I recall Saturday evenings. I recall “The Paul Daniels Magic Show”. I recall how much my Dad liked it.
Growing up, or at least at a certain point in my growth, there was a golden age of magic on TV. Paul Daniels, Lance Burton, Siegfried and Roy…..
But the shining star was David Copperfield.
His yearly specials wowed us, amazed us, astonished and captivated us. He had the looks, the charm, the charisma and his illusions were unlike anything I, or we, had ever seen. If he wasn’t walking through the Great Wall of China or making the Statue of Liberty disappear he was going over Niagara Falls in a barrel or escaping from a straitjacket tied to a burning rope, suspended over a pit of stakes!.
The grand illusions were very grand indeed but he could also perform incredible sleight of hand and even someone as unromantic as myself couldn’t fail to be moved by the intimacy of his smaller works. The Ghost House, Interlude, Heaven on the Seventh Floor, Floating Rose, Twister, The Fan and Deathsaw are all fondly remembered.
When The 100 Greatest Magic Tricks are shown on TV, two of Copperfields usually appear in the top 5. The first is Deathsaw, that stunning recreation of sawing a person in half as he is cut in two by a lowered circular steel blade. It looks so real as he attempts to escape and beat the timer, the tension is palpable, the drama is heart pounding. Of course it’s got that trademark humour to lighten the mood but, by God, it’s incredible.
But the second illusion, and the one that gets voted number one, is an illusion that makes me cry. To this day I can still watch the YouTube video and be carried back to when I first saw it because, for setting, music and the sheer beauty of its staging, it has to be, Flying.
I know how it’s done. Debunking illusions is fairly commonplace these days (sadly) so some of the magic has gone out of magic. But putting that aside, I can disbelieve I know how he’s doing it and just immerse myself in what I believe is the greatest five minutes of my life. It’s a singular event/piece that brings emotions out in me that rarely surface. An emotion of being so happy/sad that I simply sob my heart out (the ending of Gladiator and the Lord of the Rings trilogy have similar emotional attachments) if I am in a place where I’ve stored up feelings for too long.
In 1992 and 1993, David Copperfield did shows in the UK. He hasn’t done any since. I saw him at Earls Court in 1992 from a side view about half way down the arena. In 1993 I went to the Hammersmith Odeon and sat three rows from the front, centre stage as he performed all the great pieces including, as the shows climax, Flying.
Perhaps the passage of time, a cynicism, a world weariness, a depressive fog, now casts is pall over my life. Happy times seem more fleeting, more elusive, harder to find, let alone keep.
But I recall a time, a time when the worlds greatest illusionist shook my hand as he crouched, centre stage at shows end and I thanked him for two incredible hours and how, for that suspended time, he had washed my troubles away and made the world feel just so right…
I believe in the power of magic….