Fans of renowned magician David Blaine may think he would look up to Harry Houdini or Doug Henning, but he looked elsewhere.
“My mother was my No. 1 inspiration,” Blaine says sweetly of Patricia White.
“She taught me to read really good books, and to go to the library and read and research. Incredible writers—those were my inspiration, too. She was a teacher. She did a lot for people. When she passed away, everybody was devastated. She was amazing.”
Blaine is promoting his forthcoming tour, which includes a Sunday, May 27, stop at the Mesa Arts Center. In late April, he appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. He performed a card trick after sewing his mouth shut in front of the host, members of The Roots, and actress Priyanka Chopra.
“What you saw on Fallon is just a small dose of the show,” Blaine says. “The real stuff I do has to be seen live.”
He melds feats of endurance with straight magic. Blaine has been working out four hours a day, and barely eating, to prepare for his tour. He can’t have any food in his stomach when he does a Hadji Ali-inspired trick with kerosene, a gallon of water and a lighter. A vaudeville magician known for his controlled regurgitation, Ali died after a bout of pneumonitis. He doesn’t want the same thing to happen to him.
“I’m getting fit and preparing for the tour,” he says.
Described by Howard Stern as the greatest, Blaine redefined magic after producing and direction his TV special Street Magic, when he was 23.
Blaine’s primetime specials have shown him being buried alive in New York City for a week, encased inside a 6-ton block of ice for three days, surviving standing atop a 100-foot-tall pillar in Bryant Park for 36 hours without a safety net, enduring 44 days inside a transparent box in London on nothing but water, and living within 1 million volts discharged at him continuously for 72 hours from seven Tesla coils.
The magic behind his career? Blaine’s mom. Blaine was intrigued by the magicians he saw on street corners or on Coney Island in New York. White encouraged a 4-year-old Blaine to pursue his desired career.
“I was lucky in the sense she let me pursue my passions,” he says.
Blaine describes his success simply. He does the opposite of other magicians.
“I am a performer of the street. I’m the complete opposite of The World’s Greatest Magic,” he says of the TV show.
“I love watching people’s reaction. That only happens with a certain kind of magic. There’s that suspension of disbelief.”
There’s no disbelief on Blaine’s side, however. He has nerves of steel.
“I don’t just jump into things,” he says. “I practice. I rehearse. I meet with different people. If I just jumped in and created, I would have that nervous feeling, I’m sure.
“Step by step I get all the failures out of the way before I start to approach the concept. When I see something, I do something. I don’t get nervous. It’s more of the excitement of trying to achieve it. For me, it’s not about the actual results. It’s the work that goes into it. That’s the driving force.”
David Blaine, Mesa Arts Center’s Ikeda Theater, 1 E. Main Street, Mesa, 480.644.6500, mesaartscenter.com, 8 p.m. Sunday, May 27, $50-$126.