Blaine's magic hands captivate Alumni Arena
Illusionist David Blaine performs for Distinguished Speaker Series
On a dark stage, stood a brightly lit tank full of colorful fish and a man dressed in all black.
For 10 minutes, the man in black held his breath as he managed to make an eel come out of his mouth, juggle three steel balls, eat a banana and smoke a cigar, before taking a selfie with a lucky UB student.
The scene? Captivating. The man? David Blaine.
Blaine concluded the 27th annual Distinguished Speakers Series in front of a packed Alumni Arena Saturday night. The world-renown magician and endurance artist told stories of his life through small anecdotes and magic tricks intrigued the audience for the entire performance.
It was the first time Blaine performed this stunt in front of an audience.
"This is just an act that shows people should come to [the] Distinguished Speakers Series," said Courtney Hanusch, a senior psychology major.
After drying off and returning to the stage about 10 minutes later, Blaine explained how he became immersed in the world of magic.
Flicking playing cards back and forth between his hands, Blaine shared anecdotes about how magic became the focal point of his life.
When Blaine was 5 years old he wore two leg braces, had asthma and was not athletic. Despite these difficulties, he wished to become as strong as "The Incredible Hulk." Blaine began challenging himself by running barefoot through the snow of New York and working on his magic tricks.
As a teenager, Blaine exposed himself to more magic by hanging out in a deli frequented by local magicians.
One day, a man walked into the deli, took a deck of cards and performed a trick where he flicked one card perfectly from one hand onto a deck in the other, the card flipping in the air - seemingly by magic.
"I was freaked out," Blaine said in his speech. "I said 'How do you do that? How do you make cards flip over each other?' He said, 'Kid, don't bother. I spent 10 years on it; it's a complete waste of your time. You'll never get it.'"
Blaine took that as a challenge.
For the next four months, Blaine focused on trying to make the cards switch hands in mid-air and fall perfectly into place on the other half of the deck in the opposite hand.
After innumerable failed attempts, Blaine finally mastered the trick and showed it off to the local magician.
"Finally, I'm in a restaurant where I'm trying to get a job doing magic and he comes walking in as a customer and I say, 'Bill, look let me show you something.' I pull out my deck of cards and I do this little simple switch," Blaine said. "He says, 'Give me that deck.' He looks at the deck and he pulls his deck out of his pocket and he says, 'Do it with this deck.' I take it from him flip the two cards and that was it. We became friends."
From then on, Blaine's confidence and passion for understanding card tricks and illusions grew.
To show how experienced Blaine was with a deck of cards, he asked for volunteers from the audience to join in on basic card tricks. Senior business major Shelley Visone was selected as a volunteer.
"I would have never expected to get up there," Visone said. "It was really nerve racking getting up there and kind of seeing everything was right in front of my face was really cool."
The crowd's applauds grew with its excitement after each successful trick.
Blaine really caught the attention of the audience when he performed a trick he refers to as "subliminal activity."
He had one volunteer close her eyes while touching the other participant's nose. The participant with their eyes closed claimed they felt Blaine's touch. This was Blaine's way of showing how closely connected these participants were.
The next trick was called "Smash and Stab."
One participant placed a sharp ice pick on a wooden block in one bag, and mixed it amongst two other bags that held just wooden blocks.
The other participant was blindfolded as the other person mixed up the bags; the goal being to have the blindfolded person correctly guess which bags did not contain the ice pick.
"Whatever bag you point to, I'm going to thrust [my hand] as hard as I can over the bag and if the ice pick is not in there, then we're good," Blaine explained to the participants. "We're going to do this two more times and then celebrate."
The trick was successful as the blindfolded participant correctly guessed the two bags without the pick.
Blaine wanted to prove that he could withstand the pain, so he drove an ice pick through the center of his hand until it had gone all the way through.
No blood was apparent, only the shrieks and loud gasps filled the air of Alumni Arena.
"I come to three or four [Distinguished Speaker Series events] every year," Visone said. "It was a great way to end [my] senior year."
After two hours of captivating magic tricks, Blaine left the audience questioning what was real, what was an illusion and what was magic.