Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Jaded and Arrogant Magic of David Copperfield

I’ve always loved magicians. Or rather, I’ve always loved what magicians can do. The can make people levitate, make people disappear, make people transform into ferocious animals. There’s no limit to the types of illusions they can create, and the fun part is trying to figure out how they do it.

Like most people, I know the majority of magic tricks are based on some very simple principals: a trap door, a hidden wire, a forklift. But when someone can perform a trick that’s so unusual and complex that you just can’t fathom how it was done, I have nothing but respect and admiration for their skills.

So it should be no surprise that when I went to Las Vegas a few years ago, one of the shows I definitely wanted to see had to include magic. And since the only resident magician I was familiar with was David Copperfield, I decided to go see him. Not that I had a particular affinity for Mr. Copperfield, other than remembering he once dated Claudia Schiffer; he just happened to be the only magician's name I recognized.

So I went to his show with great expectations. Upon arriving at the theater, my friend and I were escorted to the front row, and placed at a small round table with another couple. We were then asked if during the finale of the show, we would participate by immediately standing up and applauding when the trick was over.

“And feel free to yell out words like Bravo or Encore or encouraging stuff like that,” the bright young P.A. explained. “Let David know how much you love him. And while you’re standing, David is going to come down the row and shake everyone’s hand. Isn’t that great? You’ll actually get to shake David’s hand. Cool, huh?”

Yeah, real cool. Naturally, my friend and I looked at each other with a little bit of skepticism. Why would someone as famous as David Copperfield need his audience to shill for him? Was he that insecure that he needed a standing ovation every night? I suddenly felt like I was “in on the trick;” like I’d been exposed to a part of the act I wouldn’t have been privy to had I been sitting in the third or fourth row. But since my table was practically hugging the front of the stage, I was being “used” to trick the rest of the audience into giving Mr. Copperfield his nightly ego boost. (And I wasn’t even getting paid for it.)

Nevertheless, we agreed to do it, if only to keep the P.A. from harassing us. But after waiting over a half hour for the show to start, I began to get a little irritated. Then, before Mr. Copperfield even appeared, we still had to sit through a twenty minute film which did nothing but tout Copperfield as the greatest living human being in the world. Forget being a magician, David was portrayed as a virtual God. It was a little weird. Why did this guy need to remind us who he was? Didn’t he know that’s the only reason we came to see him? Why was he giving us such a hard sell? The whole thing made me very uncomfortable.

But that was nothing compared to the shock I felt after David finally appeared. Because you’d think after all that build-up and self-grandizing, you’d be greeted by a guy that was full of energy and bigger than life. Instead, David appeared rather bored and indifferent throughout his act, walking around the stage with all the energy of a nightlight. There was no pep in his patter, nor any enthusiasm for what he was doing. It was like he was walking through the show with condescension for both his audience and the very tricks themselves. (No wonder he made us sit through all the film clips—it was the only time he showed any life during the entire evening.)

And though there were a few stand-out illusions, including the finale where he magically appears from the back of the audience, most of the show consisted of smaller, more ordinary tricks. Magic that could probably be done by most magicians in their sleep. In fact, that’s exactly what it looked like Mr. Copperfield was doing. Performing in a slumber. And since he couldn’t bring himself to actually wake up to participate, he decided to sleepwalk through it instead. (To be fair, Mr. Copperfield was doing a lot of sniffing and snorting throughout the show, so perhaps he was suffering from a cold. Or something.)

Or maybe he was just getting tired of doing magic. Maybe after years of performing, he was finally more jaded than genuine. After all, he’d probably done these tricks a thousand times before for countless audiences all over the world, many of whom were probably much more important than us. Regardless, I paid good money for my ticket and I expected to be mesmerized; not condescended to.

So when it came time to stand up for Mr. Copperfield during the finale, half the front row hesitated. Why? Because we all knew it was BS, and maybe felt a little weird contributing to Mr. Copperfield’s already bloated self-esteem. Of course, we all eventually did, but I definitely came away from the show with a very bad taste in my mouth.

Then months later, when all the allegations came out about Mr. Copperfield’s “alleged” sexual misunderstanding with a female in the Bahamas, I wondered if David had gotten bored with other social conventions as well. Like the not-so-subtle differences between dating and rape. But regardless of whether Mr. Copperfield is actually guilty or not, his persona has forever been tainted in my mind. And not because he’s not a talented magician; but because his talent seems to have ballooned his head into monolithic proportions.

