At Home With David Copperfield

The legendary illusionist gives us a glimpse into his favorite escapes.

Master magician David Copperfield performs nearly 600 shows a year, many of them at the Hollywood Theatre in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Known for his combination of storytelling and illusions, David has won 21 Emmy Awards for his television network specials, 11 Guinness World Records, and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The man who seemingly walked through the Great Wall of China and made the Statue of Liberty vanish owns several homes, but when he can get away to paradise, he heads for his $55 million chain of private islands in the Bahamas, Musha Cay and the Islands of Copperfield Bay. David recently spoke about his busy life and what he enjoys most on the home front.

You have an amazing act at the MGM Grand. What's it like performing in that venue?

The audience makes it different every night. I add new illusions all the time to see how the audience reacts. The show then becomes different because it's interactive and the audience is different. So much of what I do in my work is story. I tell stories with my magic and take people on a journey. Three nights ago, a guy came on stage and I said, "What do you do?" He produced Woody Allen's film Midnight in Paris. I've been at the MGM Grand for 11 or 12 years now. It's amazing to meet people like that at random.

Where do you live when you're performing in Vegas?

I live in the SkyLOFTS at the MGM Grand. It doesn't feel like a hotel. It's a two-bedroom suite with a living room, family room and kitchen. I put photographs, throws, lamps and my own books all over the place to give it a personal touch. I'm in Vegas 40 weeks of the year, so to be able to order room service and have the place cleaned is a luxury. I also have a place here that's just for family use. It's set up like the Smithsonian of magic, with things from the great master magicians of the past. I give tours of it for charity.

Where are your personal residences?

In New York, I have a four-story apartment with an indoor pool. It's like living in a penny arcade. Instead of art, I've got antique mannequins and 300 arcade machines — like fortune tellers and shooting galleries — so it's a big fun house. The top floor is done in Balinese decor. I've got the Oscar from Casablanca to remind me of a level of excellence to aspire to. The New York apartment, or the island, is where I relax. I surround myself with things that give me a cozy feeling and remind me of what's important.

Tell us about your getaway place in the Bahamas.

The islands are very tropical — and the most perfect place in the world. They're about dreaming and exploring wonderful places. We created exterior rooms with beds and tubs outside in the jungle. I have 450-pound tortoises that I had flown in that walk around the island. They'll live 200 to 300 years. The interior rooms are filled with treasures, things that royalty gave me. One room is filled with Houdini memorabilia. Every inch is a story. I'm a theater-movie person, so I created a place everyone dreams of. People can charter the island for themselves, too. (Visit MushaCay.com for details.)

It sounds like a far cry from your childhood home in Metuchen, N.J. Can you talk a little about your life there?

Metuchen is a small hometown, like Mayberry. I lived in a small garden apartment. My father owned a clothing store in Warren, N.J., and my mom was an insurance adjuster. I was an only child. In the beginning, we had a one-bedroom place, then later on, upgraded to a two-bedroom apartment. As a kid, I was searching for something to make me special. I started with ventriloquism at 8, and wasn't very good. I went to a magic shop in Macy's New York to get a dummy and thought, this is it. I was able to do magic easily, and was inventing magic at 12. At 16, I was teaching it. I was pretty horrible at everything else. After three weeks of college, I got a job in Chicago in a musical comedy and proved to my parents I could make a living at this stuff. I went to New York after that.

What was the first house you bought?

The first house I bought was a home for my parents. I got them a place in San Diego. It was a three-bedroom house in Rancho Bernardo that cost about $1.5 million at the time. They picked it out. My mom likes Asian decor, so she did the place in an Asian motif.

Your career encompasses so many things — performing magic, writing, doing a Broadway show. Yet you also found time to establish Project Magic. Tell us about that.

Project Magic is a form of physical therapy to help patients improve things like dexterity, coordination and visual perception. We work with therapists to teach (magic tricks) to the patients, which also boosts the patients' self-esteem. We're in more than 1,000 hospitals and 30 countries around the world.

It sounds like all your homes are pretty magical. What does home life mean to you?

I'm passionate about making things amazing. Magic is the most profound way to realize there's more to life than everyday things. I'm in the creating wonder business. It's taught me that nothing is impossible. Home life is being able to exhale, being able to appreciate everything and share. I'm still learning how to relax and enjoy those things.

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