David Copperfield is the highest-grossing entertainer of all-time. He holds eleven Guinness World Records and he has won twenty Emmy awards. David owns the largest collection of magic artifacts in the world. He has been knighted by the French government and has been declared a living legend by the United States Library of Congress. Most impressive is David Copperfield’s creation of Project Magic, a physical rehabilitation program designed to help people with disabilities to regain dexterity by learning sleight of hand magic. David’s Project Magic is employed in one hundred hospitals in thirty countries. Copperfield has repaid those who have inspired and encouraged him by inspiring and encouraging others.
Smitty: David, who has had the most positive impact on your career?
Copperfield: Everyone in their life has memories of people who are encouraging rather than discouraging. When I decided to pursue magic as a career my family was very much afraid that there was no future in it, that I couldn’t support my family. It was one of those things. There was a magician who was appearing in the American Guild of Variety Artists. He said, “David, you have an interesting point of view with your magic. You should just go and make a career of it!” That’s one person out of all of those people who said, “Yes. You can make a career out of this.”
To this day I try to encourage people to Live the Impossible. That’s even with the title of my new show, Live the Impossible. Everyone says things are impossible. I say that you should embrace that and Live the Impossible. That’s why there was Christopher Columbus and Neil Armstrong and Roger Bannister who was told that he could not run the four-minute mile and then he did. Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mt. Everest. Before he did, everybody thought it was impossible. Everyone thought the flight was impossible until the Wright brothers in 1903 built and got into that machine! They did it! They took off and flew! Then, some sixty years later, we’re on the moon! Imagine that! Who knows what’s going to happen next. My job is to be a metaphor for things that are impossible and to show people that you can have dreams and you can make those dreams come true. It is possible.
Smitty: It’s absolutely possible and I thank you for sharing that with everyone. With fifteen shows per week, every week with no days off, I would imagine that you have been able to positively affect many people firsthand. And, with television, which I think we can all be thankful for, you have been able to reach and to positively influence millions of people. Is there anyone else you’ve met who stands out to you who has helped you in your career?
Copperfield: There is a man named Joseph Cates along with his brother, Bill Cates. They produced the Oscar telecasts and Joe was a big Broadway producer. I walked into his office as a child and he saw that I was doing magic in a unique way. He’s the one who discovered me and put me on TV. Before that it was the magician I told you about who gave me encouragement. My father also encouraged me. My mother didn’t. My mother was pretty tough. She was worried about my future.
Smitty: That’s understandable.
Copperfield: My father wanted to be an actor and he gave up acting to feed us. He wanted to be an actor. I kind of lived out his dream and he supported me in that. My mother was very much against it and she gave me a lot of negative reinforcement. For me it worked very well, although for a lot of other people it might shut them down. For me I actually had to prove to myself that I could really do it. In that way, the negative reinforcement really helped me. I don’t recommend this for everyone. It did work for me and it had a positive impact. There were other people who came around and were supportive for their own various reasons. They all helped me. Now, I’m trying to motivate others to live their dreams and to Live the Impossible in their own way.
The words we say, the words we choose with the people we love have amazing impact. The things we say and do can really change the world. You never know who’s listening to you.
Smitty: I absolutely agree with that 100%. We never do know who is listening to us. I also agree with the concept of turning negatives into positives. One of the things that you and I have in common is that we have both been falsely accused of horrible crimes that we did not commit. I know that I was able to get through that by doing a lot of the things that you just mentioned and by turning negatives into positives. How were you personally able to get through that time until the truth finally came out? How were you able to persevere through that and do you have any recommendations for someone who may currently be going through something similar?
Copperfield: You know it’s just so horrendous. When you are accused of something that is untrue it’s probably one of the worst things on earth. You know it’s amazing how it negatively affects your family. You just hope that after what they went through that the person who made the false allegations is eventually going to be brought to justice. That justice will eventually prevail. I was never arrested or even charged. In fact, the girl was arrested and charged for doing the exact same thing to other people.
Copperfield: You know the prisons are filled with people who were falsely accused. Luckily I was never charged. Unfortunately, with my public persona, people printed things before any facts come out. It can be a trial by the court of public opinion before someone’s even charged or arrested. People perceive that I was charged and arrested even though I wasn’t. She was the one who was charged and arrested. In the meantime, I went through pure torture. Luckily it became very clear with the end result in my case.
Smitty: I agree. It absolutely is pure torture when you have been falsely accused and the truth hasn’t come out yet. And, unfortunately there are thousands of falsely accuse people who are currently incarcerated who are going through the same type of torture and they’re still waiting for the truth to come out. There are many people in prisons and in jails across the country and across the world who absolutely don’t belong there.
Copperfield: I agree.
Smitty: One of the things that I find amazing is the work that you’ve done and what you’ve created in the Islands of Copperfield Bay (David’s private island resort at Musha Cay, southeast of The Bahamas). What can you tell me about that endeavor?
Copperfield: It’s kind of like the most perfect place in the world. It’s a place the reminds me of every single dream I’ve ever had in my life. Every experience that’s been magical that’s happened to me in my life, I recreated it there. It’s a place where many people can come and experience of that same kind of magic. It’s a place they return to over and over again to experience not only the natural beauty, to also enjoy the other experiences they can have there. Whether it’s a natural treasure hunt, movies on the beach or people sharing stories. It’s an amazing place and I’m very proud of it.
