By JOHN KATSILOMETES, Las Vegas Review-Journal
LAS VEGAS (AP) – The man who made the Statue of Liberty disappear and walked through the Great Wall of China, is striving to travel through time.
Living in the moment will not be enough for David Copperfield.
This is true in his show at the MGM Grand Theater, which uses black-and-white film clips of Copperfield’s father, and a time-worn handwritten letter written decades ago.
The illusionist’s zeal to cross the generations is celebrated on an even greater scale at his own private museum of magic in Las Vegas.
He dubbed it the David Copperfield International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts, but passers-by won’t find an elaborate sign outside, nor any indication of what’s inside the unique warehouse of 40. 000 square feet a few kilometers from his eponymous theater where he gives 15 shows per week.
While the Secret Museum has no windows, it offers stunning views of the history of magic. And despite its undeniable potential as a paid attraction, the museum has never been open to the public.
But now Copperfield is giving the world its first glimpse of the vast treasure trove of supernatural artifacts in his new 272-page hardcover book “The History of the Magic of David Copperfield”.
âThis museum is something that is truly an amazing place, but that I cannot share with the general public because of the secrets they are involved in here,â Copperfield told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in a rare interview with inside the museum, dressed in jeans, a casual shirt and a zip-up jacket, all in signature black.
âWe do museum tours for academics, for the press, for scientists, for filmmakers, for writers, they come here and experience eight people at a time,â he said. “I wanted to share with a lot more people.”
Entering space is a cinematic experience, and begins as a replica of the Copperfield family’s men’s clothing store and a secret passage into the unknown. A labyrinth of rooms follows, each filled with carefully curated displays of tens of thousands of magical memorabilia, props, publications, costumes, posters and assorted ephemera.
Copperfield’s Houdini Collection, the world’s largest, includes the legendary musician’s water torture chamber, transfiguration trunk and straitjacket. More than 200,000 artefacts are the turban that Alexander used to read minds, the halving attachment used by Dante, and a costume worn by the ‘queen of magic’ Adelaide Herrmann in the early 19th century. that Copperfield has collected. over the years.
Photos and details of the acquisitions accompany the book’s historical look at 28 of the most revolutionary magicians – from a 16th-century magistrate who wrote the first book on the conspiracy to a woman who caught bullets in the teeth.
Historians Richard Wiseman and David Britland, both specializing in the cultivation of magic, collaborated on the research and co-authored the book. It’s sort of an elegant scrapbook, which combines Copperfield’s expertise and authority on the medium and his appreciation as a fan who still carries a childish passion for the craft.
As Copperfield says, “The book really gives a great look at all of these amazing stories, amazing lives of all of these individuals.”
Copperfield cites the Adelaide Herrmann dress as an example. âDuring her day, she succeeded Alexander Herrmann, her husband, upon his death. She caught bullets in the air, escaped, did amazing things, and inspired other women to do things they were told they weren’t allowed to do.
Copperfield, the author and performer, is the only living magician depicted in the book.
âThere are all kinds of stories, not just from the past, but from my present here, talking about things that I’m trying to push art forward,â Copperfield said. âAnd so it’s not just the magical story of the past. This is also where it goes.
In his own performances, Copperfield traces this direction.
âMost of my bandwidth is spent on advancing magic, inventing new magic, you know when you come to my show you will see dinosaurs. There aren’t any dinosaurs in the history of magic, you know, (but) maybe I’m a dinosaur, âCopperfield said, slipping a sly joke. “No no. But I’m really trying to do things with dinosaurs. You know, doing things with time travel, spaceships and aliens, things that kind of changed the language of magic. , so I don’t become a dinosaur.
Copperfield’s concentrated passion and financial resources place him in a unique position to take on the role of the world’s greatest collector and living exhibitor of magic. He is regularly listed by Forbes as the richest magician in the world, earning $ 45 million in 2020 despite an extended pandemic hiatus.
The illusionist shows plenty of income from Musha Cay, its 11 private islands in the Bahamas, where guests pay more than six figures to visit. And he’s back to packing his 760-seat MGM Grand theater 15 times a week.
Many of Copperfield’s contemporaries, naturally, regard him as the preeminent figure in magic.
âI just think, for the best, that it’s the cultivation of magic,â says Penn Jillette. âI mean, I just want it all to end up in his collection. He took his enormous wealth and he handled it so well. We are very, very lucky to have someone who does such a good job of curating the entire history of magic. “
This story evokes some of Las Vegas’ favorite acts of magic. Jillette, who has starred with Teller in Penn & Teller at the Rio since 2001, mentions “The Great Tomsoni”, Johnny Thompson and his wife, Pam. Both have died within the past three years.
âIt’s one thing to go into your museum and see all the stuff that everyone’s drooling over, you know, the (Jean-EugÃ¨ne) Robert-Houdin stuff and the Houdini stuff,â says Jillette. âI mean, that’s what gets everyone excited. But I’m much more interested in the fact that he’s got Johnny and Pam’s stuff.
Mac King, a 2000 Strip headliner who is now at Excalibur, says Copperfield has earned his place as the main columnist for magic.
“If anyone has the collection and the story to write about magic, it’s him,” King said. âIt’s amazing what he can bring to the public. It has all the resources at their fingertips, and the fame that will reach anyone but a magician to read about it. Not many people will read The Story of Magic by someone they’ve never heard of, but they’ll do it with Copperfield as the author.
And the author is still a stubborn performer.
âHe’s not just a working magician,â King says. âHe does more shows than anyone, and just keeps getting better and better.
Copperfield has worked away from the stage, lobbying Congress five years ago to pass a resolution that would recognize magic as a rare and treasured art form and a national treasure. The same recognition has been given to genres of entertainment such as jazz.
âSure, the Library of Congress respected magic and has a lot of my stuff, and they kindly gave me some recognition. They have Houdini stuff, and they know it’s an important thing, âsays Copperfield. âBut doing it in writing would help young artists get grants for magicâ¦ I was doing it for that reason more than anything else. And finally, when things calm down, I hope they calm down in the world, that it will happen. “
Similar to its forerunners who brought magic to the masses, Copperfield is always wary of seeing his acts and concepts hijacked by other artists. In 2018, he sued a German company for building a replica of the spacecraft featured on his show.
This company had made an agreement with “an anonymous magician from Las Vegas” to create a similar flying object. The judge issued a temporary restraining order banning the company from delivering “Flying Object 2 to the Magician of Las Vegas,” according to court documents.
Of his ânotchedâ exhibit, says Copperfield, âIt’s, it’s a lot, but I take but take great comfort in knowing that if you look at the Houdini exhibit, I’ll show you three sheets and posters. of people doing the exact same thing. The exact same thing happened to him. “
He continues: âThe things I have done in the past have been copied. There’s a guy in Spain right now who’s doing my whole show. He makes dinosaurs. It uses bracelets (a technology used in the MGM Grand production). Itâs snowy, and I used to do it snow.
“People say it’s a great show.”
But Copperfield keeps developing his ideas.
âFortunately, I am fortunate to have the ability to create things,â he says. âI’ve been through a lot of different transitions. “
Copperfield flies to the Bahamas when he needs to focus on creativity and put some distance between himself and what is happening elsewhere.
“I took all my energy and put it on this complex that I developed”, says the famous magician. âAt the end of the day. I want peace. I want happiness. And luckily I can work on new things that will hopefully move the profession forward.â
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