaine is magically transformed from a morose street magician to a morose and hungry public spectacle.

Photo Illustration by David Jayne

Peter Thompson is a former Reno freelance writer who returned to New York to release his inner Houdini.

As David Blaine emerged from his dangling “Perspex” plastic box overlooking the Thames River a few weeks ago, the full bouquet of his charismatic creepiness was once again exposed for what it truly is—as pungent of a stench as possessed by anything half-baked and left to rot at the bottom of a partially sealed piece of Tupperware for a month and a half.

But it was more than the simple bodily chemistry of not eating for 44 days and much more than sheer coincidence that Blaine came out of his box stinking like a garbage freak. This was just the latest in a long line of sulphurous melodramas the über-intense charlatan and current king of magic has perpetrated on the public, the least of which is being a huge, brooding bore and looking a little like Ross from Friends after a sleeping pill overdose.

With a vacuous, half-open, monotone brown gaze and a Jesus-complex rivaling David Koresh, the scene of a fey, tortured Blaine being swaddled in blankets and carried off in the “Waiting Ambulance,” a prop only secondary in importance to his act as the “Exotic Model Girlfriend,” has already been repeated ad nauseum. What the hell has happened to magic? Where are the obvious bright lights, the piped-in fog, the wire ropes and the half-naked big-boobed showgirls to distract us while somebody hops down through a trap door? Where are the intolerable parachute pants and dangerous rock ‘n’ roll semi-mullets of David Copperfield and company?

Somebody please pull a bunny from a hat before I puke.

Blaine’s “magic” is pure public masturbation, a kind of cheap performance art impregnated with implicit hopes of Messianic revelation. He’s at once an exhibitionist and a voyeur, looking down while everyone else is looking up. He’s a pseudo-saint waiting for the Word of God from a tiny platform above Times Square; a Gen Y Jim Jones without the Kool-Aid. He’s a too-apt metaphor for the times, sitting up there in that stupid box killing time, pissing through a tube while waiting for dementia and organ failure to set in like the rest of us. How sad.

His friend and mentor, Israeli-born spoon-bender Uri Geller, says that Blaine “thinks it’s important to suffer,” yet when magic-loving Brits decided to help Blaine achieve added misery by pelting his plexiglass piñata with rotten fruit and golf balls, they were quickly bullied away by a team of boorish security guards. Isn’t this what Blaine was asking for? How seriously does this guy want it?

He may, as one excited female fan wrote on his message board, be “sexy and buff and a gr8 illusionist,” but Blaine’s proclivity for isolating himself in small spaces while concurrently exposing himself to the humiliation and whims of the masses seems to speak more of an unresolved childhood conflict than anything holy or magical.

You want to talk amazing feats of human endurance? I once had a girlfriend who went two whole weeks without pooping. Even Blaine had his box of diapers with him.

Personally, I know people who go weeks without food or water—they’re called heroin junkies.

Magic as you know it is dead.

Instead of asking you to pick a card, upstart young magicians will make you watch them immolate their body parts in the family fireplace or shave off their skin with surgical razors. Lucky Charms will replace its cartoon leprechaun with a marshmallow-loving leper whose “magically delicious” hands and feet fall off right into the box.

David Blaine will probably be sealed alive into an unbreakable lucite cube and put on permanent display somewhere with a lot of foot traffic. But more likely, he’ll probably have himself nailed to a cross and hang there for a week. Rest assured, the ambulance and pretty girl will be standing by.