David Blaine – Play your cards right.


Jan 1999

Play your cards right

He levitates! He makes girls wet their pants! Meet magic’s new prince, David Blain

Paul Daniels is a prick. So is David Copperfield. That much is clear. But drop your preconceptions for a sec, because 25-year-old David Blaine is the coolest magician never to have sawn a woman in half. Forget flashy pyrotechnics, gaudy props and glamorous assistants, Blaine’s understated style was honed on the mean streets of New York City where he stunned passers-by with gob-smacking card tricks. As luck would have it, a US TV network executive spotted him wowing the crowds and pulled him in for a screen test. The powers that be were impressed enough to sign Blaine up on a million dollar contract and he now numbers celebs such as Leo DiCaprio and Bobby De Niro among his close friends. Oh, and he can levitate. Woooh.

You call your style ‘close-up magic’ because the camera doesn’t move from your hands when you do card tricks. You’ve obviously dedicated your whole life to magic – your sleight of hand is incredible. When did you start performing?

I first picked up a pack of cards when I was four. It just felt so right in my hands. I knew then there was something special going on.

But you can’t just do magic straight away can you? Surely you had to read up on it?

Yeah, I read a few books. Uri Geller, Orson Welles and Jesus Christ are all people I admire for their magic. Geller is great – a genuine miracle worker. So he gets the odd prediction wrong or occasionally his magic doesn’t work but hey, nobody can be 100% right all the time.

And Jesus Christ – he was a magician?

Of course. He was a great prophet, too, but he was also one of the greatest magicians. I too try to practise magic with morality – some people misuse their abilities, but not me. Not any more anyway. Back when I was a kid I’d go into department stores like Macy’s and steal clothes then give them out in the ghetto, like a modern Robin Hood. I wasn’t invisible, I was just not visible – store detectives’ eyes just slid over me. It’s a skill I picked up quite early on in life.

And now you’re a multi-millionaire magician, like David Copperfield. What do you think of him?

I don’t. I do my own thing and David Copperfield doesn’t figure in that.

And Paul Daniels?


Ha ha. Precisely. Let’s move on. What about when it comes to the opposite sex? Your magic hands must prove pretty useful.

Yeah, doing some magic at parties helps break the ice. I’ve always got a pack of cards in my hands. I don’t think it makes me any more attractive to women, though.

So what do you reckon people think when they first meet you?

Who’s that f***ing weirdo with the cards? [laughs]

How’d you deal with those annoying people who always say, “I know how he’s doing it?”

That doesn’t matter. Anyone who sees me will become a believer – they’re just thinking “what?” not “how?” No one ever asked me anyway because although they’re intrigued, they’ve also got respect. Magicians are secretive you see. We spend so much time working on something that we don’t want to tell everyone how it’s done.

Leonardo DiCaprio certainly seems to respect you. You hang out together don’t you?

Yeah, when he’s in town we get together. Leo’s a good guy. He understands where I’m coming from. I don’t do magic to be famous though. Fame and movie stars do nothing for me – my magic is for everyone, from street kids right up to the President.

You showed Clinton some moves?

Oh yeah, he was into it. Totally. That was a good reaction but not everyone feels the same way about magic. I had some bad experiences as a kid – one girl had an asthma attack when I levitated and her buddy started shouting “He’s the devil!”. It didn’t faze me though, I wasn’t a particularly emotional child. Another time, when I was 16, I showed this drunk guy some magic and he thought I was making fun of him, saying he’s stupid, you know. But he’s an undercover cop right? So he sticks a gun in my mouth and tells me to get ready to die. I was lucky to get out of that one.

Any other unusual reactions?

One girl pissed her pants, that was kinda funny. That one’s on the TV special actually, if you watch it you’ll see her. Man, she looked like she was about to have a heart attack. Black people tend to dance around a lot when they see magic, white people just look startled. I showed some stuff to a pro football team once. Boy, those guys were spooked – half the team ran away from me after one trick.

Besides the card tricks, what else is in David Blaine’s repertoire?

There’s a cool little thing I do with coins. Give me a coin and I’ll bite a chunk out of it then regenerate it. I can also twist my arm through 1080 degrees, although that does hurt a little. Mainly it’s the cards though, they’ve been an integral part of my life for so long that a lot of my magic revolves around them.

Let’s talk about the levitation because I understand that its most people’s favourite trick. You rise six inches off the floor. Er, how the hell do you do it?

I learned how to do it when I was four. A homeless guy showed me and I just understood the principle immediately. I felt it and knew it.

Yes, but how do you actually do it?

It’s all based on the simple truth. Over the years I’ve met a few people who understand, but not many. If you have to ask then you’ll never know. It’s not that amazing – there’s people in this world who’d find a nuclear submarine more impossible to conceptualise than levitation.

Hmm, I’m still a sceptic I’m afraid. Could you do anything to convince me of your powers? How about guessing the card I’m thinking of?

[slightly miffed] Okay, you really wanna do this? Concentrate on that card [30 second silence]. It’s red it’s the queen of hearts.

[shocked] Bloody hell. Er, you’re right.

I know. I also know that you were thinking of the two of diamonds first.

That’s so strange. No offence, but you must be a odd bloke to live with.

Probably [laughs]. I share an apartment with a ninja though, so we understand each other pretty well.

A ninja? Does he always disappear in a puff of smoke when it’s time to do the washing up?

Naah, not yet. Saying that, I haven’t seen him for a few days.

If you were a character in a Stephen King book, the government would probably approach you to do tests and use you in espionage or defence research. Has that call come through yet?

Um, I don’t really want to talk about that. I have been approached by someone, as has Uri Geller and I know Ministry is a British mag but I just can’t go into that right now. I will say that I refused their offer though.

You’re magic’s young upstart, the heir to the throne. What’s next for David Blaine?

I’m gonna take you all to a place you’ve never seen before and break all the boundaries. You’ve only seen a taste of my powers – over the next eight years we’re moving to the upper level. Get ready ’cause it’s going to blow your mind. . .

Channel 4 is screening an hour long special, David Blaine: Street Magic this Christmas


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