Perhaps he should take a clue from the Dickensian character whose name he cleverly borrowed, and return to a time when he was more humble and less arrogant. Then maybe we’d all rediscover the magic that used to be David Copperfield.

But that’s just me. What do you think of David Copperfield?

20 comments:

CherylM said...

Thanks for the interesting analysis. That really is very wierd that front tables are told how to act. At least you now have an interesting story from it.

Henson Ray said...

And that was the edited down version.

Thanks for stopping by.

Kalei said...

OMG...I saw this show about 2 years ago. It was the worst magic show I've ever seen. I almost walked out after he was 20 minutes late starting the show ~ and then the 20 minute video about how bitchin' he is. What a joke! I was living in LV at the time and told EVERYONE not to see the show. We sat in the back and even we were asked to stand at the finale.
Either we were at the same show or he was suffering from a perpetual cold!
I'm glad it's not just me who thought he sucked. :)

Henson Ray said...

Kalei,

Thanks for stopping by. It does sound like we were at the same show. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who had this opinion of Mr C. Sometimes an artist should remember that "less is more" and that ego is something that should be left in the dressing room, and not imposed upon the audience.

Henson

bob e said...

I went to his show with my wife and her mother. His staff used their planned pickup routine to whisk my wife backstage and get her email and take photos of her, hinting about using her in the show in our home city and talking about his bahamas island. He knew she was married since we were ushered back together for a family photo with him before leaving.

After we got home, the emails began from Mr. Copperfield, inviting my wife to his Bahamas Island.

The whole thing was a routine assembly line to generate leads to enough beautiful women that some of them would certainly be dumb enough to believe his stories and wind up in the Bahamas.

Since then there has been an expose of the routine he trains his stage people to execute.

He's a real jerk and I if I am ever close enough to him, I'm going to knock his teeth out.

Henson Ray said...

Wow, Bob. What a weird experience. I can hardly blame you for not liking the guy. Weird how some of these celebrities think they can get away with just about anything.

Anonymous said...

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/802242/how_statue_of_liberty_vanished/

Suzanne said...

I just saw him in Denver and had the same reaction - incredibly arrogant and bored with himself and his show. It could have been really fun - the tricks were great! But Copperfield's attitude and lack of enthusiasm really put a damper on things. Too bad. He should retire.

Henson Ray said...

Suzanne---Wow. He's still doing the same old tired show? I can't believe after nearly two years, he's still doing the same old shlock, and people put up with it. I think it's ready for him to retire before he bores everyone else to sleep as well. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Randy said...

Same experience. My husband & I saw him a few years ago in Vegas, sat in the front row & was asked to do the standing ovation thing. You have to ask people to do that? Copperfield looked bored out of his mind & based on his appearance, like he just crawled out of bed. What an ego he has. He strutted around like he was some kind of god. What a waste of money. Never do that again.

stephen said...

Poor DC has lost his passion and his magic. You can tell the guy has been blind sided by money and it must be tough to live a life in the past shadow of the greatness he achieved in the 90's when he was at the peak of his craft. The golden rule of magic, when you loose the passion for it you should stop because that will flow over into the audience and cheat them of their money and dignity. I attended this show recently and after being a massive DC fan for my whole life I was greatly disappointed. Why does he have to bombard us with that 10min self righteous, pompous video at the start of his show? He is so out of touch with "real people" he can't even see that this is viewed as insulting to us as it undermines our intelligence. We know who you are David, that is why we are there!!!! He may as well have been performing to an empty theatre as it was like we were not even there. Even the stories he has created to intro some of his illusions were delivered with about as much conviction and passion as a dying animal. His humor is becoming more and more sleazy too and most of it is just plain old cheesy. Please hang up your wand DC as your embarrassing yourself and insulting your audience at this stage. Re-event yourself drawing on your massive success in the 90's or simply retire and try and find yourself a life that once again had meaning and purpose. Save your money and don't see this show, it is the only way he will learn that he can't keep cheating us from our hard earned money with the dribble he is producing.
From a very disappointed DC fan...

stephen said...

