I will never forget the evening when I watched David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear. It was 1983. I was young, bright eyed, and very naive.
In his illusion, Copperfield and a live audience were positioned on a platform on Liberty Island. They faced the statue. Copperfield raised a big, ol’ curtain that blocked the audiences’ and the cameras’ view of the French behemoth. With all the dramatic display that he could muster, and several commercial breaks too (if I remember correctly), David finally waved his magicalistic (the word doesn’t exist…don’t bother looking it up) hands and the curtain dropped. The space where the statue once stood was empty. Helicopters hovered around the island.
To prove to us that his power was genuine, Copperfield shone two searchlights (one is not dramatic enough) through the space where Lady Liberty once stood. She was gone!*
Fast forward with me to Nov 7, 1991. The day before my birthday. I was several months into my freshman year of college. I was dumbfounded and rocked when SportsCenter’s regular rotation was interrupted by a live press conference with the Laker’s Magic Johnson, “Earvin” as I called him. He told us immediately that he had HIV and was retiring from the N.B.A. My roomates and I sat, bug-eyed, mouths gaping open, glued to the TV.
Watch the press conference on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbdOQUARrEU). Magic is actually pretty calm. He smiles. He cracks jokes. I doubt anyone laughed or smiled with him. Jerry West is there. David Stern is there. It was so surreal. It still is.
*Note: NYPD wouldn’t report her as missing for at least 48 hours after her disappearance. She was later found in Ed Koch’s office negotiating a reoccurring spot on The People’s Court.