David Merlini
Live in Budapest

by Martin Daubney

I have just come back from a week in Budapest and thought that this may interest you. One evening my family and I were returning to our hotel, hoping to cross the famous Chain Bridge to get from Buda to Pest. As we approached he bridge we could sense that something was not as it should be - for us anyway. Everything was exactly as it should be for the Hungarian escapologist David Merlini. Not knowing what was going on I asked some of the many people crammed to the banks of the Danube to see what the pounding rhythmic music and the flashing lights was all about. David Merlini would escape form a block of solid concrete whilst under the Danube.

David Merlini had closed the Chain Bridge as the stunt would launch from the center of it. Spot lights from the river banks trained on a huge floating crane waiting at the bridge side. Massive television screens kept everyone up to date with the detail of what was happening while the beat of "Going Under" by Evenescence played over and over again. Through the big screens we were given the story of how David, a self styled modern Houdini, had encased himself in a block of solid concrete all capture on film. The block - with David still in it - was brought to the foot of the Chain Bridge and slowly and deliberately driven to the center of the bridge. Much was happening on the bridge that I didn't understand but cameras relayed images of a confident David to the waiting masses and those watching at home on live television. Eventually the huge crane that had been waiting patiently hooked David up and pulled him high above the river. Helicopters appeared and buzzed round the suspended escapologist spotlighting David for all to see. Some what painfully slowly the block was lowered down towards the river. We could all see what was going on as David had a small camera pointing at his face with and little overhead light. For those at home he was also in radio contact and we could see that he was chatting to interviewers as he was lowered inch by inch. Still the music kept up its relentless booming chant of Going Under.

At last David's encased body hit the water, hovered for a short while before ... Going Under. We all held our breath to see if we could do what he was doing. We could still see him through the camera on the concrete but obviously he wasn't saying much. The we lost him. No light. No picture, and our breath had just run out. There was silence and the first sign of tension in the air. The crowd got fidgety and murmuring started as they wondered if David Merlini had made his escape from a solid block of concrete while under the Danube...

Timed to perfection David reappeared at the point when most of his audience had feared the worst. A bright red flare floating on the water indicated that he had made it and the rescue helicopter raced to his aid. The big screens now showed picture of David's wife with tears of relief streaming down her face, and finish the stunt of a massive fireworks display heralded the hero home.

Well, what a stunt and what an amazing free show. I for one had not heard of David Merlini and was told that he is famous - or at least the person I was talking to thought so until I turned up. Mind you - they had not heard of David Blaine!

Martin Daubney, September 2004