Rockets, dogs and EastEnders: it's wild to the last in Camp David

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The Independent Online

The man wrapped up in a blanket tried to block out the cacophony that has been an almost constant feature of his 43-day endurance test in the shadow of London's Tower Bridge.

Ricky, 42, who normally lives in "a caravan in Yorkshire'', has been with David Blaine since day one of his stunt, sleeping every night on concrete steps just an egg's-throw from the illusionist's famous plastic box. It is just after 1am and, like the American, Ricky is trying to get some sleep. Unfortunately, someone is trying to persuade a dog called Charlie to urinate on him.

Tonight will be Blaine's last in the box. He will be hauled down tomorrow evening, ending his "artistic statement''.

Ricky, a scarf tied around his head, promised to be there to the last. "I'm going to do this with him,'' he said. "I've not met him but I've met his girlfriend. She's gorgeous-looking.''

Welcome to the night-time world of Camp David, the cage beneath Blaine's box where a bizarre crowd of oddballs, publicity seekers, well-wishers, tormentors and celebrities come together after dark to stand before it.

By sunrise yesterday morning, the American entertainer could reflect on a night when he had been "entertained'' by a firework attack, an eyeful of breast and buttocks bared by a bevy of Berkshire beauties, and a visit from the capgun-firing television illusionist Derren Brown.

A would-be magician demonstrated lame card tricks, apparently inspired by the man suspended above. And there was a passing East Ender, a couple of forays from the local constabulary in pursuit of egg and bottle throwers and a tiresome attempt at guerrilla marketing from a local radio station that persuaded its listeners to stand in the cold chanting, "Ding, ding, ding'' all night.

Other Blaine regulars were justifying their presence with claims to be making independent films of the event. It is being constantly filmed by Sky One, Channel 4 and ABC, all this to the refrain of "Wanker! Wanker!'' shouted at Blaine every three or four minutes by drunken office workers heading home.

Daytime at Camp David is a relatively civilised business where people come to quietly observe, to identity the "illusion'' in the stunt, or to simply try to work out the point of the exercise.

But the nocturnal atmosphere has become something different. Attempts have been made to sabotage Blaine's experiment by cutting off his water supply and targeting him with paint pellets and other missiles.

On Friday morning, the attacks continued. Two men moved into position on the approach to the bridge and launched two fireworks at Blaine from a hand-held device. One of the screeching rockets passed only 3ft over the box before the men escaped into the night.

The evening had begun in a mellow mood, after Blaine's support team consented to a sound system being set up in the cage beneath the magician. A DJ calling himself Brotherman and draped in a Bob Marley flag, appealed to the crowd's spiritual side with a selection of Curtis Mayfield, Nina Simone and Marvin Gaye songs. For a moment, Camp David felt as if it could be about something more than just a man snoozing in a box.

Intrigued to know more, The Independent asked Brotherman: "Have you got a few moments to describe this ambience.'' Response was instant. "Have you got a few quid?"

Shortly afterwards, Stacey, 20, arrived from Slough, with the intention of "getting my Lils out''. Instead, she settled for pulling down her trousers and baring her bottom, for the benefit of Blaine and a press photographer. Female flashers have not been uncommon. One man has spent many nights at Camp David trying to record such moments on the camera of his mobile phone.

Among the crowd early yesterday morning was the actor Ray Panthaki, who plays Ronnie in EastEnders. He was not surprised by the strange antics of the crowd. "It is just opportunists out for a bit of fun,'' he said.

Derren Brown turned up at 12.30am. he said Blaine was looking "a bit out of it'' but paid tribute to the "phenomenal'' American. "It would have been very difficult to get my show if he hadn't had his show,'' he admitted through the din of the crowd's relentless noise pollution .

For Ricky these six weeks have been about "love, just love''. When the madness comes to an end tomorrow night, he will have to give up his patch of pavement and find something else to do. "I think I will miss it,'' he said. "For a couple of days.''

Highs and lows

HIGHS

Uri Geller, the British-based paranormalist, offers Blaine some words of encouragement. "He has the quality of Rasputin," says Geller.

Glamorous model Pamela Anderson comes to see the stunt, although she seems not to know who Blaine is.

Sir Paul McCartney pops by, although he retreats after a violent row with journalists because he refused to be photographed.

LOWS

Stephen Field, a Surrey businessman, scales a 30ft tower used to supply Blaine with water and rips off the feeder pipe.

The box in which Blaine is suspended is targeted with pink paint pellets fired from a giant catapult. One is a direct hit. A 28-year-old man is arrested.

A man jumps off Tower Bridge, within Blaine's field of view. His body is later recovered from the Thames.

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