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David Copperfield

David Copperfield (born David Seth Kotkin on September 16, 1956) is a world-renowned American magician and illusionist best known for his combination of spectacular illusions and storytelling. His most famous illusions include making the Statue of Liberty "disappear", "flying", "levitating"' over the Grand Canyon, and "walking through" the Great Wall of China.


Copperfield was born in Metuchen, New Jersey, to Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. He began practicing magic at the age of 12, and became the youngest person ever admitted to the Society of American Magicians.Template:Fact By age 16, he was teaching a course in magic at New York University. At age 18, he enrolled at Fordham University, and was cast in the lead role of the Chicago-based musical The Magic Man three weeks into his freshman year,Template:Fact adopting his new stage name "David Copperfield". At age 19, he was headlining at the Pagoda Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii.

David Copperfield played the character of Ken the magician in the 1980 horror film Terror Train. He also made an uncredited appearance in the 1994 film Prêt-à-Porter. Most of his media appearances have been through television specials and guest spots on television programs.

In 1982, Copperfield founded Project Magic,[1] a rehabilitation program to help disabled patients regain lost or damaged dexterity skills. The program has been accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association, and is in use in over 1,000 hospitals worldwide.

David Copperfield at one time was ready to open a "Theme" restaurant called "Magic Underground." There were to be two locations, one in New York City and one in Walt Disney World (built in the shape of a Hidden Mickey). These locations would allow "D.A.V.I.D" (Digital, Audio, Video, Interface, Device) to remotely interact with the guests in the restaurant. It was basically a high tech videophone system. Other things such as the very table you were sitting at might "Float" around the room and even the waiters were to be involved performing magic as they brought your order to you. Eventually the New York project ran into trouble and it as well as the Walt Disney World location was aborted.

Copperfield has also attempted to preserve the history of the art of magic for present and future generations by providing a safe, permanent home for antiquarian props, books, and other historical ephemera related to conjuring. His vast collection, known as the International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts, is housed in Las Vegas, Nevada. Begun in 1991 when Copperfield purchased the Mullholland Library of Conjuring and the Allied Arts, which contained the world's largest collection of Houdini memorabilia,[2] the museum comprises approximately 80,000 items of magic memorabilia, including Houdini's Water Torture Cabinet and his Metamorphosis Trunk, Orson Welles' Buzz Saw illusion and automata created by Robert-Houdin.[3][4]

The museum is not open to the public; tours are reserved for "colleagues, fellow magicians, and serious collectors".[3] Located in a warehouse at Copperfield's headquarters in Las Vegas, the museum is entered via a secret door in what was described by actor Hugh Jackman as a "sex shop"[5] and by Forbes as a "mail-order lingerie warehouse".[2] "'It doesn't need to be secret, it needs to be respected,' he said. 'If a scholar or journalist needs a piece of magic history, it's there.'"[6]

In May 2001, Copperfield entertained guests at a White House benefit for UNICEF by performing an illusion in which he sawed singer and actress Jennifer Lopez into six pieces. This illusion was an update of one he performed in one of his early TV specials on actress Catherine Bach.

Forbes Magazine reported that Copperfield earned $57 million in 2003, making him the tenth highest paid celebrity in the world. It also estimated that he made $57 million in 2004 (35th) and $57 million in 2005 (41st) in merchandise and tour revenue.[7] Copperfield performs over 500 shows per year throughout the world. [8]

In 2006, Copperfield bought eleven Bahamian islands called Musha Cay. Rechristened "The Islands of Copperfield Bay," the islands are a private resort catering for parties of up to 24 people at a reported cost of $325,000 per week. The resort staff includes a resident magician, and one of the attractions available to female guests is the chance to participate as an assistant in a magic show in illusions such as being sawed in half. Previous guests at the resort have reportedly included Oprah Winfrey and John Travolta, and Google co-founder Sergey Brin was married there. While staying there, a number of celebrity guests have taken up the chance of becoming a magician's assistant, including Faith Hill and John Travolta's wife Kelly Preston.

Copperfield has been under investigation by a Seattle federal grand jury since late 2007 and the subject of a federal lawsuit filed in July 2009 related to allegations of sexual assault. Copperfield's attorney has denied the allegations, and, in response to the federal lawsuit, Copperfield issued a statement characterizing the suit as "extortion for money."

In April 2009, Copperfield made his first live TV appearance for some time at the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, performing two illusions with singer Taylor Swift. The first of these was the "Elevator Production" illusion he had often used to open his own shows, in which he made Swift appear inside an apparently empty translucent-sided glass elevator. In the second illusion, he sawed Swift in half in the same Clearly Impossible sawing that he regularly used in his 1990s stage shows.

