Copperfield, David

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COPPERFIELD, DAVID (1956– ). U.S. magician. As David Seth Kotkin, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants (his father owned a small clothing store), Copperfield grew up in Metuchen, N.J. His grandfather taught him card tricks as a boy. Before his bar mitzvah he was performing magic at local community centers. He became the youngest person to be admitted to the Society of American Magicians. As a teenager, he said, he taught courses in magic at New York University. A week into his first year at Fordham University, he won the lead in the Chicago production of the musical Magic Man, and it launched his career. Under the name David Copperfield, suggested by a friend, he sang, danced, acted, and created all the magic in the show, which became a long-running production. His role led to his own television series, The Magic of then signed him for a series of specials, The Magic of David Copperfield, and with each new special he introduced a new feat, always performing before a live audience. In one of his most famous tricks, in 1983, he seemingly made the Statue of Liberty vanish. He also walked through the Great Wall of China and escaped from the prison at Alcatraz, a trick no real prisoner ever managed to perform. Over 20 years his television specials were said to have reached more than three billion people. His face is on a postage stamp in four countries. His abilities as a businessman, as well as illusionist, paid off: he became one of the highest paid entertainers in the world. Copperfield, who was cited by the Library of Congress in 2000 as a living legend, started Project Magic, a program to help hospitalized people with physical and developmental disabilities.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]