Copperfield has so far sold 40 million tickets and grossed over $4 billion, which is more than any other solo entertainer in history.
When not performing, he manages his chain of eleven islands in the Bahamas – Musha Cay and the Islands of Copperfield Bay, which has completed a $35 million renovation under Copperfield's supervision.
When Copperfield was 10, he began practicing magic as "Davino the Boy Magician" in his neighborhood, and at the age of 12, became the youngest person ever admitted to the Society of American Magicians. Shy and a loner, the young Copperfield saw magic as a way of fitting in and, later, as a way to get girls. Copperfield attended day camp at Camp Harmony in nearby Warren, New Jersey as a child where he began practicing magic and ventriloquy, an experience to which he credits his creative style. "At Camp Harmony, we spent two weeks searching for a guide who’d been kidnapped by Indians. It was just a game, but I was living it...My whole life goes back to that camp experience when I was three or four."  As a teenager, Copperfield became fascinated with Broadway and frequently sneaked into shows, especially musicals featuring Stephen Sondheim or Bob Fosse. By age 16, he was teaching a course in magic at New York University.
Career and business interests
At age 18, Copperfield enrolled at New York city's Jesuit based school Fordham University. However, three weeks into his freshman year he left Fordham to play the lead role of the musical "The Magic Man" in Chicago. At this time he adopted the stage name "David Copperfield", taken from the famous Charles Dickensnovel because he liked the sound of it. Copperfield sang, danced and created most of the original illusions used in the show. "The Magic Man" became the longest running musical in Chicago's history.
Copperfield's career in television began in earnest when he was discovered by Joseph Cates, a producer of Broadway shows and television specials. Cates produced a magic special in 1977 on ABC called "The Magic of ABC" hosted by Copperfield, as well as several of "The Magic of David Copperfield" specials on CBS between 1978 and 2001. There have been 17 Copperfield TV specials and 2 documentaries between 1977 and 2001.
Copperfield played the character of "Ken the Magician" in the 1980 horror film Terror Train. He also made an uncredited appearance in the 1994 film Prêt-à-Porter. Most of his media appearances have been through television specials and guest spots on television programs. His illusions have include flying and levitating over the Grand Canyon and walking through the Great Wall of China.
One of his most famous illusions occurred on live television on April 8, 1983. With help from Jim Steinmeyer and Don Wayne, Copperfield raised a giant curtain on Liberty Island before lowering it again a few seconds later to reveal that the space where the Statue of Liberty once stood is now empty. A helicopter hovered overhead to give an aerial view of the illusion and the statue appears to have vanished and only the circle of lights surrounding it remain. To prove that it was really gone, Copperfield then passed two searchlights through the space where the statue stood, to show there is nothing blocking the way. A live audience sat in an enclosed viewing area and most of the camera shots are from the same area.
In 1996, in collaboration with Francis Ford Coppola, David Ives, and Eiko Ishioka, Copperfield's Broadway show Dreams & Nightmares broke box office records in New York at the Martin Beck Theatre. Reviewer Greg Evans, described the sold-out show in Variety magazine: "With a likable, self-effacing demeanor that rarely comes across in his TV specials, Copperfield leads the audience through nearly two hours of truly mind-boggling illusions. He disappears and reappears, gets cut in half, makes audience members vanish and others levitate. Copperfield climaxes his show with a flying routine, seven years in the making, that defies both logic and visual evidence -- he could probably retire just by selling his secrets to future productions of Peter Pan.”
Also during 1996, Copperfield joined forces with Dean Koontz, Joyce Carol Oates, Ray Bradbury and others for David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible, an anthology of original fiction set in the world of magic and illusion. A second volume was later published in 1997, called David Copperfield's Beyond Imagination. In addition to the 2 books, David also wrote an essay as part of the "This I Believe" series from NPR and the This I Believe, Inc.
On May 7, 2009, Copperfield was dropped by Michael Jackson from Jackson's residency at the O2 Arena after an alleged row over money. Copperfield wanted $1 million (£666,000) per show. Copperfield denied the reports of a row, saying "don't believe everything you read." News of Copperfield's collaboration with Jackson first surfaced on April 1, 2009, and has since been reported by several websites as a possible April Fool's prank.
In August 2009, Copperfield took his show to Australia.
In July 2012, OWN-TV network aired a one-hour special and interview with Copperfield as part of the network's "Oprah's Next Chapter" series. The show featured many aspects of Copperfield's personal life and family—with tours of his island home and Las Vegas conjuring museum—and a sampling of his illusions and magic effects. During the interview, he and his girlfriend Chloe Gosselin, a French fashion model, announced their engagement, and appeared together briefly with their young daughter strolling down the beach on the island.
