During my lunch break today, I decided to walk up to Wollman Rink in Manhattan’s Central Park to check out David Blaine’s latest stunt. I have better things to do with my time, to be sure, but I’ve always been curious about David Blaine: Not in that “Oh, he’s so amazing” way, but in that “What is this guy’s deal?” way. Apparently, I’m not the only cynic around. I overheard a few middle-aged ladies walking ahead of me, saying, “He’s just doing a stupid stunt; he’s not a magician.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. And it isn’t a matter of stripping Blaine of his magician-ship, it’s that this particular event — Blaine suspended upside down, in the air, for 60 hours, the two-hour finale of which will be aired on ABC tomorrow night — is not magical. It’s a stunt. For publicity. (In the last 24 hours, I’ve received at least four press releases about the event.)

Before you call me a hater, this was the scene at the rink: Scaffolding everywhere, people snapping pictures, at least seven camera crews standing by for a press conference, security guys in suits with Secret Service-like earbuds, and red rope separating the public from Blaine. Meanwhile, the stuntman was not hanging. Nope.

More on David Blaine’s stunt after the jump…

addCredit(“Bryan Bedder/Getty Images”)

When I got there, Blaine was taking a break. He was thirsty. And it was time for the doctorson hand to check his vital signs. So there he was: standing upright,drinking bottled water. There was no diving and no death (though theformer, which is supposed to be some sort of 44-foot plunge, is to takeplace tomorrow). One guy on his lunch break said to his friend,“Dude gets water breaks?” while another man nearby said, “Itdoesn’t count [if he isn’t doing it continuously]. I could do that.”

Finally, after 15 minutes or so, Blaine went back to being upside-down. There wasn’t much to see. He just hung. If you recallChristo’s Central Park installation The Gates in 2005, the saffron flags just hung too,sometimes fluttering in the breeze, but at least the latter was sort of mesmerizing. One young woman standing next to me was justas perplexed: “He’s just going to hang there?” Eh, yep.

After checking Blaine’s vitals, Dr. Massimo Napolitano (who wasasked by the network producer to be a “scientific adviser”) held apress conference. I’m paraphrasing here, but this is basically what he said: “David is doing very well. His vital signs are stable.This is an incredible feat for the body. Don’t underestimate what he’sdoing. He was sort of sluggish last night. He has to urinate againstgravity, which is not good for the kidneys.” You don’t say. The docsaid he should be checked on every hour, because this stunt needs a lotof monitoring — which in my mind sort of defies the meaning of aspectacular act, doesn’t it? There’s no need to worry about Blaine’songoing exposure to the sun, either: When it gets to be too much,Blaine’s harness is lowered so that an umbrella man can protect himfrom the rays. Seriously.

I suspect Blaine needs attention to subsist (both mentally andfinancially) — and I’m not saying this to be a jerk, but perhaps I’vefailed to understand Blaine. On the surface, this stunt doesn’t provemuch of anything, except that maybe Blaine is improving his stamina forall things physically counterintuitive. Simply put, this stunt is notmotivated by passion. If you want to see passion, go check out Man on Wire,which is still playing at some theaters. It’s a documentary aboutFrench high-wire artist Philippe Petit, whose dream it was to walk on awire strung between the Twin Towers. It was on his wish list for aboutsix-and-a-half years before his team actually planned out how they wouldillegally gain access to the roof of the towers and then rig the wire.It took eight months to map it out, but on August 7, 1974, they prevailed:Petit walked, danced, and even lay down on a wire suspended 1,350 feet in the air. Hedid not alert the press. He did not have a two-hour primetime special.Doctors weren’t there checking his vital signs, advising him that thiscould be the ultimate Dive of Death. He just did it — a true stunt, andfor those who saw it, a magical one at that.


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