David Copperfield, who will entertain and misdirect Tuesday and Wednesday in Durham, started doing shows when he was 12.
"I started inventing magic," the 53-year-old Emmy award winner says. "I was published in a lot of magic books, which featured inventions of mine."
Since then, Copperfield has sold more than 40 million tickets and grossed more than $1 billion. But don't think that just because he's magical he doesn't deal with the mundane. "I do sometimes lose things; I have a very complicated life. The keys get lost sometimes, sure." And how does he make them reappear? "I usually call a locksmith."
Here, Copperfield talks about what led him to magic, why he isn't a hack, and what he considers his greatest feat.
Q: Magicians have never been accorded the respect that entertainers such as recording artists or dancers routinely receive. Many of your peers are perceived as hacks. I've done really well for myself in this industry. Look at how many people have come out and experienced my show. Well, boys, I guess I'm not a hack. But I can see what you're saying. I can see how people can look at magicians in a negative way because, to put it in musical terms, for years magicians were just doing covers. It was the same songs done every show. But I was never that way. I was always trying to invent things. I always wanted to push the boundaries. I think what I do deserves respect.
Q: What attracted you to magic? When I was a little kid, I started as a ventriloquist, a very bad ventriloquist. I gravitated toward magic and found that I could invent new things with magic. I had the touch for magic.
Q: What inspired your most famous feat, making the Statue of Liberty disappear? I was doing moralistic magic and I wanted everything to have meaning. I wanted to show what it would be like to have freedom gone. I'm not sure it was the right way to go about it. What was great about the Statue of Liberty [feat] was that I worked with the great director Frank Capra. I remember going over the script with him, and he begged me to not make it disappear.
Q: You've performed in front of five presidents. What's it like performing before the most powerful figures in the world and fooling them? It's amazing watching them be disarmed, so to speak. I did a show with Ronald Reagan. My smoke machine exploded and squirted hot oil into the audience and onto him. He was a good sport about it. A few years later, if I did that with Bill Clinton, he would have enjoyed the hot oil.
Q: You're not the stereotypical magician. Who were your influences? People like Orson Welles and Walt Disney. My heroes were out of magic.
Q: But their work was magical. Exactly. It moved people. They put people on a journey. They thought out of the box.
Q: Is there a feat you haven't done, which you would like to accomplish? Sure, making more time appear.