Copperfield notes that his role models growing up were not magicians, that "My idols were Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire and Orson Welles and Walt Disney ... they took their individual art forms and they moved people with them ... I wanted to do the same thing with magic. I wanted to take magic and make it romantic and make it sexy and make it funny and make it goofy ... all the different things that a songwriter gets to express or a filmmaker gets to express ...."
International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts
Copperfield owns the International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts, which houses the world's largest collection of historically significant magic memorabilia, books, and artifacts. Begun in 1991 when Copperfield purchased the Mullholland Library of Conjuring and the Allied Arts, which contained the world's largest collection of Houdini memorabilia, the museum comprises approximately 80.000 items of magic memorabilia, including Houdini's Water Torture Cabinet and his Metamorphosis Trunk, Orson Welles' Buzz Saw Illusion and automata created by Robert-Houdin.
The museum is not open to the public; tours are reserved for "colleagues, fellow magicians, and serious collectors". Located in a warehouse at Copperfield's headquarters in Las Vegas, the museum is entered via a secret door in what was described by actor Hugh Jackman as a "sex shop" and by Forbes as a "mail-order lingerie warehouse". "'It doesn't need to be secret, it needs to be respected,' he said. 'If a scholar or journalist needs a piece of magic history, it's there.'"
Musha Cay and the Islands of Copperfield Bay
Photo of illusionist David Copperfield, taken in March 2014, on Musha Cay and the Islands of Copperfield Bay.
David Copperfield's Magic Underground was planned to be a restaurant based on Copperfield's magic. At Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida, there was a sign on Hollywood Boulevard during the late 90s indicating the restaurant was coming soon. Signs were also located around Pleasure Island and signs outside Disney-MGM Studios. A Magic Underground restaurant was also going to open in New York's Times Square. Plans also included eventual expansion into Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as well as Paris and Tokyo. The restaurants were to have magic props and other items on the walls of the restaurants while magicians would go around to tables doing sleight of hand tricks. There was also to be a larger stage for larger stunts. The restaurant in Times Square was 85 percent completed, but, amid disputes between the creative team and the financial team and enormous cost overruns, finances dried up from the investors, the project was cancelled, and Disney cancelled the lease. Copperfield was not an investor in the project; the investors reportedly lost $34 million on the project, and subcontractors placed $15 million in liens.
Recorded message for expanded gambling in Maryland
In October 2012, Maryland residents received a robocall from Copperfield, supporting a Maryland ballot initiative that would expand gambling in the state.
Accidents and injuries
On March 11, 1984, while rehearsing an illusion called "Escape from Death" where he was shackled and handcuffed in a tank of water, Copperfield became tangled in the chains and started taking in water and banging into the sides of the tank. He was pulled from the water after 1 minute 20 seconds, hyperventilating and in shock, and taken to a Burbank hospital, and found to have pulled tendons in arms and legs. He was in a wheelchair for a week and used a cane for a period thereafter.
Doing a rope trick, Copperfield accidentally cut off the tip of his finger with sharp scissors. He was rushed to the hospital and the fingertip was re-attached.
On December 17, 2008, during a live performance in Las Vegas, one of Copperfield's assistants named Brandon, 26, was sucked into the spinning blades of a 12 feet (3.7 m) high industrial fan that Copperfield walks through. The assistant sustained multiple fractures to his arm, severe bleeding, and facial lacerations that required stitching. Copperfield canceled the rest of the performance and offered the audience members refunds.
On July 11, 1994, Copperfield sued magician and author Herbert L. Becker in order to prevent publication of Becker's book which reveals how magicians perform their illusions. Becker won the lawsuit. However, the book was published without exposing any of Copperfield's secrets. Because of a secrecy agreement Becker had signed with Copperfield, and an independent finding that Becker's description of Copperfield's methods was inaccurate, the publisher removed the section on Copperfield from the book before publication. In 1997, Becker sued Copperfield and Lifetime Books for US$50 million for causing breach of contract between himself and Lifetime Books, the publisher of his book All the Secrets of Magic Revealed. Becker won this lawsuit when Copperfield settled at the last moment and the publisher lost during the court trial.
