Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2017

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Topping Copperfield: Master illusionist constantly tries to top himself



Lurid headlines from the National Enquirer?

No, just an illusion being developed by Copperfield himself.

The master magician, who opens at MGM Grand's Hollywood Theatre tonight, performs 500 shows a year. And he is constantly trying to top himself, to perform a feat more astounding than the previous one.

In 1983 David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear. In '84 he floated over the Grand Canyon. He has walked through the Great Wall of China, escaped from Alcatraz and made several members of an audience vanish, only to reappear minutes later on a tropical island.

"I transport people to Bali, Indonesia," Copperfield said. "Everyone dreams of flying around the world to a perfect place."

But getting a volunteer pregnant in front of an audience and then bringing out the baby at the end of the show may be hard to top.

"What is the greatest miracle of all?" Copperfield asked rhetorically during a recent telephone interview from New York.

"Birth," he answered.

"I'm working on an illusion now in which I get a girl from the audience not a plant and impregnate her onstage. And an hour and 10 minutes later she will give birth onstage, to a baby who looks exactly like me."

He joked, "I won't take the volunteer from the 'C' section."

But don't look for the stunt during Copperfield's current Vegas visit.

"It'll happen in the next six months," he said. "It's been a work in progress. When I'm finished with the details, then I will have worked on it nine months," the term of a real pregnancy.

He said the highlight of his current performances will be "The Lottery."

"It will amaze you," Copperfield said. "You'll have to come to see it."

The illusion is a kind of tribute to his grandfather.

"My grandfather didn't want me to do magic as a career," Copperfield explained. "He didn't speak to me the last three years of his life. But I found out later he snuck into my shows. He was too proud to let me know."

One of Copperfield's grandfather's ambitions was to win the Irish lottery. With the illusion, Copperfield shows how it is possible to win.

"This is a salute to him," he said.

Copperfield claimed he is always working on something new and astounding.

"I like putting new things in the show. A lot of people come to my show again and again and they don't want to see the same stuff over and over."

Copperfield said he comes up with most of his main illusions, but he has a team of talented people who collaborate with him to bring his ideas to fruition.

"I'm like the writer and director of a movie." In fact, Copperfield says he was inspired as a child more by the magic of films than by that of magicians.

"Orson Welles was an avid magician, as well as a great film director," Copperfield said. "I patterned a lot of my work after his film directions, and after Frank Capra and Gene Kelly's work as a director, and Victor Fleming, who directed 'Gone With the Wind.' All of those people influenced me. There has been a great cinematic influence on my work."

Copperfield began performing illusions at age 8 in his home town of Metuchen, N.J.

"I had a feel for it," he said. "And all of the kids started liking me."

Copperfield started performing professionally at age 12. His stage name was "Davino, the Boy Magician." Also, at 12, he became the youngest person ever to be admitted to the Society of American Magicians. At age 16, Copperfield was teaching magic at New York University.

Copperfield entered Fordham University in 1973, but dropped out after three weeks to move to Chicago to star in the musical, "The Magic Man." He sang, danced, acted and created all of the magic in the show.

Soon after "The Magic Man," Copperfield signed on with ABC to host, "The Magic of ABC Starring David Copperfield."

Las Vegas has been a stop on Copperfield's tour for many years.

"I opened for Bill Cosby years ago," he said. "Rosie O'Donnell used to open for me."

Copperfield performed at Caesars Palace for 15 years, but moved to MGM Grand two years ago when Caesars closed its showroom.

An international celebrity, Vegas is only one small part of Copperfield's tour.

He completed a four-week tour of China in August. According to, the magician performed in 29 sold-out shows in four cities, attracting an audience of over 200,000 fans who paid $15 million to see his magic.

While Copperfield has amazed the world with illusions, he said his greatest work is "Project Magic," a rehabilitation program he helped create in 1982 to strengthen dexterity and motor skills in disabled patients, using sleight-of-hand magic as a method of therapy.

"Project Magic" has been accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association and has been implemented in 1,100 hospitals in more than 30 countries.

Copperfield says he soon will release a new book of magic, "Project Magic Handbook."

Even though Copperfield has performed some astounding feats, there is one thing he has not been able to do -- make his low-budget horror-film "Terror Train" disappear.

The 1980 film featured Jamie Lee Curtis and Ben Johnson. Copperfield had a bit part, playing the role of a magician on a train.

"I sucked," he said.

Copperfield said the real reason he does 500 performances a year all over the world is to track down "Terror Train."

"In every city I go to, I rent the video and I don't return it," he joked. "Eventually, I will have them all."