Copperfield’s Cult Captures Another

 

Avoid His Gaze!

Jason Norman writes in the Suffolk (VA) News Herald of his first experience at a David Copperfield show. Like most of us, he found a decided difference in the Mr. Copperfield from television and the one appearing at Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall.

Over the past decade, I’ve watched David Copperfield walk through the Great Wall of China, make the Statue of Liberty vanish, and fly onstage. But on Sunday evening at Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall, I finally got to see him from a few feet away – and it was an experience that amazing, incredible, astonishing and shocking put together wouldn’t describe.

Despite Mr. Norman’s choice seats — a benefit of being a reporter — he found himself unable to discern the great magician’s methods.

Mr. Norman, we fear, has succumbed to Mr. Copperfield’s charismatic in-person powers. We never really cared for Mr. Copperfield when we’d see him on television. In the early days, back before flat-screens and HDTV or even cable, we viewed Mr. Copperfield as a precocious kid magician. To paraphrase Lloyd Benson, we knew television magicians, Doug Henning was a television magician, and Mr. Copperfield was no Doug Henning.

Sure, we liked the innovation and expense of the shows. But man-oh-man did we hate the smarmy close-up shots. It was too much. Just too much. Where Mr. Henning could charm through the lens of the camera, Mr. Copperfield tried too hard to charm. We really cared when Mr. Henning performed the Chinese Water Torture Cell. We knew how it worked and we even knew he likely practiced the effect once or twice before the live television show. Still, anything could happen and we didn’t want it to be bad. We liked Mr. Henning. When we saw him in person at The Magic Show in New York, we liked him even more. There was no incongruity between his on-stage and on-air persona.

So the tally: Mr. Henning – Good. Mr. Copperfield – Bad.

Then we saw Mr. Copperfield in person. We were in the top balcony of the Chicago Civic Opera House conveniently located in Chicago, Illinois. It had been raining all day, we don’t believe in umbrellas, we were soaked and miserable. Our seat was terrible. Someone in our immediate area smelled as if he or she smoked a very bad cigar through a wet tube sock. The culprit was likely not a “she” given the cigar and tube sock essences.

Mr. Copperfield’s show opened and we forgot all of the negative feelings towards him, the rain, lousy seats, and even the horrible smell. By this time, others had noticed the smell as well and were moving to seats on the other side of the balcony. Eventually I was alone with…

 

Avoid His Gaze!

Jason Norman writes in the Suffolk (VA) News Herald of his first experience at a David Copperfield show. Like most of us, he found a decided difference in the Mr. Copperfield from television and the one appearing at Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall.

Over the past decade, I’ve watched David Copperfield walk through the Great Wall of China, make the Statue of Liberty vanish, and fly onstage. But on Sunday evening at Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall, I finally got to see him from a few feet away – and it was an experience that amazing, incredible, astonishing and shocking put together wouldn’t describe.

Despite Mr. Norman’s choice seats — a benefit of being a reporter — he found himself unable to discern the great magician’s methods.

Mr. Norman, we fear, has succumbed to Mr. Copperfield’s charismatic in-person powers. We never really cared for Mr. Copperfield when we’d see him on television. In the early days, back before flat-screens and HDTV or even cable, we viewed Mr. Copperfield as a precocious kid magician. To paraphrase Lloyd Benson, we knew television magicians, Doug Henning was a television magician, and Mr. Copperfield was no Doug Henning.

Sure, we liked the innovation and expense of the shows. But man-oh-man did we hate the smarmy close-up shots. It was too much. Just too much. Where Mr. Henning could charm through the lens of the camera, Mr. Copperfield tried too hard to charm. We really cared when Mr. Henning performed the Chinese Water Torture Cell. We knew how it worked and we even knew he likely practiced the effect once or twice before the live television show. Still, anything could happen and we didn’t want it to be bad. We liked Mr. Henning. When we saw him in person at The Magic Show in New York, we liked him even more. There was no incongruity between his on-stage and on-air persona.