In 1997, Copperfield and Claudia Schiffer sued Paris Match for US$30 million after the magazine claimed their relationship was a stunt, that Schiffer was paid for pretending to be Copperfield's fiancée and that she didn't even like him. In 1999, they won an undisclosed sum and a retraction from Paris Match. Herbert L. Becker, whom Copperfield asked to give testimony regarding the validity of the relationship, gave convincing testimony that the relationship was real. Copperfield's publicist confirmed that while Schiffer had a contract to appear in the audience at Copperfield's show in Berlin where they met, she was not under contract to be his "consort".
On August 25, 2000, Copperfield unsuccessfully sued Fireman's Fund Insurance Company for reimbursement of a $506,343 ransom paid to individuals in Russia who had commandeered the entertainer's equipment there.
In 2004, John Melk, co-founder of Blockbuster Inc., and previous owner of Musha Cay, sued Copperfield for fraud after Copperfield's purchase of the island chain, alleging that Copperfield had deliberately obscured his identity during the purchase and that he would not have sold the island to Copperfield. Copperfield claimed that Melk had agreed to sell the property to Copperfield's Imagine Nation Company, and that Copperfield negotiated the deal through a third party because he feared Melk was "seeking to exploit" Copperfield's celebrity status by demanding an unrealistic price. The case was settled in 2006. The terms of the settlement are undisclosed.
On November 6, 2007, Viva Art International Ltd and Maz Concerts Inc. sued Copperfield for nearly $2.2 million for breach of contract and the Indonesian promoter of David Copperfield's canceled shows in Jakarta held on to $550,000 worth of Copperfield's equipment in lieu of money paid to Copperfield that had not been returned. Copperfield countersued. The dispute was resolved in July 2009.
Copperfield was accused of sexual assault in 2007 by Lacey L. Carroll. A federal grand jury in Seattle closed the investigation in January 2010 without bringing charges against Copperfield. In January 2010, the Bellevue City Prosecutor's Office brought misdemeanor charges against Carroll for prostitution and allegedly making a false accusation of rape in another case. Carroll filed a civil lawsuit against Copperfield, which was dropped in April 2010.
Copperfield was engaged to supermodel Claudia Schiffer for six years; the couple separated in 1999 citing work schedules. They had met in 1993 at a Berlin celebrity gala when he brought her on stage to participate in a mind reading act and his flying illusion. While they were engaged, Schiffer sometimes appeared on stage with Copperfield to act as his special guest assistant in illusions including being sawn in half. She also appeared alongside Copperfield in David Copperfield: 15 Years of Magic, in which she played the role of a reporter interviewing him, and during which they reprised their performance of the 'Flying' illusion.
In April 2006, he and two female assistants were robbed at gunpoint after a performance in West Palm Beach, Florida. His assistants handed over their money, passports, and a cell phone. According to his police statement, Copperfield did not hand over anything, claiming that he used sleight of hand to hide his possessions. One of the assistants wrote down most of the license plate number, and the suspects were later arrested, charged, and sentenced.
Copperfield and his girlfriend Chloe Gosselin, a French fashion model who is 28 years his junior, had a daughter named Sky in February 2010. The news did not break publicly until over a year later, when The New York Post reported it in August 2011, and it was confirmed by Copperfield's publicist.
David Copperfield on the Forbes Celebrity 100 List
Pay (USD, millions)
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Forbes magazine reported that Copperfield earned $55 million in 2003, making him the tenth highest paid celebrity in the world (earnings figures are pre-tax and before deductions for agents' and attorneys' fees, etc.). He earned $57 million in 2004 and 2005, and $30 million in 2009 in entertainment earnings, according to Forbes. Copperfield performs over 500 shows per year throughout the world.
In 1982, Copperfield founded Project Magic, a rehabilitation program to help disabled patients regain lost or damaged dexterity skills by using sleight-of-hand magic as a method of physical therapy. The program has been accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association, and is in use in over 1100 hospitals throughout 30 countries worldwide. Copperfield made an appearance on Oprah Radio in April 2008 to talk with Oprah Radio host Dr. Mehmet Oz about how the use of magic can help disabled people.
