David Copperfield forced to reveal secret of vanishing trick in court
A magician never reveals his secrets. Well, not unless a court mandates it.
David Copperfield, 61, is currently in the midst of a civil jury trial in Las Vegas’ Clark County District Court that began on Friday, following a negligence lawsuit filed against the illusionist by 58-year-old British chef Gavin Cox.
Cox attended one of Copperfield’s shows at the MGM Grand Las Vegas on Nov. 12, 2013. The show concluded with one of the magician’s signature tricks, ‘‘Lucky #13.’’
Copperfield chose 13 random audience members to participate in the illusion. Cox was one of the 13 - but things quickly went downhill, and Cox claimed that he emerged from the trick injured.
The trick, which Copperfield has performed for at least a decade, is a simple vanishing act. He brings 13 unwitting participants on a platform on stage. Then, giant curtains are flung over it, completely obscuring the baker’s dozen of audience members. Copperfield banters for a few minutes before pulling the curtains and revealing the 13 have disappeared.
But the big reveal comes when Copperfield points to the back of the room and tells the audience to turn around. Standing there are the missing participants.
Of course, the participants aren’t magically transported from one place to another.
Cox claimed in his lawsuit that he was injured during the trick, which would force its mechanics to be exposed in the courtroom. Copperfield’s lawyers argued that disclosing how the trick works to the public would financially hurt Copperfield, who is worth about $800 million, according to Forbes.
‘‘It’s not just tricks,’’ Copperfield said in 2013. ‘‘Secrets and lots of hard work go into this.’’
The judge disagreed, pointing out that the thousands of people who have already participated in the illusion know how it works. (Copperfield has performed the trick with more than 55,000 different participants without any other incidents, his lawyers said, according to NBC.)
Chris Kenner, the show’s executive producer, explained the trick in court on Tuesday.
After the curtains obscure the participants, flashlight-carrying stagehands guide them off the stage and through dark, hidden passageways that wind around various parts of the resort. At one point, the participants exit and then reenter the building. Eventually, they reenter the theater through the back.
Cox said the passageways were filled with dust and debris, as they snaked through parts of the resort that were under construction.
Cox fell during the dash and was taken to a hospital with a dislocated shoulder. He claimed that he later began to suffer chronic pain, and doctors found a lesion on his brain. He said his medical bills totaled more than $400,000, NBC reported.
‘‘There was a duty by the defendants to provide a safe environment to the audience participants,’’ his attorney Benedict Morelli said in opening statements on Friday.
MGM, which is also a defendant in the suit, claimed the passageways were clear.
‘‘Mr. Cox did not slip, he tripped,’’ the resort’s attorney Jerry Popovich told jurors.
The trial is ongoing.
Cox isn’t the only person who has been injured during one of Copperfield’s illusions. One of the magician’s employees was hospitalized for an injury that occurred during an illusion in which Copperfield appears to walk through the blades of a spinning fan, only to turn to smoke. The assistant’s arm broke after it was caught in the fan.
‘‘This is a trick David has done over 3,000 times. This was a freak accident,’’ Kenner told People at the time. ‘‘People are always saying that it’s magic and it isn’t dangerous. This goes to show you that it is.’’