About Hyman Kotkin
OBITUARY Hyman Kotkin; father of magician David Copperfield
By Jack Williams STAFF WRITER
March 5, 2006
Hyman Kotkin never realized his dream of being the next great movie star.
Instead, he had to settle for being magician David Copperfield's most devoted male fan.
Not a bad trade-off when the legendary entertainer is your son and one of your biggest fans.
“When I decided to go into show business, I got to live his dream,” Copperfield said. “And he lived his dream through me.”
Mr. Kotkin, a retired clothier who settled in Rancho Bernardo more than 30 years ago, died Feb. 23 at UCLA Medical Center. He was 83.
The cause of death was complications from Alzheimer's disease, Copperfield said.
As president for many years of the David Copperfield International Fan Club, Mr. Kotkin headed fundraising for Project Magic, which his son formed in 1982.
Teaming occupational therapists with magicians in medical settings, Project Magic is designed to teach disabled patients ways to develop manual dexterity and coordination by learning sleight of hand.
The program, supported by funds raised by the fan club, has grown to include more than 1,000 hospitals in 30 countries.
In addition to his role with Project Magic, Mr. Kotkin accompanied his son to performances worldwide, often before royalty and heads of state. “He and my mom got to meet five presidents, the king of Spain, Fergie and Princess Di,” Copperfield said. “He always greeted them with a hug.”
Relishing his celebrity-by-fatherhood identity, Mr. Kotkin enjoyed signing autographs “David Copperfield's Dad.”
Mr. Kotkin's passion for drama and the theater had a lasting impact on his son, who was born David Seth Kotkin in September 1956 and later adopted the stage name Copperfield.
Copperfield learned his first magic trick at 7 from a grandfather and began performing professionally at 12 as “Davino, the Boy Magician.” His father was always there to provide encouragement and nurture his talent, Copperfield said.
Taking a cue from his father, Copperfield approached magic as a director or actor might, guided by a theatrical imagination. “My idols were film directors and actors,” he said.
Mr. Kotkin, who had acted as a youth and performed in community theater, took vicarious pleasure in his son's rise to stardom.
As a young father, he had turned down a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles. “He decided to give it up to feed his wife and family,” Copperfield said. “He wanted to be a Clark Gable. He even picked a name, Hyland Kott, but it never saw the light of day.”
Mr. Kotkin was born June 9, 1922, in New York. After graduating from high school, he joined the Army Air Forces during World War II and served as an aerial engineer.
As the son of a tailor, the clothing business seemed a natural fit – if, that is, an acting career wasn't to be.
He operated Korby's clothing store in Metuchen, N.J., and later in Warren, N.J. He sold the business and moved to San Diego just as his son's career was beginning to emerge.
Known for his deep, year-round tan, Mr. Kotkin enjoyed soaking up the San Diego sun between travels with his son.
Two years ago in Las Vegas, Mr. Kotkin met actor Tony Curtis and told him how much he, too, had wanted to be a matinee idol.
“Curtis grabbed my dad's face, looked at his profile and said, 'You know, if you had been around in my day, I would have been finished,' ” Copperfield recalled.
Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Rebecca; his son, David of Las Vegas; and a brother, Morton Kotkin of San Diego.
Services were held last Sunday in San Diego.