The Untold Truth Of David Copperfield

World-famous magician David Copperfield was born David Seth Kotkin. A native of Metuchen, New Jersey, David began performing self-taught magic tricks for his friends and family as a young child. By the age of 10, he started taking his hobby very seriously, and began calling himself "Davino the Boy Magician." Copperfield applied to and was accepted into the Society of American Magicians when he was only 12 years old. Although initially described as a shy and introverted child, David used magic tricks to entertain and connect with others.

Performing magic tricks was not young David Kotkin's only talent. He was also a gifted actor, dancer, and singer. When he was 18 years old, David was cast as the lead in a Chicago musical titled, "The Music Man." Upon landing the role, he began using the stage name David Copperfield, which he chose from the eponymous Charles Dickens novel.

Copperfield made his television debut in 1977 when he was a guest on a special titled, "The Magic of ABC." The following year, he was offered his own series of television specials titled, "The Magic of David Copperfield." Throughout his career, Copperfield has earned numerous Emmy awards and was the first magician to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Copperfield is now the wealthiest and highest-paid magician in the world, but what else is there to know about him? Let's take a deep dive into the lesser-known parts of his life.

David Copperfield holds 9 Guinness World Records

Since the early '80s, David Copperfield has set 11 Guinness World Records, and as of early 2024, still holds nine of them. These include the most tickets sold worldwide by a solo entertainer, the highest earnings for a magician for the noted year, the most expensive poster depicting magic sold at auction, the largest magic work archive, the highest career earnings as a magician, the largest illusion ever staged, and the most magic shows performed in a year.

Copperfield was awarded the record for most tickets sold worldwide by a solo entertainer in 2004, after selling approximately 39,690,000 show tickets between 1984 and 2004. The same year, he was awarded the record for the highest career earnings as a magician, as he earned a net sum of $661.5 million between 1984 and 2004. In May 2000, Copperfield became the owner of the most expensive poster depicting magic sold at auction with his purchase of a $55,000 1914 lithograph, depicting Harry Houdini's Water Torture Cell escape.

The record for the most magic shows performed in a year was awarded to Copperfield in 1994, when he performed an extraordinary 642 shows in seven countries. However, he was not awarded with the record for the highest annual earnings within a year until 2018, for earning $62 million between July 2017 and July 2018. And most famously, in 1983, Copperfield was awarded for the largest illusion ever staged, for his vanishing Statue of Liberty illusion, which he performed on a CBS television special.

David Copperfield owns the largest magic archive in the world

In 2004, David Copperfield was awarded the Guinness World Record for owning the largest magic work archive in the world. The collection, which at the time included an estimated 61,673 items, is housed in the magician's International Museum and Library of Conjuring Arts. Copperfield owns half of legendary magician and escapologist Harry Houdini's personal library, as well as the largest collection of Houdini's other memorabilia — including the only known recording of his voice. Other Houdini swag includes his Mirror Cuff Escape Award, which London's Daily Mirror newspaper awarded him in 1904, one of his straight jackets, the famous Iron Maiden Challenge device, several pairs of handcuffs, and one of his sets of lock picks.

Copperfield's magic work archive also includes an antique levitation device built by an unknown French artist, an intricate monkey automaton that Phalabois created, and several complex automatons and mystery clocks made by Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin. Copperfield also owns Dante The Magician's device, which the latter used to create the illusion that women were being sawed in half. 

The collection isn't all magical, such as ventriloquist Edgar Bergen's Charlie McCarthy puppet, which starred in "The Chase and Sanborn Hour" variety program from the 1930s to the 1950s, two of the original Howdy Doody marionettes, and four of Paul Winchell's puppets — including Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff. On top of all of that, there's Copperfield's own props, which number in the many tens of thousands from his decades-long career.

