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2018.07.05 大卫-科波菲尔的魔术纪念品箱内的东西

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Inside David Copperfield’s box of magic memorabilia
The magician has amassed the world’s largest collection of conjuring-related artefacts, including Houdini’s handcuffs

Jul 5th 2018 (Updated Jul 6th 2018)


By Emily Bobrow

David Kotkin was a shy and somewhat awkward ten-year-old boy from Metuchen, New Jersey when he found himself rapt by a magic trick for the first time. His mother had taken him to Macy’s in Manhattan, where the department store’s resident magician made a coin disappear and reappear on a small wooden board. The young Kotkin swiftly abandoned his ambitions to become a ventriloquist and instead saved up to buy more tricks – often at Tannen’s, a midtown shop that has been catering to magicians since 1925. Soon he was performing around the neighbourhood as Davino the Boy Magician. By age 12 he became the youngest member of the Society of American Magicians.

I’m a magician, get me out of here! Handcuffs used by Harry Houdini for the Daily Mirror challenge, 1904. Photo: Homer Liwag
Now, as David Copperfield (the stage name he adopted after dropping out of college to perform), he is one of the wealthiest entertainers in the world, with a net worth that exceeds $900m. He is also one of the hardest-working, delivering over 500 glitzy performances a year at the mgm Grand hotel in Las Vegas. This gruelling work schedule hardly seems to leave much time to actually spend the money, but somehow Copperfield has also amassed the largest and most significant trove of magic memorabilia in the world. He calls his collection of over 200,000 artefacts, books, posters and ephemera the International Museum & Library of the Conjuring Arts, and he keeps it locked away in a windowless warehouse in Vegas that is not open to the public.

Copperfield is not quite a magician’s magician. A flamboyant performer whose idols and influences are mostly from the film and theatre world (Gene Kelly, Orson Welles, Bob Fosse, etc), he is best known for jaw-dropping stunts that aired live on primetime television in the 1980s. For example, he made the Statue of Liberty disappear during the height of the cold war in 1983, which he said was meant to show “how precious liberty is and how easily it can be lost” (making it a feat that would be just as appropriate now). The fact that this popular entertainer has amassed a private collection of nearly every historical treasure in the world of magic has not pleased everyone. “David Copperfield buying the Mulholland Library is like an Elvis impersonator winding up with Graceland,” complained one critic in the New Yorker in 1993.

Yet Copperfield is clearly willing to share. The New-York Historical Society has secured a modest array of his rarely seen relics for its exhibition “Summer of Magic: Treasures from the David Copperfield Collection”. This nostalgic show pays tribute to the “golden age of magic” from the 1880s to the 1930s, when death-defying illusionists and mystifying magicians – many of them recent immigrants to America and living in New York – attracted crowds of families to vaudeville performances. Moving pictures would ultimately steal most of these audiences away.

Broadside showing the Houdinis performing the Metamorphosis (1895)

Born Erik Weisz to Jewish parents in Budapest in 1874, Harry Houdini settled down in Harlem, New York City after becoming famous as an escape artist. He took the name Houdini in tribute to Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin, a 19th-century conjurer who is considered the father of modern magic. He began his magic career working with cards, but he reportedly lacked the finesse to be a sleight-of-hand expert. Instead, he discovered ways to wow audiences by wriggling out of traps. He met his wife, Wilhelmina Beatrice “Bess” Rahner, when they were both performing in Coney Island in 1893, and they married weeks later. For the Metamorphosis trick, which they performed together until 1904, Houdini stepped with tied hands into a sack that was knotted closed and then placed inside a locked trunk. His wife would then draw a curtain closed and clap three times. By the third clap, Houdini would draw open the curtain himself and Bess would emerge from the box, in a knotted bag with her hands tied. This trick got them their first big tour with the Welsh Brothers Circus in 1895. Bess worked as Houdini’s stage assistant until he died in 1926, aged 52.

Reproduction. Copperfield Collection

Regulation straitjacket used by Harry Houdini (c. 1920)

By the early 1900s Houdini began touring Europe as “Handcuff Houdini”, challenging policemen to keep him locked up. When escaping from handcuffs started to seem a little too easy, Houdini began branching out to other forms of bondage, such as straitjackets. (He claimed he was inspired by the sight of an asylum inmate struggling inside one.) It initially took him at least half an hour to free himself, but eventually he was able to writhe out of the jacket in less than three minutes. Often he performed the trick while suspended from cranes or tall buildings, many of which not coincidentally housed major local newspapers.