Smitty: Absolutely. It does sound amazing. I’ve been able to take a look at it on your website. One of the things that got my attention is Dave’s Drive-In. And, that’s one of my ways of living the impossible or making the impossible possible. It’s to have one of my films shown right there at Dave’s Drive-In. Hopefully, someday soon you and others will be on the beach enjoying one of my films right there at Copperfield Bay.
With all of your legendary accomplishments what’s left for you? What’s left for David Copperfield to accomplish?
Copperfield: My new show. My whole thing is about empowering people to Live the Impossible. The three Ps are critical in making that happen. Passion, Preparation and Persistence.
Smitty: I believe in that and I know that the same principles apply in family life as well. I know that I’ve been fortunate in having a wonderful woman and three wonderful children in my life. You have a wonderful woman and a wonderful child in your life as well. I know that the passion is there for family. How about the other two components?
Copperfield: They’re vitally important. Especially with kids you have to be persistent you have to prepare. Preparing them and yourself as best you can. You never give up on someone. You help them through the peer pressures and the challenges they have. You have to be understanding with them.
Smitty: Absolutely. You never give up and you’ve got to be persistent with children. They are absolutely your life’s passion. I know that I can say that firsthand as well, with my three children.
Another thing that I know about you is that you’ve got a priceless collection of magic props and artifacts from the legends of your craft including yourself. What in your collection inspires you most?
Copperfield: It’s not the objects. We’ve got all of the objects and they’re amazing. Houdini’s water torture cell. The gun that was used to effect Robert-Houdin’s bullet catch. Robert-Houdin inspired Houdini as a child. We have all the letters, all the correspondence and all of the artifacts, the stories of all these same people who lived the same lives as us. We don’t seem to learn anything different. We generally all have the same fears. We have the same scenery and all that stuff. It happens over and over again. It’s bizarre. It’s not the objects. It’s the stories of these people who help remind me to not give up. They help remind me that everyone before me had the exact same challenges as us. People who were all famous, who accomplished so much who did the exact same things that we try to do, they had the exact same situation as us.
That’s the answer to that question. It’s not about having the most stuff. Luckily, the most stuff, the most artifacts of these guys…is really cool. It’s the stories. It’s the fact that those people made the same mistakes as we do. They have the same obstacles as we do. And all of the people you look up to. They’re not just magicians they’re people with real struggles. Real challenges.
Smitty: My daughter Sabrina just cannot get over you making the Statue of Liberty disappear. What kind of feeling is that to, number one, have the courage to pull off an illusion like that, live in front of so many people and how rewarding is it to actually see something that you’ve worked so hard for to actually work the way that you want it to? What is the feeling of accomplishment like when you have had the passion and you’ve prepared and you’ve been persistent in working at it and it works just the way you want it to?
Copperfield: It was super hard. Getting permission was super hard. It was like going to China to walk through The Great Wall of China. To come home and to make our own statue disappear. It was really rewarding that it actually worked. The funny thing is that I didn’t do it as an only as an illusion per se. More interesting than the accomplishment of seeing that through, the interesting thing is that I did not only do the illusion for its own sake. I did it as a lesson in freedom. It was a way to show the world what it would be like to live without liberty and freedom. I worked with one of my idols, Frank Capra toward the end of his life to write and create a whole message that would give the illusion much more gravitas. After I vanished the statue I talked about how my mother came to New York and how she passed by the statue. She talked about how she remembered how important the meaning of the Statue of Liberty is because that was also an impossible dream for her.
Copperfield: And, she told me about that and when I vanished the Statue of Liberty I talked about what the world would be like without the freedoms that we take for granted every day. In her lifetime, she lived in the middle of all of that and in World War II they were told that they could do and what they couldn’t do. In our country, we have these freedoms. That was a magical thing for her. To take that away even for a moment was merely a reminder of what it would be like without those freedoms. I tried to make a positive impact out of that illusion. It (the story) gave it much more strength and much more weight. I don’t think that some people remember that was part of the illusion because they get so enamored in the statue disappearing. I want people to remember that it was much more than an illusion. It had a message, even subliminally that resonated more strongly and more powerfully.
The other thing we should talk about is Project Magic. Which is a project that uses magic as a form of therapy. When magic is taught in hospitals, patients regain coordination and dexterity. In addition to boosting a patient’s self-esteem they develop the skills of an able-bodied person. This has gone on now for about twenty-five or thirty years in over a thousand hospitals in thirty countries around the world. When you see magic work for people with disabilities, you see magic work in a very special way.
Smitty: That is very special. I’ve encountered musicians who perform music therapy in veterans’ hospitals and other hospitals. Those therapies along with the magic therapies are absolutely amazing. That is something; perhaps if we could follow up with a radio interview and even a television interview down the road and take a look at those therapies more closely, I think that would be very valuable for people.
Copperfield: Yeah, Man!
Smitty: I see that we are at the end of our time, is there anything you would like to add before we go today?
Copperfield: I’ve got hours more stuff (laughs). I think we’ve touched on the main things and that would be Project Magic and finding your own impossible dream and making it possible. The Statue of Liberty and Project Magic are messages, “Don’t give up!” Passion. Preparation and Persistence. It’s all good stuff.
Smitty: “Don’t give up.” is probably the strongest message you can give anyone. And the three Ps are extremely important as well. Thank you for your work and your messages and thank you for inspiring others to Live the Impossible!
Copperfield: Thank you.
The true magic of David Copperfield is found in the inspiration that he provides to us all. Inspiration that reminds us to appreciate our freedoms, to do more for others and for ourselves, to achieve greatness and to Live the Impossible!