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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 05:57 GMT 06:57 UK
US bemused by Blaine-baiters
By Chris Heard
BBC News Online entertainment staff

BBC News Online asks whether David Blaine's reputation in the US been affected by the show of disdain from his British tormentors.

The US newspapers made much of Sir Paul McCartney's reported spat with a photographer at the scene of Blaine's plastic box stunt by the River Thames.

David Blaine
Blaine's box has been pelted with eggs and golf balls
There was consternation that someone of Sir Paul's status might allegedly use a four-letter word when referring to the 30-year-old New Yorker.

The subtext seems to be: If even nice old Macca - "the man who wrote Mull of Kintyre" - can't take Blaine seriously, what does it say about the differences between our two nations?

Telling its readers of Britons' yobbish treatment of Blaine, the New York Times wrote: "Never before has Blaine had to confront [that] particular brand of British cynicism."

Perhaps mindful of US-UK relations, the Washington Post added: "It's a good thing he only has a month left."

Most UK commentators have played up the "cynicism" line - seen as a positive trait in the face of Blaine's "excessive" showmanship.

We are reassured that in contrast to all this US razzamatazz, it is a healthy national characteristic, to be admired and worn as a badge of pride.

The Blaine-baiting only involves a minority of the estimated 30,000-plus spectators who have visited his show by Tower Bridge.

David Blaine
Security has been stepped up around Blaine's 7ft square box
But the egg-throwers, strippers and drum-bangers seem intent on provoking Blaine in a way his American fans find unfathomable.

One 20-something out taunting him last week seemed to sum up the feelings of the provocateurs when he said: "Blaine just expects to come here and be given an easy time. He doesn't realise that we don't like show-offs."

In the illusionist's cosmopolitan hometown, however, some New Yorkers are scathing about what they see as the relatively provincial behaviour of Londoners.

Renee van Elten, 25, who watched Blaine perched on an 80ft pole, told the Sunday Times: "Standing in a box or on a pillar, that's normal in New York. If you did it in Oklahoma, you might get eggs thrown at you."

Medical student Allison LaFata, 25, said: "We think of you as prim and proper. I wouldn't expect to go to London and see lots of drunken, rowdy behaviour."

Sir Paul McCartney
Sir Paul was among the thousands of visitors to Blaine's stunt
Her boyfriend, Themis Millas, said: "It's not that we can't take a joke, we just don't laugh at the same thing."

Despite his current high profile in the UK, Blaine is not as closely followed across the wider US as some British observers might have thought.

Lisa de Moraes, TV columnist on the Washington Post, told BBC News Online: "I don't think he has a reputation. I don't think he's a nationally known figure.

"I think people are amused [by the UK hecklers]. This isn't looming large in our country, because of the economy and American troops being killed in Iraq. It's presented as light relief."

She agreed that the British behaviour was in marked contrast to Blaine's gentler treatment by US spectators, looking on "in wonderment".

"I think Americans are much more easily impressed," she said.

And as for the UK's Blaine-baiters? "Good for them," said Ms de Moraes.

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