Not many friends my age found magic via David Copperfield. I did. I would walk, as a kid, by myself to my grandparents’ house. I would open the front door and trudge through to the living room. Then I’d press the Copperfield documentary VHS into the video player and sit crossed-legged a few feet from the screen.
I would watch in awe as Copperfield performed his illusions.
I listened intently when he told me anything was possible.
I still own the VHS.
It’s the only VHS I own.
There’s no doubt that Copperfield is the best storyteller magic has ever had. He has a reputation for being hyperfocused and a stickler for details with a passion for the art. But I think the stories he’s created and shared are the foundations of his incredible career.
Copperfield was younger than me now, only 26, when he made the statue of liberty vanish on television — what an incredible story to tell.
He seated a live audience on a platform on Liberty Island facing the statue.
As a wonderful convincer and timestamper, he displays a radar screen with the statue blinking.
A curtain got raised in front of the statue, and when it fell, the statue was gone, along with the blip on the radar. Spotlights shone up at the empty space left behind, and we even see helicopters passing over the island.
I still recall Copperfield’s commentary from the VHS tape about the impossible large-scale illusion.
David shared that the illusion was one of the most difficult he had ever achieved — even getting permission was nearly impossible.
The year before, his team went to China and got permission from the communist Chinese government to walk through The Great Wall of China. Doing so was ten times easier than getting permission from the US government to deal with The Statue of Liberty.
In an establishing shot — David stood in the torch section held up by the statue. Getting permission to stand inside the torch was an immense achievement. Frank Sinatra got turned down the year before when he wanted to sing ‘New York, New York’ up there for a TV special.
The night before the big stunt, Copperfield’s team discovered that the sheet needed to cover the statue from view was too short. Oh, no. They’d miscalculated. What were they to do?
If you look at the bottom of the frame, you’ll see a different colour fabric sewn in at the bottom.
I’ve heard rumours this fabric was bedsheets.
It was cold on the big night.
There were supposed to be two helicopters, but one’s windshield broke at the last minute. So, the team had to make do with just one.
They managed to make it happen.
The statue vanished.
Copperfield jokes that they had to bring the statue back as part of the deal.
I literally cannot believe they pulled off the illusion. I’ve been on stressful sets with the smallest of magic tricks.
They got permission, it was such a big illusion, and he was just 26 years old! Incredible.