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David Copperfield Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Trivia (13) | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 16 September 1956Metuchen, New Jersey, USA
Birth NameDavid Seth Kotkin
Nicknames Seth Kotkin
David Kotkin
Height 5' 11¾" (1.82 m)

Mini Bio (1)

David Copperfield is the first living illusionist to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: he won the star on April 25th, 1995, for the category "Live Performance" and the address is 7021 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California, USA. On October 2nd, 1994, he was knighted by the French government as Chevalier of Arts and Letters, and on May 22th, 1999, he received an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Fordham University. Along with Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Colin Powell, on April 24th, 2000, he received the Living Legend award from the United States Library of Congress. In 1979 and 1986 he has been named "Magician of the Year" by the Academy of Magical Arts, in July 2000 he has been named "Magician of the Millennium" by the International Federation of Magic Societies (FISM), and on September 15th, 2011, he has been named "Magician of the Century" and "King of Magic" by the Society of American Magicians. His face graces the postage stamps of six different countries, making him the only living magician to receive this honor.

16 of his groundbreaking 19 TV specials were nominated for Emmy Awards 38 times between 1979 and 2001, and 10 of them have won 21 times between 1981 and 1995. Year after year he continues to tour sold-out arenas throughout the world. He holds 11 Guinness World Records, published in the 2006 edition of this book (pag. 179) and has sold more tickets than any other solo entertainer in history, with ticket sales in the billions, more than Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley.

Sound impossible? David Copperfield built a reputation on making the impossible look easy. He singlehandedly redefined his art, and remains the most emulated illusionist in the history of magic.

An only child, David was born in Metuchen, New Jersey, USA, on September 16th, 1956, as David Seth Kotkin. His father, Hyman Kotkin, son of Jewish immigrants from Russia, owned and operated in Korby's, a clothing/tailor shop for men and boys on Metuchen's Main Street. His mother, Rebecca Kotkin, a Jewish immigrant born in Jerusalem, Israel, worked in the insurance business. David was a shy and lonely kid who overcame his insecurity with the help of magic. He initially wanted to become a ventriloquist, being fascinated by Paul Winchell, seen in his show Winchell-Mahoney Time (1965). So he bought a ventriloquist's dummy to Macy's, a shop selling magic tricks owned by the American multinational corporation Macy's, founded in 1858 by Rowland Hussey Macy. When he made a little show in front of his classmates, he realized he was a bad ventriloquist, despite receiving an applause. Then he returned to Macy's in search of a better dummy, and in that occasion there was a demonstrator, called Dan Tsukalas, who performed a magic trick with a little wooden board where a quarter would appear and disappear. David liked it so much that he decided to buy it. Thanks to that his first magic trick he realized he was better as a magician rather than as a ventriloquist. So, by the age of 10 he began practicing magic in his neighborhood, with the stage name "Davino the Boy Magician". At 12 (1968) he was invited to join the Society of American Magicians, so became its youngest member ever and began performing professionally. At 16 (1972) was an adjunct professor at New York University, where he taught a course called "The Art of Magic".

At 18 (1974), he graduated from Metuchen High School and then enrolled at Fordham University, a Jesuit based school in New York City. But after just a week he was cast as the lead in "The Magic Man", a new musical comedy created by the producers of Grease (1978), Allan Carr and Robert Stigwood, and written by mystery author Barbara Steketee with her husband Anthony D'Amato. So after three weeks David left Fordham to play in this show. It was for this occasion that, following the suggestion of a friend, he adopted the stage name "David Copperfield", inspired by the abandoned character of the homonymous Charles Dickens's novel. The show opened in Chicago, Illinois, USA, to rave reviews. It went on to become the longest running musical in Chicago's history, and gave David the invaluable experience of performing daily in front of a live audience, allowing him to develop the spontaneity and love of live performance that has him performing up to four shows a day, and doing over 550 performances every year since 1983.

When "The Magic Man" closed after a year, David returned to New York. He continued to develop his singular approach to magic, which was strongly influenced by his love of classic MGM musicals, the dramatic storytelling exemplified by Orson Welles and Walt Disney (2 of the 4 David's idols, which also include Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire) and the lyrical, muscular romanticism of a Sinatra ballad. At 19 (1975) he performed for several months at the Pagoda Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii.

David appeared on television for the first time on May 26th, 1976, in Magic at the Roxy (1976), a TV special dedicated to magic and filmed at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, on October 9th, 1975, then he made an "official" debut on September 7th, 1977, as illusionist conductor of The Magic of ABC (1977). Thanks to this ABC variety TV special he achieved top ratings and shared his unique style of magic with millions of viewers. Immediately the producer Joseph Cates put David under contract for a series of yearly TV specials titled "The Magic of David Copperfield", broadcasted on CBS starting with The Magic of David Copperfield (1978), the first official Copperfield TV special. On television between 1976 and 2001 he has performed over 150 different illusions, covering practically all kinds of them.

