Donna Purnell, a local escape artist, was eliminated last Wednesday during the quarterfinals of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” program.
Purnell, a Dedham native and Medway resident, performs under the name Alexanderia the Great. She managed to wriggle free of a straightjacket in a tank of water in 70 seconds, a stunt her idol Harry Houdini had not performed.
“Now I know why Houdini didn’t do this escape,” Purnell said once she had emerged from the water. “That was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”
Judges seemed split following her performance, with Melanie "Mel B" Brown and Howie Mandel offering tepid praise. Heidi Klum, on the other hand, said the performance kept her on the edge of her seat.
Purnell’s greatest supporter at the judges’ table came from the most unexpected person – radio personality Howard Stern.
The escape artist had previously said she was afraid to go on the show because of Stern’s reputation. A middle-aged woman, she thought that he would belittle her physical appearance.
Instead, he praised her performance.
“Houdini is your hero; Houdini would be proud of you,” Stern said after the performance. “I think you did a great job.”
But the votes did not come through for Purnell. As the results came in, Stern said he felt bad for her
“Her dream was coming true,” he said. “She really deserved a spot in the semifinals.”