David Copperfield is an American illusionist, described by Forbes in 2006 as the most commercially successful magician in history. Best known for his combination of storytelling and illusion, Copperfield has so far sold 40 million tickets and grossed over $1 billion.
Copperfield was born David Seth Kotkin in Metuchen, New Jersey, the son of Jewish parents, Rebecca, an insurance adjuster, and Hyman Kotkin, who owned and operated a men’s haberdashery in Metuchen called Korby’s. Copperfield’s mother was born in Jerusalem, Israel, while his paternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Russia. When Copperfield was 10, he began practicing magic as “Davino the Boy Magician” in his neighborhood, and at the age of 14, became the youngest person ever admitted to the Society of American Magicians. Shy and a loner, the young Copperfield saw magic as a way of fitting in and, later, as a way to get girls. As a teenager, Copperfield became fascinated with Broadway and frequently sneaked into shows, especially musicals featuring Stephen Sondheim or Bob Fosse. By age 16, he was teaching a course in magic at New York University.
At age 18, he enrolled at Fordham University, and was cast in the lead role of the Chicago-based musical The Magic Man three weeks into his freshman year, adopting his new stage name “David Copperfield” from the Charles Dickens book of the same name. At age 19, he was headlining at the Pagoda Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii.