NATIONAL

Illusionist begins starvation stunt

LONDON SEPT. 6. Londoners on Saturday woke up to the sight of a bizarre new tourist attraction as the controversial American illusionist, David Blaine, sealed himself in a see-through plastic box and had it hoisted over the Thames where he will spend the next 44 days without food or any other life-sustaining substance, except plain water fed to him through a tube.

As Mr. Blaine (30) prepared for what promises to be the toughest endurance stunt ever attempted, he admitted that he was "worried" about the last three weeks of his adventure, which doctors warned could cause lasting damage to his health and affect his mind.

"From a medical point of view, I cannot condone it. From a personal point of view, I think he's nuts," said Dr. Adam Carey, who examined Mr. Blaine before he was "boxed", sealed and left dangling from a crane 40 feet above the ground, next to the Tower Bridge.

Mr. Blaine, who would have no contact with the outside world for the next six weeks, said he was aware of the risks he was taking and was prepared for the "worst". "I'm not worried about the first three weeks. I am worried about the second half of this when I start to lose my mind and everything gets really bad... I am pushing myself as far as I can humanly push myself."

Hundreds of people watched him throughout the day as he sat huddled in his box with only a few personal items for company. These include his late mother's photograph and a notebook in which he plans to write his impressions. While many said they were impressed by his spirit of adventure but were not sure if what he was doing was sensible, some dismissed it as a "cheap publicity stunt". The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, also condemned what he described as an "extremely foolish and dangerous" act.

Mr. Blaine, who will emerge from his isolation on October 19 to a live television welcome unless he is forced to abandon the show earlier, is known for his publicity-seeking "feats", which include standing on a pole on New York's Fifth Avenue for 35 hours and spending 60 hours in an ice box in Times Square. But he has described his latest bid as the "most extreme exercise in isolation and physical deprivation ever attempted". Yet, ironically, he would not be acknowledged in the Guinness Book of World Records, which has dismissed it as a mere "performance". Fellow magicians were sceptical of Mr. Blaine's claim and one was quoted as saying: "I give him 10 days. The box will mysteriously fall into the river and it will appear that Blaine has been swept away with the tide. He will turn up triumphantly half an hour later in Hyde Park."

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