So the tally: Mr. Henning – Good. Mr. Copperfield – Bad.

Then we saw Mr. Copperfield in person. We were in the top balcony of the Chicago Civic Opera House conveniently located in Chicago, Illinois. It had been raining all day, we don’t believe in umbrellas, we were soaked and miserable. Our seat was terrible. Someone in our immediate area smelled as if he or she smoked a very bad cigar through a wet tube sock. The culprit was likely not a “she” given the cigar and tube sock essences.

Mr. Copperfield’s show opened and we forgot all of the negative feelings towards him, the rain, lousy seats, and even the horrible smell. By this time, others had noticed the smell as well and were moving to seats on the other side of the balcony. Eventually I was alone with the stench but decided not to move — I was transfixed with the happenings on stage.

This was back in the day of Joanie Spina’s participation on stage with Mr. Copperfield. Within the course of two-hours, we developed a fanatical new opinion of Mr. Copperfield, and a heartbreaking crush for Ms. Spina. We felt certain Mr. Copperfield designed the entire show to play perfectly for the one stink-surrounded spectator up near the rafters. We also felt certain Ms. Spina felt a certain connection with us.

It was magical and we were delusional.

So Brother Norman, we know where you are. We’ve been there. We wish we could tell you it will work out alright. It won’t. You are coming at the Copperfield live experience as a cynical, hardened reporter ready to pick apart the methods and flaws of the magician you knew only from television. But that’s where he takes advantage of you and all of his victims.

You start believing he really is a great guy, a funny guy, an entertaining guy, and that he possesses the ability to do what he seems to do. We’ve been there, Brother. We came at the show as a cynical magician filled with knowledge and contempt.

But like the de-programmer sent into to save a cult member only to be swept into the cult, we have all lost our battle to a force we knew to resist.

And it’s okay. It really is. You’ll be like us now. You’ll point out the differences between the television and stage Copperfield Show. You’ll begin to memorize his jokes, the musical cues, and the faces of his assistants. If you see his show enough, you may actually begin to figure out the trick — or perhaps accept the reality that there is a trick. But that’s okay too. It just means you’re growing in the light of Copperfield.

Don’t fight it. Enjoy it. But don’t tell others unless they are very close friends, trained therapists, or required by court order. The “world” doesn’t understand where we are, man.

Brother Norman’s article ends with the tell-tale signs of cultism. He describes Mr. Copperfield’s transportation of an audience member to the Philippines to reunite with her father:

Soon, it was time for one of his biggest tricks – and something that the sharpest set of eyes in the world wouldn’t be able to decipher.

“Some critics will say, ‘don?t insult my intelligence,'” he said. “This is not intelligence. It’s about imagination.”

On the screen came an image of Copperfield’s friend in the Philippines, to whom he’d been speaking for the entire show. The friend had placed a sheet on a beach, right near the water. Copperfield and the woman stood on a small platform, which was extended out over the audience by a crane. Then a cover rose up around them, falling away soon to reveal an empty stage. . . . But they were just getting started. On the screen, the friend quickly held up the cloth. When it dropped, the pair had appeared. But just to convince the skeptics, the woman pulled the photo that Copperfield had taken of the volunteers minutes before out of her pocket, and Copperfield pulled back his sleeve to reveal the ‘SA’ he’d written there. On the stage, the girl’s father approached, and the two shared a tearful reunion.

. . .

Some stood and cheered. Some shouted in amazement. Some just clapped really loud. Me, I couldn’t do any of that – I was too busy picking my jaw up from my waist. As the show ended, Copperfield came to the front of the stage, and a fellow audience member jumped up to shake his hand. I got in line, and followed suit seconds later.

“W-w-what was that?” I stammered. “How did you do that, that last trick?”

“It’s magic,” he said softly, flashing his ever-present wide smile. “Just magic.”

Don’t fight it, Brother Norman. You’ll just leave your blood in the water on your way into the metaphysical fishing trawler that is the David Copperfield Show.

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