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David Copperfield’s Penthouse of Wonders

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There are countless things I never thought I’d do: solve a thorny calculus equation; pacify an enraged mama polar bear with my calming gaze; stroll the 57th-floor roof deck of David Copperfield’s penthouse with a blood-orange harvest moon rising behind me, a jazz-swing cover of “Black Hole Sun” sounding around me, and the flat immensity of Manhattan unfolding before me.

And yet, thanks to Travel + Leisure, one breezy evening last September I found myself doing just that. Not the math and bear part, of course—but attending a party chez Copperfield. To publicize his private-island resort on Musha Cay in the Bahamas (more on the news there in a minute), the magician gave us a sneak peek of his New York City home.

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It was every bit as bizarre as you’d imagine but somehow distinctly more tasteful: three stories of antique carnival curiosities, including a pint-sized, 120-year-old, nightgown-wearing elephantess who warned me that prosperity and travel awaited me (ominous!); novelty electro-shock machines (just a penny for a jolt? Oh, Ma, can I please?); and life-size wooden mannequins that crawled on the walls and cielings (umm…yeah).

Here’s a picture of T+L Deputy Editor Laura Begley and me shooting targets with some 19th-century toy metal rifles (I missed; she misfired):

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Dressed in black, his intense showman’s squint exchanged for a good host’s surveying glances, Copperfield gave us the grand tour, contextualizing the curio with historical background, and demonstrating the functioning games. Come in close, he exhorted us. Look at this! Touch this, listen to this, try it! He was warm and welcoming and, well, normal.

Now for the news: Musha Cay, the uber-luxury resort that Copperfield has spent the past four years developing. The largest of his nine private islands, Musha offers five secluded thatch-roofed residences (each with exclusive beach and four-poster bed), an ethereal ribbon of sandbar, and a dedicated staff of 30. Copperfield is constantly adding elements to the experience, and the new 2010 Musha experience will now include: “drive-in” movies on the beach at sunset, a Houdini-themed room full of memorabilia, nighttime treasure hunts around the eight other private islands, and—this forthcoming—a secret monkey colony.

The islands are rented to a single group at a time, offering perhaps the Caribbean’s most private experience. And if the cabins are anywhere near as intriguing and inviting as Copperfield’s New York home, I’d say: definitely make the trip.


Catesby Holmes is an assistant research editor at Travel + Leisure.


Photos courtesy of Jonathan Bloom

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