David Copperfield claims he found the Fountain of Youth on his private island

So what does the world's wealthiest magician do with all that money? While it's not one of the most ridiculous things bought by the wealthy, David Copperfield purchased his own private island — Musha Cay island in the southern Bahamas — for $50 million. Copperfield spent an additional $40 million to renovate the inland's existing structures, build several homes, and add additional recreational facilities. Once the initial renovation was complete, Copperfield purchased 10 other islands surrounding Musha Cay, further ensuring the privacy of his beloved Caribbean retreat. 

Still, Copperfield Bay owns several resorts that can be rented by the public (well, those members of the public who are very wealthy) for weddings, corporate events, wellness retreats, and other celebrations. In addition to accommodations and catering services, the island has "tropical paths" for jogging, hiking, and walking, a freeform swimming pool, and more decadent perks.

However, one thing remains off-limits to Copperfield's guests: The Fountain of Youth. Copperfield discussed his discovery of the mythical spring during a 2006 interview with Reuters (via Today). During the phone interview, Copperfield said, "I've discovered a true phenomenon ... You can take dead leaves, they come in contact with the water, they become full of life again ... Bugs or insects that are near death, come in contact with the water, they'll fly away. It's an amazing thing, very, very exciting." Copperfield said he hired biologists and geologists to study the properties of the spring, although he never revealed their findings.

David Copperfield was forced to reveal the secret of one of his illusions after being sued

In 2013, Gavin Cox, a British citizen, traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, to celebrate his birthday. During the trip, Gavin attended David Copperfield's show at the MGM Grand, where he was randomly selected to participate in one of the illusions — specifically, the disappearance and reappearance of 13 audience members. The audience participants did not actually vanish, of course. Instead, they were led backstage through a series of secret passageways to another location — where they were expected to remain until they reappeared during the show's finale. But a tragic accident revealed the trick.

As reported by the Independent, Gavin Cox's attorneys said the audience participants were forced to run through the dark passages, which were littered with "construction dust." Gavin said the dangerous conditions contributed to a fall, which left him with both a traumatic brain injury and more than $400,000 in medical bills. According to NPR, Gavin Cox said that he "was having a good time" until he fell. Although he remembers "he fell hard on his right side," he claims he does not remember getting up off the floor or completing the illusion.

Three other women who participated in the illusion testified that they also suffered injuries in the dark passageways. A jury ultimately determined Copperfield was not liable for Gavin Cox's injuries. However, Copperfield was reportedly dismayed that so many details about the "Lucky #13" illusion were revealed during the trial.

Two women accused David Copperfield of sexual assault

In 2007, Lacey L. Carroll accused David Copperfield of sexually assaulting her while she was a guest on his private island. Carroll alleged that Copperfield met her at one of his shows and asked her to later join him at his private island getaway. However, Carroll's accusation was called into question when she accused another man of sexually assaulting her in 2009, and surveillance footage recovered during the investigation of that case revealed that she allegedly lied about the details of her interactions with the man.

In 2018, Brittney Lewis said Copperfield sexually assaulted her in 1988, when she was 17 years old. Lewis alleged the assault happened after one of Copperfield's shows. In an interview with People, Lewis claimed that Copperfield spiked her drink at a bar. Although she questioned him about what he put in her drink, she reportedly "blacked out" after taking "a few sips."

Lewis told People she remembers her "clothes being taken off," and Copperfield "kissing [her] face." However, she "completely blacked out," in the midst of the alleged assault. The following morning, Lewis said she asked Copperfield what happened, and he reportedly told her "nothing happened" because she "was underage." He then allegedly forced her to sign a statement saying she was "okay," before she left to return home. Copperfield was never charged or convicted in either case, and has vehemently denied the allegations.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

David Copperfield was inspired by classic Hollywood performers

Even the most casual viewer of David Copperfield can see that, above all else, he's a performer and entertainer. He and his jazz-handed stage poses are an outsized example of pageantry and spectacle, and are doubtlessly a big reason why he stands out from his magical peers. And if you ever wondered where he gets his sense of showmanship, you have only to look at classic Hollywood cinema.