Copperfield Collection. Photo: Glenn Castellano

A playing cards display from Martinka Magic Shop (1880-1910)

Francis and Antonio Martinka, brothers who had emigrated from Germany, opened Martinka Magic Shop in midtown New York in 1875. As the city’s first magic supply store, it became a popular gathering place for magicians, both amateurs and professionals alike. It was where performers would try out new tricks and younger aspirants would seek out lessons from veterans, including Henry Kellar and Harry Houdini, a part owner of the shop for several years. These regulars went on to establish the Society of American Magicians in the back of the store in 1902. Despite changing owners and names (it became Flosso-Hermann Magic in 1939), the shop remained a central gathering site for illusionists until it closed in 2000. These days it is mainly an online retailer and auction house.

Copperfield Collection. Photo: Glenn Castellano

Kellar’s New Wonder, Oh! (1897)

Before he was Harry Kellar, the so-called “Dean of American Magicians” and one of the most successful illusionists in the world, he was Heinrich Keller, born to German immigrants in Erie, Pensylvania in 1849. Kellar’s fame came from his elaborate performances involving large stage sets and intricate machines. His most popular act involved making a woman – “Princess Karnak” (ie his wife Eva) – levitate in the air. He became so well known that he delivered a show for President Theodore Roosevelt and his children at the White House (“Kellar Fools Roosevelts!” announced a New York Times headline in 1904; the nesting boxes he used for the illusion are on display here). But for all of his renown, much of what we know about Kellar today comes through Houdini, who idolised and often corresponded with the performer and conducted several interviews with him for posterity.

Strobridge Lithography. Company ​Copperfield Collection. Photo: Glenn Castellano

Dress probably worn by Adelaide Herrmann (c. 1900)

Women in the world of magic tended to be wives and assistants, distracting sidekicks in outfits of flowing fabrics that could hide any number of things. The English-born Herrmann assumed these roles as well, but she eventually became the “Queen of Magic” when she continued performing after her famous husband, Alexander Herrmann, died suddenly in 1896. She travelled America and Europe with her own act, even performing the notoriously dangerous “bullet catch” trick, which involves catching a gun-fired bullet in one’s mouth and has reportedly killed at least 12 magicians. (Kellar apparently dissuaded Houdini from performing this trick himself, warning in a letter “no matter how sure you may feel of its success. There is always the biggest kind of risk that some dog will ‘job’ you. And we can’t afford to lose Houdini.”) She continued to perform into her 70s, even after a deadly fire in New York City in 1926 destroyed her props and costumes and killed her animals.

Copperfield Collection. Photo: Glenn Castellano

Summer of Magic: Treasures from the David Copperfield Collection at the New-York Historical Society until September 16th

main image: a.c. gilbert mysto magic co. mysto magic kit no. 25, ca. 1950. copperfield collection. photo: glenn castellano



作者:Emily Bobrow


现在,作为大卫-科波菲尔(他从大学辍学后采用的艺名),他是世界上最富有的艺人之一,其净资产超过9亿美元。他也是最勤奋的人之一,每年在拉斯维加斯的mgm Grand酒店提供500多场华丽的表演。这种艰苦的工作安排似乎没有留下多少时间来真正花钱,但不知为何科波菲尔也积累了世界上最大和最重要的魔术纪念品库。他把他收藏的20多万件工艺品、书籍、海报和简讯称为国际魔术艺术博物馆和图书馆,他把它们锁在拉斯维加斯一个没有窗户的仓库里,不对公众开放。

科波菲尔不完全是一个魔术师的魔术师。他是一个张扬的表演者,他的偶像和影响主要来自电影和戏剧界(吉恩-凯利、奥森-韦尔斯、鲍勃-福斯等),他最出名的是1980年代在黄金时段电视直播的令人瞠目结舌的特技表演。例如,他在1983年冷战高峰期使自由女神像消失,他说这是为了显示 "自由是多么珍贵,以及它是多么容易失去"(使其成为一项壮举,现在也同样合适)。这位受欢迎的艺人积累了几乎所有魔术界的历史珍品的私人收藏,这并没有让所有人感到高兴。"大卫-科波菲尔买下穆赫兰图书馆,就像猫王的模仿者买下了Graceland,"1993年《纽约客》的一位评论家抱怨道。

然而,科波菲尔显然愿意分享。纽约历史学会为其展览 "魔术之夏:大卫-科波菲尔收藏的珍宝 "获得了他很少见的遗物的适度排列。这个怀旧的展览向19世纪80年代至30年代的 "魔术的黄金时代 "致敬,当时令人窒息的幻术师和神秘的魔术师--其中许多人是新近移民到美国并居住在纽约--吸引了众多家庭观看杂耍表演。电影最终会把这些观众中的大多数人抢走。


