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David Copperfield has been wildly successful over the past five decades, and is now one of the most famous magicians of all time, known for performing stunning illusions — like making the Statue of Liberty appear to vanish before a live audience, among many other feats.
Now he wants to pay tribute to the magicians whose work he built upon, in the form of a new book, David Copperfield’s History of Magic, cowritten with Richard Wiseman and David Britland. It recounts the remarkable stories behind 28 groundbreaking magicians, plus photos of some of the tools they used in their acts, including Houdini’s straitjacket, handcuffs and water-torture chamber.
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All are from his impressive personal collection of magic props, costumes, photographs, books on witchcraft and conjuring (some hundreds of years old) and more, which he keeps in Las Vegas at the International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts.
Though he offers private tours, his fantastic museum is not open to the public. Why? It’s full of the secrets behind the magic.
But he offered to show AARP around the museum, and talked to us about his collection, new book, remarkable career and why he has devoted his life to creating illusions.
The greatest magician of all time
My answer will surprise you, because it's not a name that you may be familiar with. It's a gentleman named Richiardi Jr. [a magician from Peru who performed in the mid-1900s]. He didn't move the art forward by inventing new technology, like I make a big effort to do, but he was a performer who took classic magic and performed it amazingly, and brought it to a very, very high level. Also [the 19th century French magician] Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin, who invented a lot of technology, but also took magic off the streets and put it in a respectable setting. Houdin was so good and made such an impact that Houdini took his name and put an "i" at the end.
What quality a magician needs to be great
I think it's curiosity. I love learning. I love sponging ideas, and people that are good at my job have that same [desire]. I think also being likable: You don't want your audience to hate you. The audience has to be amazed by you, but at the same time they have to be able to welcome you in. And three Ps: passion, preparation and persistence.