In each special he presented new illusions on a scale never before imagined or attempted, and always in front of a live audience, without any use of camera tricks, and rather filming in long take to demonstrate the absolute absence of manipulation of the shoot through video editing or inserting of special effects. In his 4th special, The Magic of David Copperfield IV: The Vanishing Airplane (1981), he vanished a 7 tonnes Lear Jet airplane surrounded by a ring of blindfolded spectators, and in his 5th one, The Magic of David Copperfield V (1983), he performed in front of a live audience on Liberty Island "the illusion of the century": the disappearance of the Statue of Liberty, the largest illusion ever performed by an illusionist, but especially the one that made Copperfield famous worldwide.

For the next two decades, until 2001, David continued to break new ground with his annual top-rated, Emmy Award winning TV specials, with which he continued to surpass himself, for example by "Walking Through The Great Wall Of China" (1986), making a daring "Escape From Alcatraz" prison (1987), surviving being locked in a safe on the 4th floor of an imploding building (1989), levitating and vanishing a 70 tonnes Orient Express dining car surrounded by a ring of spectators (1991), flying freely on the stage for several minutes, and also flying into an examined plexiglas container, and then flying again freely but with a girl held on to his arms (1992), escaping while hanging upside down from burning ropes in a strait jacket 10 stories above flaming steel spikes (1993), testing, in live (in USA only) broadcast, his endurance by surviving the deadly heat standing in the center of a 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (or 1,093 degrees Celsius) "Tornado Of Fire" (April 3rd, 2001). His TV specials have been broadcasted in over 40 countries worldwide, reaching an estimated audience of over 3 billion people.

In 1996 David realized his lifelong dream of performing on Broadway: he created "Dreams and Nightmares", written by David Ives and developed with Francis Ford Coppola and Eiko Ishioka. This show, opened at Martin Beck Theatre for 25 days between December 5th and 29th, still holds the Broadway record for most tickets sold in a week, more than Cats, The Lion King, and The Producers.

As historian of his art, in 1991 he purchased for $ 2,2 million the Mulholland Library of the Conjuring and the Allied Arts in Las Vegas, Nevada, to found The International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts, which houses the world's largest collection of historically significant magic memorabilia: thousands of graphic images, prints, posters, playbills, photographs, manuscripts, letters, props and artifacts. It comprises of approximately 80,000 items of magic history, including 15,000 magic books, some of them from the 16th century, the Harry Houdini's Water Torture Cell (purchased at a Las Vegas auction on October 30th, 2004, for $ 300,000), his Metamorphosis Trunk and also his death certificate, the Orson Welles's Buzz Saw illusion designed for Rita Hayworth, the rifle that killed magician Chung Ling Soo, the third version of the Edgar Bergen's Charlie McCarthy ventriloquism dummy (purchased at a Sotheby's auction on June 9th, 1995, for $ 112,500), and the automaton created by Robert-Houdin (December 6th, 1805 - June 13th, 1871), who is considered the father of modern magic. It also includes the only known recording of the original Houdini's voice, pressed in 1914 on the Thomas A. Edison's wax cylinders. However the museum is not open to the public, but reserved to colleagues, fellow magicians and serious collectors.

On the literary front, Copperfield joined forces with Dean R. Koontz, Joyce Carol Oates, Ray Bradbury and others for "David Copperfield's Tales of the Impossible" (385 pages, published in December 1995), an anthology of original fiction set in the world of magic and illusion. This collection was so well received that a second volume was published: "David Copperfield's Beyond Imagination" (352 pages, published in December 1996). David has been featured on the cover of Vanity Fair, Esquire, Forbes, and Architectural Digest. The word "Copperfield" has become a part of popular culture, in a manner quite apart from anything envisioned by Charles Dickens. In today's literature and media, to "do a David Copperfield" or to "be the David Copperfield of" something has come to mean doing something magical or achieving the impossible.

In August 2006 Copperfield found a unique platform on which to create his newest wonders: "Musha Cay and the Islands of Copperfield Bay". Recognized by many as the most beautiful and spectacular destination in the world, Musha Cay is the ultimate private island paradise. Located in the Exumas, Bahamas, these 11 private islands, bought for $ 50 million, have 700 acres of lush natural beauty, 40 sugar sand beaches and a 3,218 meters (or 10,560 feet) long sandbar, truly paradise on earth. David has been developing unique magical adventures for island guests, including Dave's Drive-in, where a giant silver screen "appears" on the beach, a custom designed magical Treasure Hunt adventure, and the Secret Village, a hidden sanctuary of enchanted monkeys accessed only by entering beneath a giant rising statue and journeying through an ancient, underground passage.

