Page last updated at 08:51 GMT, Tuesday, 9 May 2006 09:51 UK

New York cheers on David Blaine

By Matt Wells
BBC News in New York

Thousands of spectators turned out in New York to cheer on David Blaine in his attempt to break the world record for holding breath under water.

The scene of the record-breaking attempt in Lincoln Center
Crowds packed Manhattan's Lincoln Center to watch the spectacle
The Lincoln Center, Manhattan's home of highbrow performing arts, looked more like a televised circus as Blaine's attempt to enter the record books fell short.

The grimly tense finale was the only thing that could not be scripted, with enthusiastic crowds lining the outdoor balcony of the Metropolitan Opera to cheer him on.

The indoor stage, for once, was not the focus of attention.

"Represent Brooklyn, David!" was one cry that went up. "We love you, bubble boy," was another.

The showman took his deepest ever breath and submerged for the final time into the acrylic fishbowl that had been his home for the past week.

He lasted seven minutes and eight seconds - two minutes short of the record - before being pulled out by divers.

He's hungry for attention, and he's getting it
Lin Roenneng
Norwegian tourist
Thousands of New Yorkers came and stayed to be part of the dramatic televised backdrop for the two-hour ABC network special, breathlessly entitled Drowned Alive.

But true to form, voyeuristic New Yorkers had the last word, sometimes turning the sideshow into the main show.

Hundreds gawped from Columbus Avenue, where the only decent view was on the giant monitor screen at the back of Lincoln Center Plaza.

Never missing an opportunity, an ice cream van and several buskers kept the crowds happy and Blaine's stunt was not the only one that didn't quite come off.

Ted Alcorn, 22, was one half of a duo who held a simultaneous event on the corner of Broadway branded Dunk for Darfur.

David Blaine being treated after the attempt
Divers pulled Blaine from the sphere and gave him oxygen
"David Blaine was attracting all this attention to break the world record, so we were going to highlight how many had died in Sudan while he was submerged while the world held its breath," the young film-maker said.

Unfortunately, his soaking partner was arrested a few minutes into the imaginative dunking demonstration on the grounds that he had failed to obtain a permit.

At the edge of the crowd that had squeezed on to the plaza steps, dozens of busy pedestrians stopped to check on Blaine's progress, mobile phones held aloft.

Norwegian tourist Lin Roenneng was mystified. "He's crazy. I don't see the point.

"He's hungry for attention, and he's getting it," she added. "We had a guy back home who lived in a department store window for a week a few years ago. I suppose it's fun."

I asked him if there was room for one more in there, and he gave me a nod
Jennifer Small
Many of those watching had made at least one previous trip to check on Blaine's progress during the week.

Insurance worker Jennifer Small said she, like countless others, had written him a personal note.

"I asked him if there was room for one more in there, and he gave me a nod," she said. "I'm hoping he remembers me."

Her friend, 27-year-old Dan Bron, spent the tense final half-hour of the show doing a wry commentary on Blaine's struggle for the nearby crowd.

"I've a story tomorrow when I go to work, and that's all that matters," he said, clearly satisfied with the evening's entertainment.

But some spectators left before the television lights had dimmed once they realised Blaine had fallen short of the pre-match hype.

David Blaine during his record attempt
Everyone else was chanting, 'David, David', and we were chanting, 'Don't die, Don't die'
Suzanne Moyer
For the thousands of other well-wishers who stayed to see him escorted wearily into a waiting ambulance, though, it was still a night of triumph.

"I got water on my hand from his body," said excited student Anthony Taylor.

He visited Blaine every day of his aquatic incarceration and said he felt a strong bond with his fellow Brooklynite.

"I'm proud of my brother and I think he did good. Most people don't even like taking baths. Nobody else could do that."

Another international group of young women, who had been cheering him on, said they felt his chances of success were always slim.

"We're happy he's not dead. Everyone else was chanting, 'David, David', and we were chanting, 'Don't die, Don't die'," said Suzanne Moyer.

But as usual in this city, there were some harder-hearted assessments of their local son's performance.

"I thought it sucked - I think he let New York down tonight," said Nico Mitchell, 17, who went along with four cousins.

"I wish I'd had a Ferrari to drive around down here - it would have been a better show than that."

SEE ALSO
Blaine fails in water record bid
09 May 06 |  Entertainment
Blaine's underwater stunt begins
02 May 06 |  Entertainment
In pictures: Blaine's bubble
02 May 06 |  In Pictures
Blaine's stunt takes breath away
02 May 06 |  Entertainment
Blaine in pursuit of Houdini legend
26 Apr 06 |  Entertainment

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