Poor DC has lost his passion and his magic. You can tell the guy has been blind sided by amassing more wealth and it must be tough to live a life in the past shadow of the greatness he achieved in the 90's when he was at the peak of his craft. The golden rule of magic, when you loose the passion for it you should stop because that will flow over into the audience and cheat them of their money and dignity. I attended this show recently and after being a massive DC fan for my whole life I was greatly disappointed. Why does he have to bombard us with that 10min self righteous, pompous video at the start of his show? He is so out of touch with "real people" he can't even see that this is viewed as insulting to us as it undermines our intelligence. We know who you are David, that is why we are there!!!! He may as well have been performing to an empty theatre as it was like we were not even there. Even the stories he has created to intro some of his illusions were delivered with about as much conviction and passion as a dying animal. His humor is becoming more and more sleazy too and most of it is outdated and not relevant. Please hang up your wand DC as your embarrassing yourself and insulting your audience at this stage. Re-event yourself drawing on your massive success in the 90's or simply retire and try and find yourself a life that once again had meaning and purpose. Save your money and don't see this show, it is the only way he will learn that he can't keep cheating us from our hard earned money with the dribble he is producing.
From a very disappointed DC fan...

NP said...

Wow! I wish I could have read this before going to DC's show at Vegas - went to it on Thanksgiving w/ my Fiance and his mom. Exact same thing - very egoistic video of himself, standing ovation, lack of enthusiasm, etc. Another thing that I thought was weird was the volunteers he chose from the crowd. First, they were mostly gorgeous women, and after the trick, I noticed that he asked them to give him a kiss on the cheek..... It's one thing if the ladies want to give him a peck and another thing to ask (one woman that was sitting on our table really didn't want to) the women to give him a kiss...kinda sleezy.....

Henson Ray said...

NP--As you can tell from the many people who have responded to this since I first posted it, the experience seems to be a universal one. It surprises me he is still able to get an audience...I guess word of mouth doesn't carry too far...

Carl Michael said...

You are ALL Crazy . David Copperfield is the GREATEST Performer to ever walk the face of this earth. He is one of the MOST clever and entertaining minds to ever step foot on ANY stage and for you all to bash him on here is ridiculous. I am a fellow magician and you all dont understand the TIME and WORK he puts into piecing together a show , such as his own. He deserves a standing ovation every night and for you all that say its just little magic , DC is one of the few that invents and performs ORIGINAL magic. If and when in VEGAS if you miss DC's Show , your missing out on seeing a LEGEND.

Atoosa said...

Hi. I saw DC's show a month ago. Before then, I had never seen any of his TV stuff, even though I knew who he was and what he'd done. So it was all new to me. I was at the MGM and I was sitting way back so I didn't see a lot of what you're describing. I enjoyed it, even the cheesy movie in the beginning, because it was all new to me. I respect and believe what you guys are saying. But I didn't have the same experience. He didn't seem bored to me. From the first moment he appeared on his motorcycle, he looked very happy to be there.

There were two things that I was impressed with: 1) One of the audience members he picked was an Asian guy who spoke no English. I was surprised at how patient DC was with him and how he was still able to work him into his act. 2) In the last trick when he was throwing out exercise balls, he kept saying, "Pass them to the back" over and over again because the balls were bouncing around in the front. I appreciated that he tried to get the entire theatre involved, not just the people who were sitting in the front.

I hope this means his show has improved since you guys saw it.

Benjamin. said...

It seems like he advertized himself to much during the show.
I recall going to his show once and he also seemed tired/bored, and he did seem to be sniffling a lot to; I think it looked like he was about to sneeze once.

I find that interesting.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. A boring show performed by a sinister megalomaniac. This creep likes to take advantage of hard working people and then threatens to sue them when he decides he doesn't want to pay for the work being provided. True story.

- Teacher Mark said...

I was a part of the crew that set up his equipment for a performance he was giving in my hometown, back in 2007 (I think). There were about 100 of us and Mr. Copperfield and his tour were nice enough to give us coffee and some fruit to eat. In the middle of everything there was a HUGE bowl of watermelon that had plastic over the top of it and a note that read: DO NOT TOUCH! THIS BELONGS TO DAVID COPPERFIELD! That night, when the show was over, we came back into the cafeteria and found all of the watermelon thrown into the trash. To me that said that David Copperfield was a rich and arrogant jerk, as well as selfish and greedy.

- Teacher Mark said...

P.S. I moved to Vietnam shortly after that to teach English. My time here, specifically the poverty I've seen, makes me want to make an entire watermelon disappear down his throat! By no means would I recommend going to see that two bit charlatan, even if it were free!