WHEN URI MET DAVID
Uri Geller talks to David Blaine
If you knoe David Blaine from his monosyllabicm blank eyed appearance on the GMTV couch, where his interview technique reduced Eamonn Holmes, the host, to frustrated splutters.
Or if you know David Blaine as a chillingly cool Street-Magician who makes his audience scream and run as he levitates, or twists his limbs through 360 degrees, or makes personal possessions materialize on the other side of shop windows.
Or if you know David Blaine as the motionless madman encased in ice, or entombed in a glass coffin, or statuesque on a towering plinth in Manhattan.
Then you haven’t met David Blaine, the hysterical giggler. The David Blaine who rode around London in the back of my Chrysler Voyager with Michael Jackson, laughing so hard that he slid off the seats an almost choked on the floor. He’d just asked for me for my opinion on Sai Baba, the Indian mystic. Now, I have great respect for the septuagenarian Sai, who has been making holy ash and oil drip from thin air for decades. Sai Baba has built universities and hospitals in southern India with donations from his many admirers,and that is praiseworthy.
But I’d heard a much less praiseworthy rumour about the oil… oh, I can’t tell you. Not in print. Not in a family newspapers. But I told David, and he laughed himself sick, while Michael gazed at me in horror and then succumbed to giggles and hugged himself with glee.
If I had space, I’d also tell you about Michael Jackson the giggler. At the Houses of Parliament, where he sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Paul Boateng, the Foreign Office minister.
I wanted to know about David, too, because the first time he called me I had never heard his name. This was about the time of his first ABC special, David Blaine: Street Magic (1997), before the spectacular, unique stunts which spread his fame worldwide. Now, you might think that a skinny Jew would feel insulted to be included in that company, but I’m easily flattered. So I told him he was welcome at my home any time, and 16 hours later he had flown from New York and taken a taxi from Heathrow and was banging on my gate.
David Blaine with Uri Geller and taxi driver in London this June, and right with Michael Jackson, Paul Boateng and Geller at the House of Lords.
There was something weird about the taxi, but to explain will involve such a strange digression.. Well,look, I’ll tell you, but you should feel free to skip the next couple of paragraphs if you think that a really bizarre anecdote is going to put you off this whole interview.
I have a compulsion to sign things. Furniture, buildings, people — I carry a magic marker all the time, and years ago when I saw an all white London cab standing unattended at Reading station, I gave in David Blaine told me he was desperate to meet me, that he had three heroes in his life, and they were Jesus Christ, Orson Welles and Uri Geller to compulsion and signed the bonnet. I drew some bent cutlery, too. So out of 10,000 taxis in southern England, which one do you suppose brought David Blaine to my door? When I pointed this out to him I witnessed the first of his laughter attacks. He simply collapsed on to my gravel drive. The cabbie was surprisingly nice about it too, and the respray wasn’t at all expensive.
David is an utterly sincere man. I think this explains his habit of clamming up in interviews: he desperately wants to tell the truth, and only the truth. It makes, as Eamonn Holmes will tell you, for some awkward exchanges. Like this:
Uri Geller. Do you ever meditate?
David Blaine: Yeah.
Uri Geller: Do you believe in God?
David Blaine: Yeah [long, long, long pause]. I believe God is Love.
Uri Geller: So God is not necessarily a tangible, physical presence?
It could be just pure Love?
David Blaine: Yeah, that’s what God is.
This exchange came about because The Sunday Telegraph magazine asked me to conduct an interview with David Blaine. Here’s the result. In the gaps where David is thinking, I’ll try to fill you in a little more about what I understand of his character.
Uri Geller: OK, David. Here we are on the train to Exeter, to the football club of which I am joint chairman, and where we’re doing a charity show with Michael Jackson. You and I have both demonstrated some of the hidden powers of the mind and it would be interesting to hear, David, how you explain some of your incredible achievements.
David Blaine: I think that everything that I do is actually normal, and I think what’s interesting about everything that I do is that if you take the competitiveness out of it, we’re all capable of doing the same things. If I asked you to stand in one spot for 35 hours or a certain length of time, you could do it. I think the reason people come up with alternative methods of how it’s done is because if they accept I can do it, they have also got to accept that they are able to do it.
Uri Geller: How much further can humans push the limits of the mind?
David Blaine: Much much further.
Uri Geller: But how much further? Give me an example.
David Blaine: People haven’t even begun to tap into the potential of what the mind is possible of doing.
We only use a certain percentage of our brains.
Note: David can calm his brain activity to a point so far beyond boredom that I, with my incessant desire for constant sensation, can only imagine that he experiences time differently in this state. How can anyone stand on a circular platform 22in across, above Bryant Park, without moving for 35 hours? After 20 minutes I would have thrown myself off, just for something to do. His poise and balance are heart-stopping – he took me up to the roof of Harrods before the `statue’ stunt, and stood on one leg on a Sin parapet four storeys above the pavement. When Mohammed Fayed, the owner of Harrods, saw him he was apoplectic: Tugging get that mad fugging madman off my fugging roof, you fugging…’
Uri Geller: Do you think that some day we’ll be able to heal with the
power of the mind?
David Blaine: I think now we’re able to heal with the power of the mind.
I know there’s instances of a woman who was going to die of cancer, and all of a sudden she started watching this funny movie, over and over again, and she laughed so much that the tumours stopped growing and started to eat themselves away. The tumours actually vanished and she survived the disease.
