EXCLUSIVE: The chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee introduced legislation this week that would categorize magic as a “rare and valuable art form and national treasure” and to recognize it as one of the arts. Do not snicker. This is serious. Just ask David Copperfield.
“The Society of American Magicians has been trying to get this legislation passed for decades, and it’s long overdue,” Copperfield said in an exclusive interview with Deadline via telephone from his Las Vegas HQ. “This is a bipartisan project to establish as a law that the magic of Houdini and so many others is an important art form.” For the moment, however, all six sponsors of the bill are Republicans.
Among other things, the bill would make it easier for magicians to apply for grants that typically are reserved for artists involved in writing, painting, making music and more traditional arts. The committee chairman, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), said in an announcement that he introduced the measure to assist the efforts of a constituent, Eric Hogue, the mayor of Wylie, Texas. Hogue is a former magician who has championed the legislation along with Copperfield.
The resolution states that magic “is an art that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.” Copperfield — who shares Library Of Congress “Living Legend” status with the likes of Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Tony Bennett and Tiger Woods — added that “magic has touched so many different areas of peoples’ lives,” from films to its use for various therapies in hospitals.”
Word of the quietly introduced legislation was roundly derided across social media. Asked about the timing of the bill, when the country is facing so much upheaval and uncertainty, Copperfield said that it was no accident.
“I’ve always said — always — that magic seems to rise up when there’s uncertainty in the world,” the magician noted. “Look at the times Houdini lived in! People needed to dream, they needed an escape, and that’s what magic provides. It leaves people transported and inspired. I believe it’s as good if not better than any other art form in doing that.” There undoubtedly will be much long-winded debate on that subject by pro-arts and arts-averse Congressfolk if the proposed legislation comes to the floor.
Copperfield said he hopes the bill will extend added legitimacy to his personally funded project, the Museum & Library of the Conjuring Arts in Las Vegas, not far from his MGM Grand-based theater. The centerpiece of the museum, which is currently open to magicians, scholars and journalists, has a vast collection of Houdiniana as well as archives for many of the world’s greatest magicians. Don’t look for it, Copperfield said. “Of course it’s got a fake front. The location is disguised.”