David Copperfield's Caribbean Island
Famed magician David Copperfield remakes a Caribbean island to give the world a chance at paradise.
The first time I met David Copperfield was ’round midnight a year ago in Las Vegas. The world’s most famous magician, whom I had seen once ten years before at a Broadway matinée with my then-eight-year-old son, had just finished the third of three nightly shows. A white limousine that seemed to run the length of the MGM Grand itself was parked outside, dapper chauffeur at the ready. David and I had been e-troduced by a mutual friend from L.A. “You’ve gotta meet him, you gotta get to know him. He’s incredibbbble,” gushed Lara as fast as her little lacquered fingers could type. “You’ll love each other.”
Tall, rather touchingly shy for such a megastar and dressed entirely in Prada-black, David shook my hand and politely opened the car door. We headed away from the Strip for some 20 minutes in the dead of night to see another, more private side of David Copperfield.
I’m still not entirely sure who else he allows to visit his museum-cum-warehouse of tricks and treats (which has an apartment upstairs). But here, in an almost bunker-like fortress surrounded by a tall, unscalable iron fence, are housed some 80,000 “pieces of magic,” including everything from Houdini’s original water torture cabinet to a trove of personal letters from Orson Welles, whom David befriended late in the director’s life (“Mr. Welles was fascinated by magic, and I have always wanted to be a director, so I guess that’s kind of how we bonded,” he tries to explain). We entered through a secret door that Hugh Jackman once joked must give way to “a private sex shop.” Please.
Before we left the museum that night, David sat down at his desk and Googled “Musha Cay,” described as an “exclusive private-island resort in the Bahamas with luxurious accommodations for up to 24 guests. 500 acres on four islands, 25 sugar-sand beaches.” Up popped a video, enhanced by lush photography, clever graphics and a soaring, movie-like soundtrack. Until late last year, David had kept his privately owned island pretty much word-of-mouth, though the website, MushaCay.com, had been up and running for a couple of years. “I wasn’t really ready for the world to know that much about it,” he said.
A few months later, he reached out with an invitation to visit. Musha Cay, one of 11 islands in the Islands of Copperfield Bay, part of the Exuma group of islands in the southern Bahamas, 85 miles southeast of Nassau, was now, it seemed, officially ready for its close-up. “The property is many different things,” he would later explain, “but for me, it’s a most perfect paradise—with the ability to transform itself into each guest’s own idea of perfection as well.”
“Perfect paradise” is, as we know, a tall order, but after spending a long weekend there with David, who otherwise never steps foot on the island when guests are present, Musha Cay comes pretty close: At $37,500 a night (“It can accommodate up to 24 people,” he says, “so really, if you divide $37,500 by the number of guests…”), your own private Musha Cay comes with swaying palms, wild monkeys, a “drive-in” movie theater, a 28-foot Nautilus Rib Catamaran, two jet boats, two Boston Whalers and two Hobie Cat sailboats. There are Yamaha Jet Skis, golf carts for getting around, a water trampoline and a world-class chef (Stephan Kritzinger is, according to David, “a culinary magician”) who whips up dishes like lobster risotto, grilled Kobe beef and sumptuous bamboo platters of handcrafted sushi kaiseki. A 37-foot speedboat called Midnight Express was replicated from one owned by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. The original was built to outrun the Coast Guard, which considered these waters among the most notorious in the world.
On a three-mile-long sandbar called Heaven on Earth, just a private yacht’s jaunt away from the “big” island (after all, there are 11 in David’s mini-archipelago), Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem were married in 2010. David goes completely mum on the topic, as well as anything on Johnny Depp, Bill Gates or other celebrities rumored to have stayed there.