哈里-胡迪尼于1874年出生在布达佩斯,父母是犹太人,在成为著名的逃脱艺术家后,他在纽约市哈林区定居下来。他使用胡迪尼这个名字是为了向让-尤金-罗伯特-胡迪致敬,他是19世纪的魔术师,被认为是现代魔术之父。他的魔术生涯开始于纸牌,但据说他缺乏成为魔术专家的技巧。相反,他发现了通过从陷阱中挣扎出来让观众惊叹的方法。1893年,他在科尼岛表演时遇到了他的妻子威廉明娜-比阿特丽斯-"贝丝"-拉赫纳,几周后他们结婚。在他们一直表演到1904年的 "变形术 "中,胡迪尼用捆绑的双手踏入一个打了结的麻袋,然后放在一个上了锁的箱子里。然后,他的妻子会拉上窗帘并拍三下。到第三次拍手时,胡迪尼会自己拉开窗帘,贝丝就会从箱子里走出来,在一个打了结的袋子里,双手被绑着。这个把戏让他们在1895年与威尔士兄弟马戏团进行了第一次大型巡演。贝丝一直担任胡迪尼的舞台助理,直到他于1926年去世,享年52岁。



到20世纪初,胡迪尼开始以 "手铐胡迪尼 "的身份在欧洲巡回演出,挑战警察将他关起来。当从手铐中逃脱开始显得有点太容易时,胡迪尼开始涉足其他形式的捆绑,如紧身衣。(他声称,他的灵感来自一个精神病院的囚犯在紧身衣内挣扎的情景)。起初,他至少花了半个小时来释放自己,但最终他能够在不到三分钟的时间里挣脱夹克。他经常在吊车或高楼大厦上表演这个把戏,其中很多都是当地的主要报纸,这并非巧合。



从德国移民过来的弗朗西斯和安东尼奥-马丁卡兄弟于1875年在纽约中城开设了马丁卡魔术店。作为该市的第一家魔术用品商店,它成为了一个受欢迎的魔术师聚集地,包括业余爱好者和专业人士。在这里,表演者会尝试新的技巧,年轻的有志之士会向老手学习,包括亨利-凯勒和哈里-胡迪尼(Harry Houdini),他曾是该店的兼职店主。这些常客后来于1902年在商店的后面建立了美国魔术师协会。尽管更换了店主和名称(1939年成为弗洛索-赫尔曼魔术公司),该店仍然是幻术师的中心聚集地,直到2000年关闭。这些天,它主要是一个在线零售商和拍卖行。



在他成为所谓的 "美国魔术师院长 "和世界上最成功的魔术师之一哈里-凯拉尔之前,他是海因里希-凯勒,1849年出生于宾夕法尼亚州伊利市的德国移民。凯勒的名气来自于他精心设计的表演,涉及大型舞台布景和复杂的机器。他最受欢迎的表演是让一个女人--"卡纳克公主"(即他的妻子伊娃)--漂浮在空中。他变得如此出名,以至于他在白宫为西奥多-罗斯福总统和他的孩子们做了一场表演("凯拉尔愚弄罗斯福!"1904年纽约时报的头条新闻;他用于表演的巢箱在这里展出)。但是,尽管凯拉尔声名显赫,我们今天对他的了解大多来自于胡迪尼,他是这位表演者的偶像,经常与他通信,并为后人对他进行了多次采访。

斯特罗布里奇平版印刷。公司科波菲尔收藏。照片。Glenn Castellano


魔术世界中的女性往往是妻子和助手,她们穿着飘逸的织物服装,可以隐藏任何东西,让人分心。出生于英国的赫尔曼也承担了这些角色,但在她著名的丈夫亚历山大-赫尔曼于1896年突然去世后,她继续表演,最终成为 "魔术女王"。她带着自己的表演走遍了美国和欧洲,甚至表演了臭名昭著的危险的 "接子弹 "把戏,这涉及到用嘴接住枪支发射的子弹,据说至少有12名魔术师因此丧命。(凯拉尔显然劝阻了胡迪尼不要亲自表演这个魔术,他在信中警告说:"无论你对它的成功感到多么有把握。总有一种最大的风险,即一些狗会'干'你。我们不能失去胡迪尼")。她一直表演到70多岁,甚至在1926年纽约市一场致命的大火摧毁了她的道具和服装并杀死了她的动物。



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