David Copperfield's magic trick revealed in lawsuit

LOS ANGELES • David Copperfield cannot make a courtroom "disappear" and avoid having to reveal his secrets to the judge and jurors.

The 61-year-old is in the midst of a trial in Las Vegas, over a negligence lawsuit filed against him by British chef Gavin Cox, 58.

Cox attended one of Copperfield's shows at the MGM Grand Las Vegas on Nov 12, 2013. It concluded with one of the magician's signature tricks, Lucky #13.

Copperfield chose 13 random audience members to participate in the illusion. Mr Cox was one of the 13 and he claimed that he emerged from the trick injured.

The trick, which Copperfield has performed for at least a decade, is a simple vanishing act. The 13 people are led to a platform on stage. Then, giant curtains are flung over it.

He banters for a few minutes before pulling the curtains and revealing the 13 have disappeared.

But the big reveal comes when he points to the back of the room. Standing there are the 13 people.

Copperfield's lawyers argued that disclosing how the trick works would financially hurt him.

"It's not just tricks," the magician had said in 2013. "Secrets and lots of hard work go into this."

The judge disagreed, noting that thousands of people who had taken part in the illusion know how it is done. It has been performed with more than 55,000 participants without any incident, Copperfield's lawyers had said.

Mr Chris Kenner, the show's executive producer, explained the trick in court.

After the curtains obscure the participants, flashlight-carrying stagehands guide them off the stage and through dark passageways that wind around the resort.

Mr Cox said the passageways were filled with dust and debris, as they snaked through parts of the resort that were under construction.

He 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 came up to more than US$400,000 (S$520,000).

MGM, which is also a defendant in the suit, said the passageways were clear.

"Mr Cox did not slip, he tripped," its lawyer told jurors.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2018, with the headline 'David Copperfield's magic trick revealed in lawsuit'. Print Edition | Subscribe