Master illusionist David Copperfield is making a plump burrito-like object -- disappear! We're sitting in the vast bedroom of his multilevel midtown penthouse, stuffing our faces with Taco Bell. "You've barely touched your soft taco," says the man Forbes magazine says is the fourth-highest-paid entertainer in the world. "Don't you like tornados? I mean" -- he chokes on his Gordita -- "tomatoes?"
Copperfield has tornados on the brain right now. On April 3, he'll be starring in Copperfield! Tornado of Fire, a live CBS broadcast in which he'll stand in the vortex of a 2,000-degree man-made cyclone just off Pier 94 -- that's Twelfth Avenue and 55th Street. One false move and he'll be as crispy as a Chalupa.
"This isn't an illusion," he emphasizes. "I have a fifty-fifty chance of making it out alive." And if, indeed, he survives, Copperfield promises to top it off by picking two random women from the audience, and -- poof! -- magically making them switch panties on the spot.
Now, that's interesting. So, will he trade underwear with me, right here and now, in his multi-million-dollar pad?
"It doesn't work with guys," he says with a grimace.
"I just have a funny feeling it wouldn't work . . ."
But David . . . why?
"I think I'd have no motivation," he says, laughing.
A limousine idles downstairs to shuttle Copperfield to a taping of Conan O'Brien's show, but instead he wants to show off some of his vintage arcade games from the early 1900s.
"This one's great," he says. A mechanical wizard raises his wand, and the starlet in the coffin vanishes! How? We head toward a highly unsettling fortune-teller; the robot gypsy stares gloomily down at us.
"Put in a penny and get your fortune," Copperfield gleefully urges.
The wooden hand reaches for a placard and drops it through the slot. The card reads, you have a gentle disposition, warm hands, and a light yeast infection . . .
Noticing my perplexity, he reads the fortune and blushes. "Oh no, that's not a real one," he says, extracting the card from my fingers. "No, no -- um, Claudia wrote that one."