"Judge Forces David Copperfield to Reveal Famous Magic Trick" –Time
"Lawsuit Leads to Revelations about Magician’s Act" – USA Today
"David Copperfield’s Vanishing Trick Revealed in Court Amid Lawsuit" – Newsday
As you are by now aware, a lawsuit brought by a spectator/participant in one of David Copperfield’s illusions, claims in court that he suffered a debilitating brain injury as a result of a fall. Due to the nature of the court proceeding, Mr. Copperfield was required to testify and the media had a field day announcing that one of his “signature” effects was exposed. They say in the news business that “if it bleeds it leads.” And as the headlines suggested, you would have thought that an attorney had waterboarded David Copperfield in court, forcing him to reveal information tantamount to classified state secrets.
Exposing a magician’s secrets is, in my opinion, hardly newsworthy. Between amateurs on the Internet and sell-outs like the “Masked Magician,” a great deal of information has made it into the public eye. Of course exposure is wrong, but has all of this exposure actually hurt magic performances in general? I think not. Penn and Teller, Mac King, David Copperfield, and many others still perform before standing room only size audiences. The Magic Castle thrives, and magicians are still hired to perform in a variety of venues.
The reason I believe, for magic’s ability to weather years of exposure is that in the end, it’s not a matter of how an illusion works, but rather the way it is performed. In other words, to a modern day audience people know the illusion isn’t “Magic” with a capital “M” as much as it is "Entertainment" with a capital “E.” I remember years ago asking my fourth grade students how they thought Houdini’s “Metamorphosis” worked or how an object could be levitated. And of course, their explanations were right on the money. Nonetheless, when they saw magicians on television perform these and other effects, they still loved it. And they were fooled regardless of their ability to reason how a particular trick worked. And that’s because great magic isn’t predicated solely on methodology. There’s so much more to it.
I remember years ago seeing David Copperfield perform Kevin Rose’s “Floating Rose” at the Eisenhower Theatre at West Point. I knew how it was done but it didn’t matter. Mr. Copperfield came out into the audience and performed roughly fifteen feet from where I sat with my wife and daughter, and as far as I was concerned, it was still as magical as it can get. Again, I knew the mechanics of the effect but so what? The lightening, the music, and of course Mr. Copperfield’s charm, made it unbelievable. And the audience loved it. The point is that in the hands of a master, one can still enjoy a magic show, and even feel like a child once more, seeing something that you know has some kind of logical explanation, and yet is delightfully deceptive.
I feel for David Copperfield and his associates and anyone else who has studied, worked, and perfected something, only to have it dragged into the daylight for monetary purposes. I do not know if the gentleman suing Mr. Copperfield has just cause; that’s why the case is being adjudicated in a court of law. But the story was deemed “newsworthy” no doubt because it bloodied David Copperfield, one of magic’s greatest living performers.
These are strange days indeed and the influence of social media, so-called “mainstream media,” and pundits on all sides, seem to take great pleasure in kicking someone when they’re down, and laughing all the way to the bank. David Copperfield surely will rise above this and continue to bring out the child in all of us. Because magic is a positive force, and magicians have the power to transform the ugly parts of life and take us to places filled with joy and wonder. There’s a reason magic still sells and will continue despite rip-offs and exposures, because now more than ever, people need magic in their lives.