This post originally was published on April 20, 2005:
Sometimes the fickle Frisbee of fate lands right at your feet. Or maybe it wasn't a Frisbee after all. It was more of a rubbery flying disc, but David Copperfield said it was a Frisbee, and I'm sure he wouldn't want to misrepresent the trademark of those fine folks at Wham-O!
Whatever. Fetching the disc earned moi a spot on stage as an audience volunteer at Copperfield's early show at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Tuesday, an audience witness to a feat of telepathic legerdemain.
When Copperfield asked if we had ever met before, I resisted the urge to be smart and say, "Sure. Don't you remember? Like 15 minutes ago..."
The illusion began with some rambling, almost maudlin patter about his days growing up in Brooklyn and his grandfather's downbeat attitude toward a career in show biz. Copperfield then recruited three audience members to each announce two lottery numbers between 1 and 50 and surrender a bit of personal info. Another guy who caught the Frisbee had to admit wearing "tighty whities"; he asked me when was the last time I "got busy," and I lied and said "this morning."
A heavy box sealed with three locks then was hoisted down on chains from the ceiling of the SPAC. Inside Copperfield would disclose the lottery numbers on a cassette recording, a paper banner and stamped on a pair of license plates he said came from grandpa's car.
It's an illusion Copperfield regularly performs on his current tour.
I held the three keys and would get to hold the banner. Now, I know stage illusion relies on misdirection, getting you to focus on one thing when you should be looking for another. When the box was brought on stage, the sexy blonde in the tight black outfit who works as Copperfield's assistant stood behind me and pressed her breasts against my back. The blonde, shall we say, got me busy, when I should have been paying attention to the location of the secret compartment. But I did get to take the banner home.
Copperfield didn't materialize a Chevy on stage, like he did doing this stunt at other shows, but the illusion looked pretty good. I guess I was luckier opening a lockbox than joining the magician onstage for the card trick he works with a deadly African scorpion.
More fun would have been joining the star for the showstopper stunt that teleports a person to Hawaii, a sleight not only of hand but of trapdoors, mirrors and video - though clearly the illusion requires a confederate. (He used to teleport audience members to Thailand, but after the tsunami, bad idea.)
How's he do it? You'd have to be a churl to spoil things for those who want to bask in the wonderment, but for others I'll post a spoiler link.
But the lucky 13 who were whisked from the stage to the rear auditorium in the final illusion have to be in on the secret. Maybe he made them sign a confidentiality agreement in the seconds before the curtain closed on their magix box.
Copperfield said he wants to include audience members in the show:
"I try to keep illusions as simple as possible. I want the audience to enjoy the show and not be overwhelmed or have to do too much thinking. When I started, I focused on bigger illusions. Now that I've accomplished those, I've decided to do magic that really affects people. There is nothing more intimate then inviting an audience member onstage to be involved in an illusion that took over two years to perfect."
And I have a priceless souvenir. Or maybe something I could put on eBay.