On 7 May 2009, Copperfield was dropped by Michael Jackson from Jackson's residency at the O2 Arena after an alleged row over money. Copperfield wanted $1 million (£666,000) per show. Copperfield denied the reports of a row, saying "don't believe everything you read.". News of Copperfield's collaboration with Jackson first surfaced on April 1st, 2009, and has since been reported by several websites as a possible April Fool's prank.

In July 2009, he filmed a number of scenes for a cameo appearance in episode 8 of the short-lived TV drama The Beautiful Life. In these scenes, he worked alongside actresses Mischa Barton and Sara Paxton, performing a number of illusions including a sawing in half of Barton's character Sonja Stone in a specially-developed box-less version of the illusion.[9][10] Due to the show's cancellation after just two episodes had been aired, episode 8 was never completed and the footage of Copperfield's performances remains unseen.

In August 2009, Copperfield took his show to Australia.[11][12]

In January 2011 David Copperfield joined the cast of the new feature film Burt Wonderstone with Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, James Gandolfini, and Olivia Wilde. Copperfield and his team created magic used in the film, and Copperfield also coached Carell on how to perform the Impossible Sawing on Olivia Wilde.[13]

Personal Life

David and Claudia portrait

Copperfield in the mid-1990s with his then-wife, supermodel Claudia Schiffer.

From 1994 to 1999, Copperfield was married to the supermodel Claudia Schiffer. They first met in 1993, when Schiffer attended one of Copperfield's stage shows and was invited up out of the audience to take part in his "Flying" illusion. Later that year, they appeared together on German TV performing the famous illusion of "Sawing a Woman in Half", with Schiffer being sawed in half by Copperfield and the TV show's host. While they were married, and when not occupied by her modelling work and other commitments, Schiffer often appeared in Copperfield's stage shows as a special guest assistant in a number of illusions including being sawed in half in Copperfield's Clearly Impossible illusion. On occasion, rather than using his Clearly Impossible sawing, Copperfield would saw her in half using his antique Buzz Saw illusion, while on at least one occasion he performed his "Blade" vertical sawing on her.

In addition to assisting in his stage shows, Schiffer also helped with the development of new illusions by acting as the trial assistant for them.

There was speculation that Schiffer was not actually Copperfield's wife, but was instead a contractor working for him. The popular German tabloid Bild published a fax from Copperfield's management to Schiffer, informing her of Copperfield's itinerary, where she should appear with Copperfield, and her fees. Copperfield labeled the fax a forgery. Richard Jeffries, the father of Schiffer's next partner, art dealer Tim Jeffries, stirred up the controversy further when he publicly stated that Copperfield never had sexual relations with Schiffer.[14] Copperfield's retort was that since Jeffries was never in their bedroom, he couldn't know. Schiffer also denied the accusations by Jeffries. [15]

Claudia Schiffer Levitated

Copperfield levitates Claudia Schiffer during one of the shows where she acted as his special guest assistant.

In 1997, Copperfield and Schiffer sued Paris Match for US$30 million after the magazine claimed their relationship was a stunt,[16] that Schiffer was paid for pretending to be Copperfield's wife and that she didn't even like him.[17][18] In 1999, they won an undisclosed sum and a retraction from Paris Match.[19] Herbert L. Becker, who Copperfield asked to give testimony regarding the validity of the relationship, gave convincing testimony that the relationship was real. Copperfield's publicist confirmed that while Schiffer had a contract to appear in the audience at Copperfield's show in Berlin where they met, she was not under contract to be his "consort".[20] Copperfield and Schiffer were also able to produce a copy of their marriage certificate.

In February 2006, David's father, Hy (who often accompanied David on his many tours around the world), died in San Diego, CA. David set up a website, rememberhy.com, so fans and friends could pay tribute.

In April 2006, Copperfield and two of his female assistants were robbed at gunpoint after a performance in West Palm Beach, Florida. His assistants gave the robbers their money, passports, and a cell phone. However, according to his police statement, Copperfield did not hand over anything. (He later claimed to have used sleight-of-hand to hide his possessions.[21]) One of Copperfield's assistants wrote down most of the license plate number, and the suspects were later arrested. [22] Terrance Riley, 17, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison for three counts of robbery with a weapon and one count of attempted robbery. Riley was also ordered to testify against his two co-defendants, his brother Dwayne Riley, 18, and Markeith Jones, 17.[23]

Copperfield and his girlfriend Chloe Gosselin, a French fashion model, had a daughter in February 2010. The news did not break publicly until over a year later, when The New York Post reported it in August 2011, and it was confirmed by Copperfield's publicist.[24]

