THE SECRET OF DAVID BLAINE'S TRICKS? WET WIPES AND A MYSTERY PACKET FROM BOOTS; Olivia Stewart-Liberty Spends a Bizarre Day with the World's Oddest Magician - and Finds Him Obsessed with the Ghetto (Brixton) and a Leggy Blonde supermodel,REVIEW

Article excerpt

Byline: OLIVIA STEWART-LIBERTY

David Blaine is handsome, charismatic and famous, and I must admit I'd been looking forward to meeting him. The photographs of him - naked - in his book did nothing to check my excitement. Even the comment of a friend who said 'What nasty common legs' as I pored over a shot of him squatting, hand held contemplatively under chin, was not going to put me off.

Suddenly he's here: bowling unsmiling out of Capital Radio in Leicester Square. All in black, a black scarf spiralling out behind him, black overcoat and black beard. The only flash of colour is the green-eyed supermodel who is, rather annoyingly, draped all over him.

'Wow, you really broke him down in there,' the PR person from Channel 4 says to Blaine, nervously. It brings to mind that horrific interview he did live on GMTV with presenter Eamonn Holmes three years ago when he fixed the interviewer with a fish-eyed stare and uttered not a word. It's used on media courses now to illustrate what must never happen. Blaine doesn't even look at the PR. Perhaps his lips twitch.

A silver Mercedes is waiting. 'Let's go to The Ghetto,' says the magician in his adenoidal drawl as he and the supermodel - still entwined - slide into the back.

There are six of us and the four others, including me, stand about wondering what to do. 'We can all squeeze in here,' Blaine's monotone comes from the interior of the car, his slothful brown eyes dull and unfocused.

He's holding a copy of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor between his thighs. The supermodel, who is clutching his arm, tosses her dirty blonde hair and rests her head on his shoulder.

In the end there are four of us on the back seat and I engage the magician in chat.

'So, what show were you doing?' Silence. 'How did it go?' Silence. 'Do you like London?' A roll of the eyes. 'Have you been here before?' A nod.

'Often?' A nod. 'Whereabouts are you staying?' 'Whereabouts am I staying?'

Bored, dismissive and addressed to his girlfriend.

The traffic's no better than the chat and the driver doubts we'll make The Ghetto - which, it seems, is Brixton - and back before lunch. It takes us 40 excruciating minutes to travel a mile, so the driver turns back towards the West End. The bolshy magician slumps in his seat; the supermodel strokes his thigh.

The new plan is that Blaine should do some 'effects' (as he calls his card tricks) for people on Oxford Street. This is only one string to this man's bow and his effects - finding the ace, reviving a dead fly, biting a section from a coin - pale into insignificance compared to the other stunts (' performance pieces') on his CV. He stood on top of an 80ft column without sleep, food, water or safety net for 35 hours. He spent seven days and nights buried alive. He survived 62 hours inside a giant ice cube. This weekend he began his latest ordeal: six weeks in a box suspended over the Thames with only water for sustenance.

Just north of Oxford Circus, the car stops. The supermodel hands Blaine a Wet Wipe. Methodically, he wipes his hands before passing the rag back to her. We get out. Blaine blinks in the sunlight. He takes a new pack of cards from his pocket.

'David, your shoelace is undone,' the supermodel says. Unhearing, he crosses the road, the lace trailing behind him. Two plasterers, mid-40s and covered in dust, scurry after him. 'I seen you on TV. How d'you get that playing card the other side of the glass?' one of them says.

They are like excited children. Blaine hands over the pack of cards.

'Unwrap it,' he says. A crowd has formed. Blaine shuffles the pack. Cards rise and fall, appearing, disappearing, reappearing. He puts a card through a man's hand. It comes out of the other side. 'You're too bad,' the man gasps.

David almost smiles.

The magician crosses the road again, the shoelace still dragging. …