A Florida lawyer has filed suit seeking more than $1 million from magician David Copperfield, contending the performer subjected his audiences to the aggravation of producing a television program and did not present the show for which they had paid up to $27 a ticket.
"The issue is this: Is a performer liable to his audience for not delivering what has been represented to deliver?" asked lawyer Mark Bogen of Boca Raton, who filed the lawsuit Monday in Broward County Circuit Court.Copperfield, on the West Coast rehearsing for an upcoming show in Boston, said he felt hurt by the lawsuit.
"It really hurts - you can never please everybody," he said. Copperfield said those who complained would be invited back to a non-televised show when he returns to Fort Lauderdale.
Copperfield said everyone attending the shows in question was told ahead of time that they were being taped for television.
"Most people love the idea of being part of a television show," he said. He said every performance was sold out and the five shows drew nearly 11,500 people.
"After the TV taping was done, the audience gave us a five-minute standing ovation, without any help from me," he said. "They all enjoyed the show. Numerous people came back and told us how they loved being behind the scenes."
Bogen's suit listed more than 60 plaintiffs and named as defendants Copperfield, the magician's California corporation David Copperfield's Disappearing Inc., and Copperfield's agent PTG-Florida Inc. of Miami.
"We're representing everybody for free," Bogen said. "I'm a plaintiff also, with my wife and two kids. We were there - we walked out."
Bogen said Copperfield performed five shows Jan. 30-Feb. 1 at the Broward Center for Performing Arts. He said while advertising for the shows said they would be taped for CBS, the audience was not told what that would involve.
"If you buy a ticket that averaged $25 a ticket, you expect a professional show," Bogen said.
The suit said to facilitate television production, the performances were continually stopped and started, many people were moved from their assigned seats, performances stopped for Copperfield to apply makeup and Copperfield left the stage "for many minutes" during the performance and was replaced by a "non-entertaining" comedian.
The suit said Copperfield and his agents continually asked the audience to applaud, laugh, stand up or sit down. It also said the television staff distracted some of the audience by continually talking and that television lighting periodically blinded some of the plaintiffs.
Copperfield said some people had to be relocated because of cameras and lights.
"I tried to get to all of them and thank them, if they were inconvenienced in any way," he said.
As to allegations about being replaced by an unfunny comedian, Copperfield said the comic came out while he changed costumes. He said television taping requires more costume changes than a normal performance.
"I hired a local Fort Lauderdale comedian out of my own pocket to enhance the show, to give a local comedian a shot," he said. "I was trying to give a local guy a break. I liked him, I thought he was good."
The suit said the defendants hired actors and actresses as "extras" to sit with the audience to applaud, stand up and sit down during the production.
Copperfield said extras were hired for the taping of introductions.
"Prior to the live performances, we did intros and talk spots where I'd introduce a segment," he said. "Obviously you can't have an audience pay to watch something like that. So we had extras come in to be the heads in the foreground. I'd introduce an illusion, with the cameras in close, and we'd bring the extras in to be the heads in the foregrounds.
"For continuity, we invited those same extras back to sit in the audience (during the taping)," he said, adding the extras totaled only 40 to 60 people.
Copperfield also said the delays for makeup were minor.
The suit said the actions of the defendants were willful and malicious and asked that they be held liable for punitive damages "in excess of $1 million."