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Daredevil to face a million volts of electricity

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NEW YORK — After being buried alive, nearly drowned and frozen in an ice cube, US magician and daredevil David Blaine is going electric — a million volts of electricity aimed right at him for three days.

Starting Friday in New York, he’ll stand on a pillar without sleep or food for 72 hours with nothing but a special metal suit protecting him from being zapped.

In the past, Blaine, 39, has been buried, trapped in ice, trapped in a glass box, and spent ridiculously long periods submerged underwater or hanging upside down. He says his latest feat will take him to new limits of endurance.

“I don’t think I’ll ever, ever top this,” he told journalists Tuesday.

For this “mini lightening storm in New York City,” he said, “I decided the longest I could possibly go without killing myself was three days and three nights.”

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One already grueling element of the “Electrified” challenge, staged on Pier 54 in the Hudson River, will be simply staying upright.

“No food. Standing — no sitting. No rest,” he said.

But Blaine will do all this while fierce electric currents run over his suit of stainless steel chainmail, iron soled boots and a cage-like helmet.

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The outfit is designed to allow the electricity to dance across his body, without ever touching his skin.

The helmet is open so that he can drink water through a tube, but a security team will be watching carefully, as extreme tiredness takes over, that Blaine never pokes one of his chainmail-clad fingers onto his face.

“If I start to hallucinate, which I will… if I go to itch my face, that’s it — it’s getting zapped by a lot of electricity,” he said.

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He will be standing on top of a 20-foot (six-meter) column surrounded by seven metallic orbs called tesla coils that will stream the electricity. For the first time in his many public stunts, Blaine will have the performance streamed live on the Internet at www.youtube.com/electrified.

The public will be able to participate even more intimately by playing with the controls for the tesla coils, turning them up or down on Ultrabook laptops provided by Blaine’s sponsor, Intel. In addition to the Manhattan site, there’ll be locations with Ultrabooks set up in Beijing, London, Sydney and Tokyo.

Blaine is used to encouraging the inner sadist in his worldwide fans. During his 44 days in a glass box suspended over the River Thames, he became the object of Londoners’ humorous and enthusiastic abuse.

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But this stunt arguably poses the biggest danger of any that he’s tried. If he does electrocute himself, the team will quickly cut power and he’s expected to survive.

He’ll be tethered so that if he collapses or is thrown by an electric shock he won’t fall off the column — a measure he says he only took because he now has a 20-month-old daughter.

Blaine’s doctor for the project, Stuart Weiss, said the main concerns were making sure the metal suit remains intact, protecting Blaine’s eyes, and checking his mental condition.

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“Should the lightening hit him in some unusual way we have paramedics on site,” he said. “What we don’t know is what is the psychological stress.”

On Tuesday, Blaine donned his suit and clambered on top of a much smaller test coil. When a technician threw the switch, spidery blue lines of electric current shot up the suit and out of his gloved hands and head.

At the unusual press conference, journalists were issued earplugs to deal with the roar of the current and asked to move back from what a technician called “the zap zone.”

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But Blaine says getting the public as closely involved as possible in the free-of-charge spectacle matters to him.

The native New Yorker described being taken by his mother when he was a child to see the street acts in Brooklyn’s Coney Island and how this “really sparked curiosity.”

“Growing up in Brooklyn with my mom, we didn’t have much, but she would take me to places to see really cool things,” he said.

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“The endurance angle is one side, but it’s also a kid who had a love for math, science, logic, magic, wonder — that’s my motivation.”


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