Note: of course there are many cases of miraculous recoveries from cancer, and of course laughter and prayer have been proven to be effective components of some cures – but I wonder if David subconsciously chose this vague example because his own mother, who raised him alone, died of cancer when he was 19. And is his own madcap laughter a kind of ritual protection for him? He has told me that his talent and dedication are made possible by his reverence for her memory: she is his muse.
Uri Geller: What role does the paranormal play in what you do, if at all?
David Blaine: I think everything I do is normal, not paranormal but normal.
It’s using the power of the mind to achieve whatever we can endure.
Uri Geller: What makes you tick? What makes David Blaine tick?
David Blaine: I think that what I do with my magic, such as evoking responses from people or even putting myself in difficult situations,is an attempt at living truthfully in a given moment. In other words, to feel completely alive and awake at one specific moment.
Uri Geller: And that’s why you do what you do?
David Blaine: Yeah. So that I can attempt to appreciate life by taking away everything on the edge. All the extravagances.
Note: there is a swirl of cultures around David Blaine, and it may be that all the baggage of his ancestry is the `extravagance’ at the `edge’ that he wants to jettison. Many people lazily assume he is Afro-American because of his very dark skin: in fact, his mother was a Russian Jew and his father was half-Sicilian and half-Puerto Rican.
Uri Geller. What is your attitude to death?
David Blaine: I think that when you die you go back to where you came from before you were born. So I don’t think death is a bad thing.
Uri Geller: Are you afraid of death?
David Blaine: No.
Uri Geller. Not at all? When you do your stunts, when you jump off a pole – something could go wrong. Doesn’t it ever enter your mind that you might die?
David Blaine: I look on it as a real possibility but I’m not afraid of death.
Uri Geller: But David, let’s face it, the stunts that you do are dangerous. They are dangerous. What kind of boy were you? Were you always courageous when you were a young boy?
David Blaine: Yes, I always used to get a rise from being in a situation
Uri Geller: Do you think that it’s important to suffer in life?
David Blaine: It’s very important to suffer. It reminds us of what all the other humans after and before us will go through and have gone through. It’s a very honest human emotion.
Uri Geller: How much do you think you can push your body, to what extremes?
David Blaine: As far as it’ll take it.
Uri Geller: Even if it borders on the possibility of you not making it and dying while you’re doing it – you’re willing to take that risk?
David Blaine: Sure.
Uri Geller: Do you see yourself as Houdini’s successor?
David Blaine: No. Houdini was a showman that used magic as a way of..
Note: this sentence was unfinished. I’ m sure about this, because I waited most of the way between Didcot
Parkway and Swindon for my friend to start talking again, but it simply didn’t happen. In my opinion, what
makes David so different from Harry Houdini is honesty: David will do nothing which he does not know to
be wholly honest, whereas Houdini was a professional trickster who could not believe in the bona fides
of anyone else. That made Houdini a doggedly skeptical paranormal investigator, and a fearless performer — he always succeeded because he always knew how to work the system. David Blaine is not fearless but fatalistic: when he risks his life, he does so knowing that he will die if death is the only honest outcome.
Uri Geller: David, what about these bastards – sorry – who try to expose trickery in magic, and who try to say what you do is not real, when you know that what they’re saying is not true. Do you feel angry about it?
David Blaine: It’s upsetting but I believe that the images I create will last longer than these cheating attempts to thrive and make money out of what I’ve created.
Geller: `Doesn’t it ever enter your mind that you might die during a stunt?’ Blaine: `It’s a real possibility, but I’m not afraid of death’
Uri Geller: Can you tell us about your next stunt?
David Blaine: It has to do with a helicopter and a body of water.
Uri Geller: What will happen?
David Blaine: It’ll be a surprise.
Uri Geller: In which country will it take place?
David Blaine: Hopefully England.
Note: he has said the original plan was to throw himself off Brooklyn Bridge, wrapped in chains, to recreate one of Houdini’s great stunts. Only Houdini took a key with him. I suspect David wants to shun that precaution: He will want to materialise a key through willpower.
Uri Geller: Look, you became one of the most famous people on this planet. How do you feel inside your heart? Are you flabbergasted? Are you amazed? Or do you just take it as it comes?
David Blaine: I haven’t even started yet. I’m just beginning.
SUNDAY TELEGRAPH MAGAZINE
8 SEPTEMBER 2002
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Motivational, inspirational, empowering compelling 'infotainment' which leaves the audience amazed, mesmerized, motivated, enthusiastic, revitalised and with a much improved positive mental attitude, state of mind & self-belief.
“There is no spoon!”
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“Uri Geller gave an absolutely resonating talk on his life and career. He had every single magician in the room on the edge of their seats trying to digest as much information as they could. Uri emphasized that the path to frame is through uniqueness and charisma and that professional entertainers must be creative in their pursuits of success and never shy away from publicity.”
Tannens Magic Blog
“The man is a natural magician. He does everything with great care, meticulous misdirection and flawless instinct. The nails are real, the keys are really borrowed, the envelopes are actually sealed, there are no stooges, there are no secret radio devices and there are no props from the magic catalogues.”
James Randi (In an open letter to Abracadabra Magazine)
Sir Elton John
“Eternity is down the hall And you sit there bending spoons In your mind, in your mind”
“I Have watched Uri Geller… I have seen that so I am a believer. It was my house key and the only way I would be able to use it is get a hammer and beat it out back flat again.”
“Better than watching Geller bending silver spoons, better than witnessing new born nebulae’s in bloom”