1 Emmy Win: Outstanding Technical Direction/Electronic Camera/Video Control for a Limited Series or a Special
The Magic of David Copperfield VIII: Walking Through the Great Wall of China (March 14, 1986) (With special guest Ben Vereen) - This is the only special that was filmed outside the United States. At the end of the special, Copperfield says that he hopes this will be the first of many "magical journeys", announcing that the following year's special will take place in Egypt; however the political situation in Egypt changed his plans
2 Emmy Nominations: Outstanding Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program; Outstanding Technical Direction/Electronic Camera/Video Control for a Miniseries or a Special
The Magic of David Copperfield IX: The Escape From Alcatraz (March 13, 1987) (With special guest Ann Jillian)
2 Emmy Nominations: Outstanding Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program; Outstanding Lighting Direction (Electronic) for a Miniseries or a Special
The Magic of David Copperfield 10: The Bermuda Triangle (March 12, 1988) (With special guest Lisa Hartman)
2 Emmy Nominations: Outstanding Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program; Outstanding Technical Direction/Electronic Camera/Video Control for a Miniseries or a Special
4 Emmy Wins: Outstanding Achievement in Special Visual Effects; Outstanding Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program; Outstanding Lighting Direction (Electronic) for a Drama Series, Variety Series, Miniseries or a Special; Outstanding Technical Direction/Camera/Video for a Miniseries or a Special
1 Emmy Nomination: Outstanding Editing for a Miniseries or a Special – Multi-Camera Production
3 Emmy Win: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program; Outstanding Individual Achievement in Editing for a Miniseries or a Special – Multi-Camera Production; Outstanding Individual Achievement in Lighting Direction (Electronic) for a Drama Series, Variety Series, Miniseries or a Special
3 Emmy Win: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program; Outstanding Individual Achievement in Editing for a Miniseries or a Special – Multi-Camera Production; Outstanding Individual Achievement in Technical Direction/Camera/Video for a Miniseries or a Special
David Copperfield: 15 Years of Magic (May 12, 1994) (With special guest Claudia Schiffer, and appearances of various guests from previous specials via archive footage)
1 Emmy Win: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Editing for a Miniseries or a Special – Multi-Camera Production
The Magic of David Copperfield XVI: Unexplained Forces (May 1, 1995) – Filmed at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in Tampa Bay, Florida
3 Emmy Wins: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Editing for a Miniseries or a Special – Multi-Camera Production; Outstanding Individual Achievement in Lighting Direction (Electronic) for a Drama Series, Variety Program, Miniseries or a Special; Outstanding Technical Direction/Camera/Video for a Miniseries or a Special
2 Emmy Nominations: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program; Outstanding Individual Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Variety or Music Series or a Special
David Copperfield: the great escapes (April 26, 2000)
^Witchel, Alex (November 24, 1996). "A Maestro of the Magic Arts Returns to His Roots". The New York Times. Retrieved on December 6, 2007. "David Seth Kotkin was born in Metuchen, N.J., 40 years ago; David Copperfield was born when David Kotkin turned 18, at the suggestion of the wife of a New York Post reporter. Which is why his passport reads David Kotkin, a k a David Copperfield."
^Ike Hughes (2006). "David Copperfield has made a career out of dazzling people". Lansing State Journal. Retrieved on September 22, 2008. "His dad, who managed a men's clothing store, was the son of Russian immigrants. His mom was born in Jerusalem; both wanted him to go to college and into a profession."
^COP-A-FEEL. N.Y. Post. October 20, 2007 "We pull up outside this sex shop and David gets out, pulls out a set of keys, and walks in, and we're thinking 'Oh my god what have we got ourselves into here?'"
^"Fairytale romance that began with a cunning illusion – The Independent". London: www.independent.co.uk. July 11, 1997. Retrieved June 8, 2009. The French magazine Paris Match claims that the meeting was a carefully calculated stunt, to boost Ms Schiffer's profile in the US and Copperfield's career in Europe. "It was just a plot to dupe their loyal fans, and we've got the contracts to prove it," said the magazine.
^Luscombe, Belinda (August 4, 1997). "Copperfield V. Paris Match". Time Magazine. Retrieved June 8, 2009. The suit states that Paris Match added that the supermodel now gets paid for pretending to be Copperfield's fiance and doesn't even like him.
^"Shedding Light: Copperfield talks candidly about his profession". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved June 8, 2009. Last year Copperfield slapped a $30 million lawsuit on Paris-Match magazine that alleged in a story that the Copperfield-Schiffer relationship was mere illusion; little more than a business deal to enhance both their careers.
^Rush, George; Molloy, Joanna; Malkin, Marc S (August 29, 1999). "Copperfield's Claudia Clone". New York: www.nydailynews.com. Retrieved June 8, 2009.
^"Love, Honor and Portray". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. July 16, 1997. Retrieved June 12, 2009. Copperfield's publicist said he and Schiffer had contracts to do the 1993 show, but "there is no contract that states Claudia is there as some sort of consort."
^"Magician David Copperfield". Can performing magic tricks help disabled patients heal? Dr. Oz talks with illusionist David Copperfield about how magic has helped him and how, in turn, he is helping others through his organization Project Magic.