Thursday, 5 April 2012

Emergency / Escapology

Dear Reader,


So, I have spent some time mulling the letter E and some nice sounding words that may make a post. Elephant, endoscopy, emu, I could go on. I have come up blank, nothing feels like a post. Consulting my preparatory notes, (a tome so thin I can't see it when it turns sideways) under E there is one word; emergency. In desperation I have taken to just writing how I feel about this emergency in the hope that inspiration will strike. I have no idea what sort of verbal escapology is going to get me out of this hole. Escapology, interesting...


Let's start again, Dear Reader. When you look at the history of Escapology, inevitably two names seem to draw your eye. At the start was Harry Houdini and in recent years there was David Blaine. There have been notable others in-between but this is enough to be getting on with.

Another fine pickle Houdini had got himself into.
Harry Houdini, well the mere name seems to suggest magic and mystery. Much better than his birth monicker, Ehrich Weiss, a family name he did well to escape. Houdini is without doubt the Father of escapology and also (not by choice) the Father of mass tie-in advertising events. The concept collaboration between advertiser and performer, where the performer stuns and the advertiser funds a mass audience event plastered with the advertisers' wares. It is probably hard to understand how Houdini escaping from a barrel of Budweiser (or whatever the beer of the day was) would influence modern marketing thinking so profoundly, but, a modern example follows, look away if you're scared of heights:

The performer, the stunt and the advertiser may have changed but the concept remains the same. Unfortunately little film remains of the the feats accredited to Houdini, but as long as his memory lives on in such spectacular fashion, I'm fine with that.

So to David Blaine, a more than commendable street magician who revolutionised the way that close up and personal magic would be portrayed on television. The method relied more on the reactions of the stunned audience than the magic itself, a trick that has been used by TV cameramen filming magicians since 1997 when David Blaine: Street Magician  first aired.

Like Houdini, Blaine obsessed with endurance related stunts which were (of course) mass tie-in events, with mixed results. As Mr Blaine's feats are more recent and well documented some commentary may be required...

April 1999 - Buried Alive
After spending seven days buried alive in a confined space with minimal supplies of food David said "I saw something very prophetic ... a vision of every race, every religion, every age group banding together, and that made all this worthwhile" Well that's nice.

November 2000 - Frozen In Time
Not to be put off by being buried alive, David now choosed to have himself encased in ice in New York's Times Square for 63 hours. Apparently he looked chilly even before he got in the ice block. When released, all he could say was "Brrr" before he was hauled into an ambulance. Of the sentences that precede this one I will leave it to you, Dear Reader, to guess which one was made up.

May 2002 - Vertigo
An ailment which he clearly doesn't suffer from, otherwise why else would you hoist yourself up 30m high and 0.5m wide pillar and then stand there for 35 hours. David then threw himself off, out of sheer boredom presumably.

I was just kidding, bring the ladder back!
September 2003 - Above the Below
David on this occasion tried the stamina and patience of the British public. He spent 44 days in a plexiglass cage suspended above the South Bank of the River Thames in a cloud of British apathy. He apparently survived on nothing but 4.5 litres of water and insults from drunken party goers every day. He is quoted as saying "I love you all." as he emerged before once again being rushed to hospital. This maybe true, but whoever arranged for a hamburger to be flown round his plexiglass cage suspended from a remote control helicopter was not, it seems, sharing the love.

The media  feeding frenzy that accompanied the start of this stunt had subsided into apathy after three days or so. The eventual end of the stunt was greeted more with relief than anything else.

David may have learned something from this experience, either that or his psychiatrist finally talked some sense into him. The duration of his more recent public stunts can be measured in minutes rather than centuries, which is what our modern You-Tube based world desires. Perhaps David watched Robbie Madison in the video above and thought that's the way to entertain.

David will allegedly be returning this year with a new TV series where he returns to street magic. Good, even shorter sequences for an audience with increasingly short attention spans.

I will absolutely be returning tomorrow with something a little less tenuous from the frantic letter F

Laters Dear Reader.



  1. I do enjoy David Blaine's street magic. NEver heard of his stunt in london though.
    Great A-Z post!

    1. Oh it was great, he got so much grief it was almost embarrassing. His street magic was amazing though.