As the coronavirus may be at its apex, David Blaine is on call. Not as a doctor, of course, but as a magician. He’s been making himself available to entertain patients, first-responders and medical workers who are fighting the pandemic. Though he’s been performing in hospitals since age 18, Blaine, now 47, has had to …
As the coronavirus may be at its apex, David Blaine is on call. Not as a doctor, of course, but as a magician. He’s been making himself available to entertain patients, first-responders and medical workers who are fighting the pandemic.
Though he’s been performing in hospitals since age 18, Blaine, now 47, has had to figure out how to do his mind-blowing tricks remotely, via FaceTime on iPad — a medium that feels custom made for these times of social distancing. And when he says “I tell [hospital personnel] to call me whenever it works for them and I’ll make the time,” he isn’t kidding.
“I was driving once, got a call and pulled over immediately,” Blaine, who lives in Manhattan but is in Los Angeles, tells The Post. “I took out a deck of cards and did FaceTime magic as best I could. I jump to it because you don’t know what will be going on, and who will be where, if you call back 10 minutes later. But what I do is easy. The real challenge is what nurses and doctors and patients are going through on the front lines.”
Connecting with hospitals such as Mount Sinai and Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, Blaine requests that his audience-members have decks of cards handy. Then he does one-on-one tricks in which he guesses the cards they surreptitiously select. With his subjects always wearing masks, the normal advantage of reading facial expressions has become moot. And the grim circumstances contribute to raising the pressure. “If I do a trick and it doesn’t work, that’s really a bummer,” he says, acknowledging that there is lower margin for error with an audience that is already feeling down. “I need to get these things right.”
While Blaine usually enjoys freaking people out, he says that right now his goal is the opposite — particularly for hospital staff. “They’re out there getting exposed to a virus that can put them and their relatives seriously at risk,” the magician says. “My goal is to give them a distraction and a few seconds of laughter.”
Diane Rode, director of child life at Mt. Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital, who is Blaine’s point of contact there, tells The Post that for those contending with a mysterious disease magic is particularly apt. “Magic proposes that it is possible to use an invisible force to change the visible,” she says. “You see a small miracle taking place. The act of witnessing that creates a moment of inspiration.”
In the midst of a recent 10-hour day of helping people come to terms with a possibly fatal virus, Mt. Sinai music therapist Todd O’Connor felt freighted by the tension he had been diffusing in others. But when he propped open an iPad, shuffled a deck of cards, went through a series of cuts and watched Blaine produce the 3 of spades that he had selected as his card, the moment had outsize impact. “The process actually helped me to let go of the emotions weighing me down,” says O’Connor. “You don’t get many invitations for that right now. He took me to another place and I felt lighter at the end of the trick.”
Blaine’s current focus does a similar thing for him: “The greatest satisfaction as a magician is bringing joy to people who can really use it. I’m so happy to do anything to show that I appreciate what they are all doing and going through.”