For Hotel Charlotte, a final moment of boom times

On this day in 1988: Taping a TV special, magician David Copperfield, handcuffed and locked in a safe, escapes from the old Hotel Charlotte moments before its implosion.

The 12-story hotel has been closed since 1973, but in its heyday it was Charlotte’s finest. Among its guests: Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon; Elvis Presley; Huey Long; Jack Dempsey and Babe Ruth. Bill Monroe and Roy Acuff recorded in its 10th-floor studios, and Tommy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo and Kay Kyser performed in its ballroom.


7 thoughts on “For Hotel Charlotte, a final moment of boom times”

  1. I remember this like it was yesterday. I was 12 and watched it on TV. As I recall, after the building was imploded, he appeared from under a sheet that was laying flat across a large piece of steel. This gave the effect that he somehow materialized through the steel, far away from the imploded building. 24 years later, I still can’t explain it and can only say, wow, that was some magic.

    1. I have loved and been fascinated by this trick since I was a kid and I have researched it to death and yet still have questions. I think it’s the best trick of all time because truly I don’t get how it was done. My mom and I think he was in the video as they’re running down the hallway and probably said something but we’ll never really know. That’s why I love it.

  2. I was involved as an extra on the production. Here’s how it was done: In the hotel, Copperfield entered a large safe with a false back. As the door was sealed, the camera ran continuously, and it was taken away from the hotel site to a position overlooking a stage. Meanwhile, DC exited the safe and was driven over to the stage site (while out of view of the camera) and crawled under the stage. After the big kaboom and the dust settled, he emerged triumphant from under the stage. I guess the way it was presented on TV made it look far more impressive than it was in the production.

  3. I was at the site and there wasn’t anything magical about it at all. They delayed the implosion several times (I remember being there for about an hour after the first “countdown”). Once we saw Copperfield emerge from a door and run down a fire escape like he was being chased by a banshee … then do the same thing a few minutes later, like the director wanted a second take. It was only when the whole thing came on TV that I saw any of the “escape” drama. How hilarious to hear the narrator say that the timer had started and couldn’t be stopped after the number of times they’d announced over loudspeakers at the site that the count was on hold. I’ve never liked Copperfield at all after this.

  4. Wow, agfinder and steve, thanks for destoying one of the few childhood delusions of magic left in my life. Next you will probably tell me that Santa Claus isn’t real.

  5. Nothing worse than haters. agFinder and Steve are like grinches that ruined Christmas. Not very cool to invade a person’s secrets of wowing an audience. That’s just plain stupid. But okay. Thank you for telling us what it took for this man to give us something to really enjoy. Now what?

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