David's proudest achievement, however, is Project Magic, a therapy program conceived in 1981 and organized by Copperfield with Julie DeJean, O.T.R., until the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) formally approved it in March 1982. Based in the Kansas Rehabilitation Hospital, this program, that uses magic as therapy, have been established in nearly every state in the USA and in 1,100 hospitals in 30 countries worldwide. This medically-certified program motivates patients to regain their dexterity, coordination and cognitive skills by learning simple magic and sleight of hand. It is also described and shown in his 6th special, The Magic of David Copperfield VI: Floating Over the Grand Canyon (1984).

In February 2010, at the age of 53, he became a father: the French model Chloe Gosselin, his girlfriend since 2006, gave birth to their child, a daughter called Sky.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Lorenz-pictures

Trivia (13)

In 1993 he met supermodel Claudia Schiffer at a Berlin celebrity gala, and in January 1994 they became engaged. During this engagement, she sometimes used to appear in his stage shows as a special guest assistant in a number of illusions: first he would levitate her high in the air before making her vanish and reappear, then he would use a large guillotine to behead her. Finally, he would saw her in half inside a glass-sided box in what has sometimes been voted by other magicians as one of the most baffling versions of the sawing in half ever performed. Claudia also appeared in David Copperfield: 15 Years of Magic (1994), a documentary in which she played the role of a reporter interviewing Copperfield in his Magic Warehouse. After a six-year engagement, in September 1999 they announced their separation.
One of his schoolteachers New Jersey school days was ABC News correspondent Judy Muller.
Has 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.
He has said he likes roller coasters.
His favorite movies are Citizen Kane (1941) and The Wizard of Oz (1939). In The Magic of David Copperfield III: Levitating Ferrari (1980), during the "Record Album Prediction" illusion he tells the audience that Dumbo (1941) was his favorite movie when he was a kid.
In 1993, David did an on-stage illusion in which he weightlessly flew with a lady from the audience in his arms. His flight illusion was considered by many experts and historians of magic to be the greatest illusion ever performed on stage.
Owns the buzz saw version of the "sawing a woman in half" illusion that used to belong to Orson Welles. Welles used to saw Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe in half. Copperfield maintains the illusion in full working order, and has occasionally used it to saw in half various celebrity assistants including Claudia Schiffer, Penélope Cruz and Cat Deeley.
He is fan of Carl Ballantine, that also performed in his first official TV special The Magic of David Copperfield (1978).
Actor Robert Hegyes was born in Perth Amboy but raised in nearby Metuchen, New Jersey, the hometown of Copperfield.
Copperfield performs over 550 live shows every year since 1983. This is the list:

The Magic of David Copperfield: Live on Stage (from 1983 to 1986)

The Magic of David Copperfield (from 1987 to 1990)

David Copperfield: Radical New Illusions (from 1991 to 1992)

David Copperfield: Magic for the 90's (from 1992 to 1994)

David Copperfield: Beyond Imagination (aka The Best of David Copperfield) (from 1995 to 1996)

David Copperfield: Dreams and Nightmares (aka Magic is Back) (from 1996 to 1998)

David Copperfield: Journey of a Lifetime (aka U!) (from 1999 to 2000)

David Copperfield: Unknown Dimension (aka Global Encounter) (from 2000 to 2001)

David Copperfield: Portal (from 2001 to 2002)

David Copperfield: An Intimate Evening Of Grand Illusion (aka World of Wonders) (from 2003).
In April 2010 he appeared at the Hollywood Theater, at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
On January 9th, 2003, it was opened www.copperfield.ru, a Russian site with the explicit intention to reveal the largest possible number of tricks performed by David Copperfield, with the justification: "Copperfield deceives the spectators, and we only open your eyes on the truth". Site authors (a team of magicians, designers and engineers lead by Timur Abdulov) worked for more than 5 years, documenting and analyzing the illusions of Copperfield. The illusions revealed (in Russian and English) were dozens, minutely described and also accompanied by screenshots, images and some animation created by computer. Many of these illusions were never revealed before by anyone, remaining for years shrouded in mystery. The authors also published recording of the call made by Copperfield himself, who expressed his disagreement with the opening of a site so vast, which however has been deleted from the World Wide Web in 2005-2006.
He was nominated for the 2016 New Jersey Hall of Fame in the Performance Arts category.

Personal Quotes (2)

(on working with 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.
Each five-minute piece you now see in my show takes two years from idea to execution. That is why - when someone steals my creations - it's very difficult to deal with.

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