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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 October, 2003, 23:54 GMT 00:54 UK
Blaine's exit provides excitement at last
by Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

David Blaine's endurance feat came to an emotional end on Sunday after 44 days hanging in a glass box next to the River Thames in London.

David Blaine being lowered
Blaine got huge cheers as he was lowered to the ground
Huge crowds, motivated by a voyeuristic fascination and curiosity, used to gather across the river at the Tower of London to see men hanged.

Now, a few centuries later, their descendants - motivated by the same things - came to watch the re-emergence into the world of a man who had been hanging for 44 days.

David Blaine was hung in a box from a crane, of course - and the crowd on Sunday was not baying for blood.

Some were there because they were his biggest fans and had been watching him every day for the last six weeks.

David Blaine
He laughed and waved as he waited to get out
They talked about his compelling "aura" and saw him as a pioneer of human endurance, like an explorer or a sportsman.

There was little evidence of the "Blaine-baiters" who previously threw eggs, drove golf balls, cut his water supply and flew a remote controlled helicopter carrying a burger up to his box.

Margaret Moynihan, 26, from Kennington, south London, who had been a daily visitor, said: "It was a very emotional time.

"When he broke down, I had a tear in my eye. I'm glad it's over for him but I'm sad to see him go."

But the die-hard regulars were outnumbered by those who were merely curious - who were attracted by his mystery or who just had nothing better to do on a Sunday night.

Amrit Ahluwalia, 20, said: "I just wanted to see what the atmosphere's like because we live around the corner so I thought I might as well come down.

"It's pretty good - but it's a bit boring compared to his other stunts."

Fan flashing David Blaine
One female fan gave Blaine something to look at while he waited
Before he was lowered, the crowd had kept themselves amused by trying to get his attention.

One woman had an effective ploy - and the look on his face each time she flashed her breasts proved that he was not all that ill.

And those in the front rows screamed every time he threw one of his possessions out of the box, in the hope that they would get a souvenir.

From his socks and his pencil to his loo roll and a strip of black bin bag that he could have used as a toilet - they were all handed out to dedicated fans.

Coralie Cahill, 11, from Rotherhithe, south London, who got the toilet bag, said Blaine was "stupid" - but would "keep it as a souvenir".

Blaine's stumbling emergence was less spectacular than many had hoped - there had been rumours that the master magician would go out with a bang.

David Blaine
Blaine was taken to a private hospital for treatment
Some thought the crane would swing around and drop the box, with Blaine inside, into the river - leaving him to escape for the grand finale.

Or he could have jumped from his box to the ground - as he did after his pillar stunt in New York last year.

Or he could simply have disappeared in a puff of smoke, maybe leaving a white rabbit in his place.

But none of that happened.

Instead, the crane slowly lowered his box, which was then tipped up to help him get out.

Despite fears that he may be too weak to walk or talk, he stepped out, wobbling a little, and delivered his tearful speech - which he had probably been rehearsing in his head for about 43 days.

The crowd loved it - and the few minutes when he was being helped out created the only real excitement of the whole six weeks.

That was because it was the only thing that had actually happened.

Column inches

The remarkable thing about Blaine's stunt was not the magic - there was not any - or the fact that he survived the full 44 days.

The remarkable thing was the reaction he provoked from the great Great British public.

Love him or hate him, he generated a huge amount of interest, opinions and column inches.

At the end of his six-week stretch inside, about 250,000 people visited the site - all to watch a man doing absolutely nothing.

Maybe it was magic after all.

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