Shades of Kuda Bux, Lester Lake and of course the great “Mystefier,” Houdini! David Blaine has revived the spectacular outdoor stunts of an earlier day, now tricked out with 21st century technology. MagicTimes spoke with William Kalush, Blaine’s collaborator as well as co-executive producer of the ABC-TV special “Frozen In Time,” at the Broadway and 44th Street site where magician Blaine braves the chill of his icy crypt and the scrutiny of the world as he awaits to be released from his arctic-like cell at the conclusion of the Nov.29 broadcast. Our interview was conducted as large crowds gaped and marveled at the sensation.
“The germ of the idea was David’s. He originally conceived an underwater stunt. The “image” of him in water evolved into the “image” of him in ice. Then, all that had to be done was to figure out how to make it work! It’s not a magic trick. It’s a combination of daredevil stunt, sport (endurance is critical to it’s execution) and performance art.”
“We did a lot of experimenting. We’re confident that David can survive for the planned 61 hours. We’re monitoring his heart, breathing and core temperature. We have a crew standing by with chainsaws if we have to break him out due to an emergency.”
One thing that was not counted on is the unseasonably warm weather in New York City. The temperatures in the 40’s are causing the outer ice to melt at an unanticipated rate. “It could melt around him.”
“The frigid tomb was constructed of several blocks of ice,” explains Kalush. Harvested from a lake in Alaska (the cutting and selling of ice was big business in the days prior to mechanical refrigeration) the clear 12,000 plus pounds of frozen water were shipped by truck to New York City. Ice carving specialists carved out the sections comprising the interior chamber and provided channels for the video cables, air and evacuation of waste (Blaine is wearing a type of catheter and is fed hot soup via tubes). “There are two cameras in the ice. One is focused on David’s face. The other is aimed toward the crowd; David’s point of view.”
“I wouldn’t want to be in there. No one else is doing this but David Blaine. It takes stamina, balls and guts. He’s added sex appeal to magic and given the public a new perspective. Magic has not had the kind of respect David’s performances have generated for 74 years. (Houdini died in 1926 – R.C.). We’re trying to make magic reach real people. David connects emotionally to his audience. Nobody likes to be tied up. Blurring the edge is what transforms this into magic. It’s spectacular work that gets people to respect magic and not think of it as cornball. The people know they are seeing something that they won’t see again and they appreciate it. You and I know that sword swallowers actually swallow the swords. Many people think it’s done with a fake blade or by standing sideways. The live crowd here provide authentication to people watching David on TV. They make it real. They are the 21st century version of (Nate) Leipzig’s ‘committee.’ They’re the proof.”
What do you do for an encore? “We’ll come up with something, but we won’t be doing this again.” Only time and David Blaine can tell what this freezing feature is a warm-up to. Stay tuned.
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–Richard Steven Cohn
Richard Steven Cohn has written for Genii, Magicol, M.U.M., The Yankee Collector, MAGIC, as well as magic themed articles for Brooklyn Bridge Magazine and Stagebill. He is a magical consultant for television and theater and performs both as a single and with his wife Alexandra.