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Copperfield Honors His Idol


Walter “Zaney” Blaney Recieves A Room In David Copperfield’s Museum

by Matthew Crabtree

Walter “Zaney” Blaney is a living legend in the magic world. He is a member of the S.A.M. Hall of Fame. Member of the Inner Magic Circle with Gold Star. Siegfried and Roy awarded him with their Silver Lion Award for his performance of magic. On top of these awards, he is also one of David Copperfield’s favorite magicians, one of Copperfield’s heroes in magic. How much of a hero? Enough that on Monday, August 14, 2017, David Copperfield unveiled the newest section to the David Copperfield International Museum and Library of Conjuring Arts, the Walter “Zaney” Blaney Tribute Display. While it was a “surprise”, it was hard to keep it as such since David did have to ask for some items. All of them Walter was more than happy to donate to David.

Walter first met David in Chicago 1974. David had just left school to star in the play The Magic Man, where he performed magic, danced, and created most of the illusions seen in the show. Jay Marshall had told Walter of this talented kid who was starring in The Magic Man, and asked if he would be interested in meeting him. David impressed him with how he was incorporating magic and storytelling into his act. Even at such a young age, Walter could tell David was bound for great things. So much so that Walter would jokingly say “At 18 he was so damn good I hated him for it.” What Walter didn’t know at the time was that he was one of Copperfield’s idols. Someone who David had looked up to when he first started in magic. Now, forty-three years later, Walter is the last living magic hero of David Copperfield, which leads up to the night of August 14, 2017.

The evening started off with Walter taking in a performance of Copperfield’s current show at the MGM Grand. It really is a wonderful show and David is still a world class performer and works to keep his shows entertaining and fresh. While David looks up to Walter, Walter also looks up to David. Walter has been lucky enough to have seen, met, and befriend many of the greats of magic, but feels that David was the one who really took what a magician could be to the next level. While the magicians of the golden age of magic we great magicians and performers, David is also a great business man. He can do more for magic with the money he has made. As such he has endowed the David Copperfield International Museum and Library of Conjuring Arts with $500 million to make sure it lives on long after he is gone.

After the show Walter, David and a couple of friends loaded up in the limo for a ride over to the museum and workshop. David walked them through the massive collection of magic items and books. The museum was founded in 1991 when David purchased the Mulholland Library of Conjuring and the Allied arts. David later added to the collection when he picked up the Cole Collection. This added around 5,000 cubic feet of magic documents and other artifacts. As it sit today, the museum has over 80,000 items, around 15,000 of those are books, broadsides, posters picture, letters and other paper items of some of the greatest magicians. In one darkened area of this museum twenty of so people were waiting for David and his guest of honor to arrive. There, in what is one of the largest areas dedicated to one performer was all of Walter’s magic props.

Standing before Walter was a mannequin dressed in his tux, boots, silver vest, Texas T tie, the stiff lasso that Walter opened every show with, and his original Stetson. In the back ground, there is a monitor playing different performances of Walter’s acts and original illusion. David had displayed the whole “Instant Texas” act, as well as the Blaney Sawing and the original Ladder Levitation and hoop. It was this one item that David wanted to show the most. Early on in the run of T.V. specials , David called Walter and ask to do the Ladder Levitation. Walter was still touring with it and had not shared the workings with anyone else. He of course said no. So, the next year rolled around and again the phone rings. Again Walter said no. This yearly ritual went on and on, and depending who you ask, lasted up to ten years, though Walter says it was more like five. Finally, Walter gave into to the persistence of Copperfield and for the first time, someone other than Walter would do the Ladder levitation on television. Walter held on to his original for years, but David bought it. David had a collector’s item from one of his boyhood heroes.

After showing off the collection. David made a very kind and heartfelt toast to the great Walter “Zaney” Blaney. Walter who in 1937 saw Harry Blackstone Sr. perform his Show of 1001 Wonders at the Majestic Theater in Dallas, Texas, and had his life changed forever. So much so that young Walter would go back four times a day for a week to see the show. Walter who went on to have a career that spanned over 50 years, with shows performed around the world and on many stops on different T.V. shows along that way, and who would happen to meet a young man in 1974 who would go on to be one of the world’s most well-known magicians, that is now toasting him in front of a display dedicated to him.
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Here is a video of Walter performing on The Merv Griffin Show.

After the toast, David picked up some props from the “Instant Texas” act and started asking questions about it.

Before anyone knew it, Walter was standing there performing for everyone. Walter’s young assistant, the one and only David Copperfield grinning like a school boy, helping his boyhood hero. His last living hero. It was a truly memorable moment for Walter. To see David turn into a kid again playing around with all of these props. Walter and everyone else was just delighted to see this side of Copperfield. Just a boy, his hero, and all of this “magic stuff.” To quote Walter, “It goes down as one of the most memorable experiences in my long magic career.”

A Documentary Video Series on the Life of Magic Legend Walter Zaney Blaney is in production. To see various completed episodes including the story of the Blaney Ladder Levitation PLEASE CLICK HERE.


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