To enter David Copperfield's lair is to have a Willy Wonka experience, The Cut learned at last night's party celebrating the magician's September Fantastic Man spread, his 55th birthday, and his new "King of Magic" title, bestowed by the Society of American Magicians.* Only instead of a world of candy, it's one of antique fortune-telling machines and other fascinating turn-of-the-century gadgets and relics.
The night started ordinarily enough, relatively speaking — guests devouring small bites from Nobu on the second level of Copperfield's East 57th Street triplex penthouse — until Copperfield issued The Cut an invitation: "Walk with me." Suited in Tom Ford, he glided down a winding white stone staircase to his first-floor museum, a collection of dozens and dozens of antique games and machines, which several partygoers were already exploring. Copperfield surveyed it all, took a deep breath, and watched intently.
Given that a bunch of partygoers were playing with his antiques, Copperfield seemed calm, but he explained that "I just went through a hurricane in the Bahamas where I have my islands and we survived that. If I can survive that kind of destruction to my home then I can survive having a bunch of people from the fashion world manhandling my expensive, rare, antiques." Among those people from the fashion world was Roberto Cavalli, pushing metal buttons and looking through the antique glass boxes with a huge grin spread across his face.
Copperfield explained that most of the objects in his home are turn-of-the-century, including the artist mannequins, many of which were owned by Paul Cézanne. "They were Cézanne's models because basically real models were outlawed at the turn of the century. These models replaced the women," he said, and looked over at Peter Brant, the mogul-publisher and ex-husband of Victoria's Secret model Stephanie Seymour, joking: "We wouldn't have been able to date models then."
Then it was time for a show. "Come here, does someone have a penny? I want to show you something," Copperfield commanded. "This is a 100-year-old fortune teller. [With a heavy Italian accent] Cavalli! Come here! I want you to have your fortune told with us." Cavalli eagerly ambled over to the machine, a glass-enclosed elephant woman. His fortune: "Be not over confident nor sneer at trifles. A small leak will sink a big ship."
It's taken Copperfield about four years to assemble and restore his collection from the four corners of the globe (and eBay), he explained. The rarest items, he said, are two tuberculosis lung machines, but the most unusual might be Hitler's belt buckle, which he said hides two small guns.
He continued showing off the games, shooting a toy gun across the room. As he fired, Cavalli yelled out: "I love when you make that face and shoot. Those eyes! That look!" Copperfield responded: "I learned that from you! It's my Blue Steel!" By now, the crowd of curious partiers playing with Copperfield's toys also included Michael Stipe, Owen Wilson, and publisher Jason Binn. "This is how it always is," said Copperfield. "I can't control these guys. I have to try to be smooth and slip in in time so they don't break any of these machines."
*This post has been updated to show that the party was also celebrating Copperfield's birthday and "King of Magic" title.