Copperfield revealed in an interview with Forbes that his greatest career influences weren't death-defying stunt magicians like Houdini, but old-timey dancers, actors, singers, and directors. Fred Astaire (pictured above with Ginger Rogers), Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Orson Welles, and even Alfred Hitchcock — these are just some of the figures from whom Copperfield drew inspiration. As he said, "I was inspired to bring storytelling to magic, romance, choreography — all the elements of film and theater that I loved." 

Copperfield's focus on storytelling is pretty clear. Take his "Great Wall of China" illusion. There's a beginning and set-up (David stands on one side of the wall), a complication in the middle (the audience waits in anticipation and wonders whether the trick will even work), and an end where tension gets resolved (David appears on the other side of the wall). Such narrative structuring creates far greater performances than standalone stage tricks ... such as tugging rabbits out of hats.

David Copperfield's Grandpa's Aces trick has extensive tutorials online

Copperfield has done more than a couple of on-camera tutorials. One time, for instance, he showed an interviewer for the Wall Street Journal how to do an impossibly balanced dollar bill trick. The trick, as he showed, involved secretly inserting a palmed quarter inside a folded bill to keep the bill balanced. He also did a career retrospective with GQ, where he didn't necessarily divulge the secrets of every illusion, but discussed his tactics behind each illusion's construction, including the business side of things. For his Great Wall of China illusion, for example, he discusses how he had to collaborate with the Chinese government and television networks.

One of Copperfield's tricks, dubbed "Grandpa's Aces," has been scrutinized, analyzed, and replicated by amateur magicians quite a lot. When Copperfield performed the illusion, he described how it was taught to him by his grandfather before he became famous. The illusion is a multi-step trick that uses a seemingly ordinary deck of cards. Copperfield somehow flips the aces out of the deck, makes them vanish, and finally reappear in a specific (and seemingly impossible) sequence. Loads of folks have posted how-to videos for this particular illusion, with solutions like using double-sided tape on the back of cards.

Around the same time that Copperfield was preparing his greatest illusion yet — to make the moon disappear — in February 2024, a treasure trove of his magical secrets was delivered to our nearest celestial companion, courtesy of the lunar lander Odysseus.

David Copperfield headlines nightly in Las Vegas

David Copperfield may have receded somewhat from the magic-dusted limelight of his heyday years, but that doesn't mean he's — ahem — vanished. Those looking to behold the maestro of magic can just buy a ticket to see him at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, provided you feel like dropping between $70 to $220 per person for a two-hour show. Simply stroll the casino floor and, after some left turns and a bit more walking, you'll find Copperfield in his eponymous David Copperfield Theater (set aside just for him, apparently).

Copperfield puts on a shocking number of shows at the MGM Grand. He performs every single day, seven days a week, with the occasional cluster of days off between months, despite being well into his 60s as of 2024. But he does have a few overheads to take care of, not least being his $17.5 million, 31,000-square-foot (per Forbes) Las Vegas home, which contains a wine cellar, a full-service spa, and a nightclub with a bar and dance floor, among other amenities. 

Copperfield's private life

Despite his rigorous performance schedule, David Copperfield has somehow managed to make time for a personal life — which once included a high-profile relationship that made him a regular feature in the tabloids. During the 1990s, Copperfield was involved with German model Claudia Schiffer at the height of her supermodel-era fame. The couple reportedly dated for six years, and were often photographed together on the red carpet. Despite the public's fascination with the pair, Schiffer is no longer at the forefront of Copperfield's mind. Referring to the past relationship, Copperfield told Hello! in 2014, "Oh, that was a long time ago. Now I'm engaged and in a committed relationship with Chloe in my mind and my heart." 

The Chloe he's referring to is French former model Chloe Gosselin, with whom he shares a daughter named Sky (Copperfield has two older children from previous relationships). The couple became engaged in 2014, and Gosselin is now a shoe designer. As of 2024, the pair still have yet to tie the knot — indeed, Copperfield has never been married — but are reportedly still very much together.