Television specials

  • The Magic of ABC Starring David Copperfield (1977)
  • The Magic of David Copperfield (1978)
  • The Magic of David Copperfield II (1979)
  • The Magic of David Copperfield III: Levitating Ferrari (1980)
  • The Magic of David Copperfield IV: The Vanishing Airplane (1981)
  • The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue Of Liberty (1983)
  • The Magic of David Copperfield VI: Floating Over the Grand Canyon (1984)
  • The Magic of David Copperfield VII: Familiares (1985)
  • The Magic of David Copperfield VIII: Walking Through the Great Wall of China (1986)
  • The Magic of David Copperfield IX: Escape From Alcatraz (1987)
  • The Magic of David Copperfield X: The Bermuda Triangle (1988)
  • The Magic of David Copperfield XI: Explosive Encounter (1989)
  • The Magic of David Copperfield XII: The Niagara Falls Challenge (1990)
  • The Magic of David Copperfield XIII: Mystery On The Orient Express (1991)
  • The Magic of David Copperfield XIV: Flying - Live The Dream (1992)
  • The Magic of David Copperfield XV: Fires Of Passion (1993)
  • David Copperfield: 15 Years of Magic (1994)
  • The David Copperfield: The Great Escapes
  • The Magic of David Copperfield XVII: Tornado Of Fire (2001) - Filmed at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee
  • The Magic of David Copperfield XVII: Tornado of Fire (2001) - European Edition


  • Terror Train (1980)


  • Youngest person ever to be admitted to the Society of American Magicians. At age sixteen, he taught magic at New York University.
  • Started his magician career billed as "Davino, Boy Magician"
  • One of his teachers back in New Jersey school days was ABC News correspondent Judy Muller.
  • Appeared on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (1993) where he presented his collection of turn-of-the-century prank devices. One, a paddle that when used to spank someone exploded powder, was used incorrectly by host O'Brien. Copperfield's pants (and behind) caught on fire, an accident from which he still carries a scar.
  • His favorite movies are Citizen Kane (1941) and The Wizard of Oz (1939).
  • He gave his first performance as a magician in 1968 when he was only 12 years old.
  • He was a Professor of Magic at New York University at only 16 years old.
  • He was named "Magician of the Year" in 1980 and 1987 by the Academy of Magical Arts.
  • Owns one version of Edgar Bergen's dummy of "Charlie McCarthy". He purchased "Charlie" at an auction for $110,000.
  • He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Live Theatre at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
  • In 1992, he worked with model Stephanie Seymour for a period of several months. Stephanie acted as his guest assistant in his stage show, taking part in a number of illusions including being sawed in half.


  • "Creating a new illusion is like writing a song, sometimes the lyrics come first and sometimes it's the music. Sometimes I'll dream a great concept and find out a way to make it a reality and use it in my show."
  • "I know I have done some wild things over the years, from levitating over the Grand Canyon and tumbling over Niagara Falls to being suspended from a burning rope high over fiery steel spikes in straitjackets. Sometimes looking back over my career one goes, "What were you thinking?!" I am constantly challenging myself and with that goes some degree of risk."
  • (Talking about the accidents he's had while rehearsing and performing) "The one incident I will never forget is when I cut the tip of my finger off. You have to understand that I am the person who went over Niagara Falls on a raft and survived. Here I am onstage in Atlantic City doing a rope trick with a pair of scissors, and I end up going to the hospital."
  • (On working with his wife Claudia Schiffer in his magic shows) "I really love having Claudia with me in my shows. She's a great performer and a real natural with the illusions. And she's really trusting too - It's not every woman who'll trust someone like me enough to let me strap her to a guillotine and chop her head off. But the best thing about having her in my shows is that I can say that I spend my evenings sawing the most beautiful woman in the world in half."
  • "My idols were Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire and Orson Welles and Walt Disney ... they took their individual art forms and they moved people with them ... I wanted to do the same thing with magic. I wanted to take magic and make it romantic and make it sexy and make it funny and make it goofy ... all the different things that a songwriter gets to express or a filmmaker gets to express ...."
  • "The first time I sawed Claudia in half, I could tell she was really nervous about it as she climbed into the box. And that's understandable, because being sawed in half is quite a scary thing as you're letting someone run a sharp saw and blades through your waist to chop your body into two pieces, and if anything goes wrong, it can all get a bit messy. But I told her she didn't have anything to worry about and it wouldn't hurt at all as I sawed through her. As I started sawing, she was still looking a bit nervous, but as soon as she realised I'd cut right through her, she broke out into a huge grin and told me I was right and she'd not felt a thing as the saw went through her."
  • "Men enjoy seeing a woman controlled, say, with levitation. Women, on the other hand, see magic as an act of trust — especially if she's going to let a guy do horrible things like sticking swords through her body, sawing her in half or chopping her head off."

