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Taking a dive for ABC. The network tries a little magic.

David Blaine, the edgy Brooklyn magician, stood on a 90-foot pillar in New York City's Bryant Park, near 42nd St. It was a sunny afternoon, about 70 degrees. From the ground, he appeared to be unshaven, wore dark baggy shirt and pants, and was hunched over, uncannily resembling the drug addicts that once habitually used this park to nod out before Mayor Giuliani cleaned up the city. Blaine had been standing there for over 26 hours.

"You think I'm going to stay here and watch a guy stand?" a passerby asked.

A good question, especially for ABC, the beleaguered No. 3 network that sponsored the stunt last week, providing live feeds to "Good Morning America" and local ABC news and radio broadcasts. ABC also aired a live telecast, "David Blaine's Vertigo," on Wednesday night, which featured Blaine leaping off his perch into a pile of cardboard boxes.

Since May 1997, when the first Blaine special, "David Blaine: Street Magic" aired, the network has held a monopoly on the new Houdini, putting out four specials. "He's got a huge following," gushed a spokeswoman at ABC. "Especially among young male audiences. " According to Nielsen Media Research, "Street Magic," in which the magician levitated about six inches off the pavement, pulled in a 4.3 rating/12 share among 18-49 year old viewers. The last telecast, "David Blaine: Frozen in Time," which aired in November 2000 coughed up 7.3 rating/19 share.

Despite Blaine's rising numbers, advertisers shied away. The "Vertigo" broadcast was largely supported by house ads touting Disney products. ("Vertigo" dropped to a 4.1 rating/10 share, losing ground to the season finale of NBC's "Law and Order.")

ABC did provide a fine day in the park, however, which is something New York City needed, especially with terrorist threats unnerving its citizens. While a crane was lifting Blaine to his pedestal, the White House was issuing panicky alerts about threats to monuments such as the Statue of Liberty. Blaine appeared to be a monument of sorts himself, a brash one, thumbing his nose at danger. (There were no airbags or mats to protect him.) The spectators were clearly in awe. Many of them in fact, told Adages they enjoyed watching him stand. "He's incredibly sexy," said a young woman who held up signs that read: "David, I love you!" And "David, if you love me raise your hand!" The magician didn't seem to notice.

DeNiro's review: making the whack

The recent Tribeca Film Festival featured some clever advertising by Margeotes/Fertitta & Partners, New York, with New York actors playing out-of-character roles, such as Danny Devito reciting lines from the movie "Gladiator." Margeotes was hired by festival founder Bob DeNiro himself, and his partner Jane Rosenthal. "He was a really nice guy," says Fritz Westenberger, co-creative director at Margeotes. In other words, he was out of character. Margeotes won the business in a review with a group of shops that got whacked.

"You mean, cut," Fritz corrected. "Jane never told us who they were." Most likely, we will never know. One can only imagine how the losing pitches went down. "You pitchin' ta me? You pitchin' ta me?"

A noble cause

In the June issue of Rosie, comedian/editorial director Rosie O'Donnell interviews Martha Stewart and both powerhouse celebs vow to work for a good cause. Which one? Well it's not Save the Children. "One thing that I don't do is work just to make money," Martha confesses to Rosie. "Right now my big goal is to save Kmart." Inspired, Rosie offers to chip in and work on Kmart commercials for free. "You're going to have to play a part," says a very serious Martha. "And I will totally do it," burbles Rosie. Of course as we all know, Martha's philanthropy is not disinterested. She has at least a few million dollars worth of bed sheets alone in Kmart warehouses that need to move.

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