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The Houdini of the Hoi Polloi

Though he's best known for his high-profile stunts of endurance, David Blaine feels the true magic happens when he connects with the man on the street.

November 19, 2000|MARNELLE JAMESON | Special to the Times

Out on the streets again, Blaine heads to an editing studio for a session he's moved back three times. On the way, he concedes to showing his visitor a few tricks. "I'm not a trained seal," he says, referring to his reluctance to do command performances. "I have to feel like it."

He asks for the pack of cards he bought earlier, which I've been carrying, presumably so he couldn't switch them. The cellophane wrap is still on. I open it. He shuffles and hands them back, asks me to cut the deck and look at the card in the cut and close the deck. "Now think of your card," he says, then he locks his eyes on me. "King of spades."

He's right.

I look puzzled. "That's just being good with cards," he says. "I can look at a pile of cards and tell you how many are there."

I split the deck again and show him part of the deck. "Thirty-one," he says.

I count. Right again. Still, that doesn't explain how he knew my card.

"It's all mental," he says, shuffling the deck again. Next he fans the deck in front of me so I can see it's still a normal deck. He hands me the deck and asks me to think of a card, any card. For no reason, I think of the two of hearts. I'm still holding the deck.

"Turn over the top card," he says. It's my card.

He talks about something called mentalism, a mix of intuition and psychology. "Some people you can read; some you can't." Whatever. It's weird.

Then it gets weirder.

Still holding the cards, I deal them one at a time, face down, onto Blaine's palm, stopping when I want to. The last card I give him is the jack of diamonds, which we agree will be my card. He puts the jack on his palm and gives me the rest of the deck. We're standing beside a large glass window of an empty storefront. He holds up his hand to the glass. As I stand watching, no more than a foot away, the card appears to shoot through the double-layered window, then stick--facing us--to the opposite side of the glass.

When I find my voice, I ask, "How?"

"If I told you how a plane could fly, how 11,000 tons of steel could stay suspended in the air, I could tell you almost anything and you'd believe me. I'll just tell you it's all very simple."

Moments later, as we cross the street for some coffee, I look back at the window to see if what happened was just an illusion. "Look," I say, 'the card's still there."

He shrugs. "It will probably be there for a long time," he says, then smiles at the connection.

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