See also

  • Vanishing the Statue of Liberty
  • David Copperfield's flying
  • Copperfield Laser Illusion


  1. USA Today [1]
  2. 2.0 2.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named HoudiniInTheDesert
  3. 3.0 3.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named CuratorCopperfield
  4. "International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts – MagicPedia". Geniimagazine.com. http://geniimagazine.com/wiki/index.php/International_Museum_and_Library_of_the_Conjuring_Arts. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  5. COP-A-FEEL. N.Y. Post. October 20, 2007 "We pull up outside this sex shop and David gets out, pulls out a set of keys, and walks in, and we're thinking 'Oh my god what have we got ourselves into here?'"
  6. Witchel, Alex (1996-11-24). "A Maestro of the Magic Arts Returns to His Roots – The New York Times". Nytimes.com. http://www.nytimes.com/1996/11/24/theater/a-maestro-of-the-magic-arts-returns-to-his-roots.html?pagewanted=3. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  7. Forbes.com 2005 listing and 2004
  8. Basquille, Mark (May 2004). "David Copperfield to Captivate Seoul Audience". The Seoul Times. http://theseoultimes.com/ST/?url=/ST/db/read.php?idx=573. 
  9. Bryant, S. "David Copperfield To Debut New Boxless Sawing In Half On Fashion Industry TV Drama". Genii magazine, August 2009, (Vol 72, No 8.).
  10. Farmer, R., "David Copperfield Performs New Sawing In Half On Mischa Barton For TV Drama", Magic magazine, Vol.18 No.12 (August 2009).
  11. Pete Hellard, "David Copperfield to bring magic act to Australia". Couriermail.com.au. March 15, 2009
  12. "More Than Meets the Eye". The Sydney Morning Herald, August 7, 2009
  13. Carol Cling (January 9, 2012). "Extras Wanted For 'Burt Wonderstone' Comedy". Las Vegas Review-Journal. http://www.lvrj.com/neon/extras-wanted-for-burt-wonderstone-comedy-136926578.html. 
  14. Reiter, Amy (2000-02-22). "Nothing Personal". Salon. http://www.salon.com/people/col/reit/2000/02/22/nptues/index.html. 
  15. Copperfield Uses Web To Rebut Rumors
  16. "Fairytale romance that began with a cunning illusion – The Independent". London: www.independent.co.uk. 1997-07-11. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/fairytale-romance-that-began-with-a-cunning-illusion-1249983.html. Retrieved 2009-06-08. "The French magazine Paris Match claims that the meeting was a carefully calculated stunt, to boost Ms Schiffer's profile in the US and Copperfield's career in Europe. "It was just a plot to dupe their loyal fans, and we've got the contracts to prove it," said the magazine." 
  17. Luscombe, Belinda (1997-08-04). "Copperfield V. Paris Match". Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,986797,00.html. Retrieved 2009-06-08. "The suit states that Paris Match added that the supermodel now gets paid for pretending to be Copperfield's wife and doesn't even like him." 
  18. "Shedding Light: Copperfield talks candidly about his profession". Las Vegas Review Journal. http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/1998/Jun-26-Fri-1998/weekly/7724852.html. Retrieved 2009-06-08. "Last year Copperfield slapped a $30 million lawsuit on Paris-Match magazine that alleged in a story that the Copperfield-Schiffer relationship was mere illusion; little more than a business deal to enhance both their careers." 
  19. "Copperfield's Claudia Clone". New York: www.nydailynews.com. 1999-08-29. http://articles.nydailynews.com/1999-08-29/gossip/18117427_1_sotheby-recorder-claudia-schiffer. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  20. "Love, Honor and Portray". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 1997-07-16. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=-OkNAAAAIBAJ&sjid=K28DAAAAIBAJ&pg=6672,142344&dq=consort. Retrieved 2009-06-12. "Copperfield's publicist said he and Schiffer had contracts to do the 1993 show, but "there is no contract that states Claudia is there as some sort of consort."" 
  21. "Copperfield's sleight of hand keeps wallet from robbers". Indy Star. 2006-04-27. http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060427/ENTERTAINMENT/604270422/1005/ENTERTAINMENT. 
  22. "David Copperfield Robbed At Gunpoint". The Smoking Gun. 2006-04-26. http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/0426061magic1.html. 
  23. "Thief tricked by David Copperfield pleads guilty". CNN. 2006-11-10. http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/TV/11/10/copperfield.robbed.ap/index.html. 
  24. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named babynoillusion

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