Published on August 27th, 2009 | by Yellow Magpie7
David Copperfield: The World’s Most Famous Magician
David Copperfield Magician
David Copperfield, born David Seth Kotkin in September 16, 1956, has become the most famous living magician on the planet. This article charts his meteoric rise.
Raised in Metuchen, New Jersey, to Jewish parents, Rebecca and Hyman Kotkin, David had quite an introverted personality. His mother was an insurance adjuster and his father owned and ran his own haberdashery. When David was ten years old he became ‘Davino, the Boy Magician’.
A prodigious talent, at the age of 12 David was the youngest ever to enter the Society of American Magicians. His heros were less the magicians that had gone before but rather the stars of stage and screen. ‘My idols were Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra. People who took the art form and really moved the audience.‘
By the age of 16 David had become so successful that he taught a magic course at New York University at the tender age of 16.
At the age of 18, after becoming a student of Fordham University, David Kotkin took a back seat and David Copperfield was born out of Dicken’s eponymous book, David Copperfield. One year later David Copperfield found himself as the main headline act at the Pagoda Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii.
What hurtled Copperfield’s star trajectory was his TV appearances. An ABC TV special, ‘The Magic of ABC’ was hosted by Copperfield in 1977. He appearance on the show was so successful that Copperfield has had over 20 TV specials since that time to the present day.
Some of his most memorable illusions on TV include flying, levitating over the Grand Canyon, making the Statue of Liberty disappear, walking through the Great Wall of China and making an Orient Express carriage disappear in front of a ring of spectators.
David Copperfield is said to be driven by perfection and has admitted this. Speaking in an interview on Primetime Live, he stated that he is always searching for the ideal.
‘I realise that it is not going to happen but when it doesn’t happen it still hurts…I wish I knew then what I know now because I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself from the beginning. But I am still hard on myself…You want that shot to be the perfect shot. You want the illusion to be absolutely perfect so when they see you they will remember you at your best. If something goes wrong I am a bad magician. If the lighting cue isn’t perfect and they see how the magic works I am a bad guy.’
David Copperfield: A New Type Of Magic
Copperfield changed the way that magic was viewed. Although various magicians contribute to changing the face of magic, Copperfield’s huge profile took magic far into the realm of fantasy. Far from being a small, piece of theatre magic, he shared the same platform as films promising a dream landscape in which the audience willingly suspended their disbelief in favour of making the impossible seem possible.
Copperfield sought to present excitement and emotion into his magic shows in a way that drama and music did. ‘I really wanted to share many different areas of my own person through my work. I was always jealous of song writers and singers who could take what they did and really move and share things with the audence. In magic you really only amaze the audience you never took them to other places or communicate anything other than amazement.’
In doing so, Copperfield the performance was blurred with parts of Copperfield the person. So much so that parts of Copperfield’s childhood were incorporated into his act. ‘I took all the elements I have got a funny side, I have got a romantic side, I have got a sensual side in my pieces what I do. All those elements are really incorporated. I am a pretty honest magician. What you see on stage is pretty much me, all the different sides of me.’
David Copperfield Books
Copperfield has written two books. David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible. Tales of the Impossible, co-written and edited with Janet Berlinger, contains 18 short stories written by various writers including Copperfield. It includes diverse stories loosely grouped together under the theme of magic and illusion. Beyond Imagination is similar to the other book. Also co-written and edited with Janet Berlinger, the format is the same with another 18 short stories.
Fueled by many things, Copperfield, like most people, is not easy to categorise. He seems to be motivated by finding the perfect performance, ensuring his legacy and being respected. However, maybe even above the first two, respect seems to be his strongest motivation.
‘The need for respect for my work. When I was in high school, magic was kind of like a birthday show thing and I really knew that it could be something great. I knew that it could command the respect of broadway or film or dance and drama…I am never satisfied. Not enough no. Performers who love to perform, love being loved by the audience. I think I certainly have a need for approval. I don’t think it is a bad thing. I don’t think it is unhealthy.’
International Magic Museum
Copperfield built the International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts which contains the largest collection of magic books, and memorabilia. Comprising of over 80,000 items including the world’s largest Houdini memorabilia.
Some of the prizzed items it contains include the first published magic book in the western world, Houdini’s pick set, his Chinese Water Torture Cabinet and Orson Welles’ Buzz Saw table. The museum is not open to the public and is instead reserved for fellow magicians and collectors.
One of the things that Copperfield is most proud of is Project Magic. Established in 1982, Project Magic is a rehabilition programme designed to help the recovery of motor function in patients who are recovering from disability. The programmes uses sleight-of-hand magic to to improve dexterity and communication skills. It is backed by the American Occupational Theraphy Assocation and is being used in over 30 countries worldwide.
Learn More About Copperfield
Check out Yellow Magpie’s David Copperfield Quotes: The Magician On Art And Magic to find out what the man has to say about magic, performance and expectations. Harry Houdini: The First Celebrity, a hero of David Copperfield’s, may also be of interest.
If you wish to learn more about David Copperfield you may wish to check out Biography – David Copperfield. Copperfield also has a DVD, David Copperfield – Illusion, featuring the best of his illusions and stunts. His DVD commentary explains the origins of some of illusions and he also gives credit to the pioneers of magic.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible and Beyond Imagination, Biography – David Copperfield and David Copperfield – Illusion here.
A New Type Of Magic
International Magic Museum
Learn More About Copperfield