An Eyewitness Report
David Blaine’s Vertigo stunt, which will be used to close his television special on Wednesday May 22 at 10pm ET on ABC-TV, began on Tuesday May 21 at noon. The stunt is basically an endurance test with a dangerous dismount.
Blaine will attempt to stand on top of a ten-story high pillar from noon on Tuesday to 10:50pm on Wednesday at which time he will dive onto a 12-foot high platform made of cardboard boxes. The danger lies in both the 35-hour balancing act, which could have him accidentally fall onto the steel and concrete below and the actual landing at the conclusion which will have to be precise in order to minimize injury.
The stunt, which can also be described as performance art, takes place at Bryant Park in New York City. For those not familiar with the area it is a small park that is located behind the New York City Public Library (between 40th and 42nd streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues) and is a very short walk from the two major New York City ports of entry: Grand Central Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
The ten story high pillar is around 3-6 feet wide at its base and tapers to 22 inches at the top where Blaine is standing. It is bolted to a large steel platform, which rests on concrete. There are also several cables anchoring it to minimize any swaying with the wind. Blaine was very lucky as the weather, which has been unpredictable of late, was perfect. It was a warm sunny day with very little wind.
Upon arriving at the venue you couldn’t help but notice that the security was much more serious than at his previous events. Anyone without proper credentials was immediately questioned and the more sensitive passes, like the one we were using, were retrieved upon our departure.
Between the security staff, press people, crane operators, event crew, publicists, camera operators, and assistants there must have been around 50-100 people involved with the running of the event.
The press was very well represented with dozens of television cameras, still photographers, audio recorders from radio stations and print reporters. The reporters were positioned facing the pillar when all of a sudden David Blaine decided to surprise everyone by making his entrance from behind them. All the cameras were immediately lifted off the tripods and became “hand-helds” as they began to follow Blaine as he welcomed all his invited guests, friends and brother.
Blaine then walked to the platform in front of the pillar to take questions, do quick interviews and pose for hundreds of photographs. They had him take off his shoes to show the inside and answer silly questions like “How are you going to stay awake?” Blaine was in a very good mood kidding around with everyone and trying to give everyone an opportunity to either take a picture or ask a question.
Blaine then left briefly for last minute preparations. As noon approached Blaine came back for some more photos as he took off his shoes and showed everyone the catheter running down his leg. He lifted his shirt to expose a utility belt that appeared to contain battery packs and communications equipment, which was later, hooked up to an earpiece. As he was getting on the crane he was tossed a water bottle to take up with him and mentioned that he is dedicating the stunt to his mother.
When it was time to get to the top of the pillar Blaine climbed onto a wrecking ball attached to a crane, which slowly took him up to the top. He carefully stepped off the ball and onto the pillar to a rousing ovation from the gathered audience.
The pillar used for the stunt looked more like a Roman column than the pole he used to practice with and has been seen on TV. This pillar had no steps and the only visible way to get down would be to jump/fall or to be picked up by one of the cranes. There were actually three cranes: the one used to hoist him to the top of the pillar, one with a camera crew and a separate robotic crane with a single camera attached to it.
Several thousand fans, tourists, curiosity seekers and New Yorkers on their lunch hour surrounded the site both in the park and on the sidewalks and streets around it. There were many people who brought their own folding chairs to witness the event and many others who will visit over the next day and a half to see if he is still there and cheer him on.
The largest crowds will most likely be at the conclusion of the event, during the live telecast when David Blaine will dive from his secluded perch on top of the world and come back to earth — hopefully safe and sound.