Sunday, August 23, 2009

All Girls Named Tonya
The Disturbing Case of David Copperfield

Several aspects of this case are disturbing:
A Seattle woman has filed a federal lawsuit against magician and entertainer David Copperfield, claiming he sexually assaulted and threatened her while she was a guest on his private island in the Bahamas two years ago. The lawsuit was filed even as the U.S. Attorney's Office is considering whether to file criminal charges in the case.
In the first paragraph, this story has already destroyed the fantasies of millions of 14-year-old geeks around the world. "You mean, even if I become so rich that I've got my own private tropical island, I don't get to have sex with any 22-year-old woman I desire?" Disturbing.
The woman, a 22-year-old fashion model and former Miss Washington USA contestant, filed the lawsuit on July 29 in U.S. District Court in Seattle against David Seth Kotkin, Copperfield's given name. That date was the deadline for a two-year statute of limitations in the case.
His name is "David Kotkin"? Disturbing.
The Seattle Times is not naming her because she is an alleged victim of sexual assault.
Whoa! Sweetheart, at the moment you file a lawsuit against a guy who flew you to his own private tropical island, I become deeply suspicious of your status as "victim." I'm just guessing your name is Tonya. Disturbing.
The woman is seeking unspecified damages for infliction of emotional distress, false misrepresentation and false imprisonment.
"Unspecified damages"? Disturbing.
On Wednesday, [Copperfield] issued a bare-knuckled response to the lawsuit. . . . He accused the woman of "extortion for money, plain and simple." The woman, according to Copperfield's attorneys, Angelo Calfo and Patty Eakes, "has a history of lying ... which continues in this lawsuit."
Worse than "a history of lying," she now has a history of not putting out for guys who fly her to their own private tropical island. Disturbing.
The woman alleges she met Copperfield during a January 2007 performance in Kennewick, when he called her on stage to perform in his act. After the show, the lawsuit alleges, an assistant took her personal information, snapped her photograph and said Copperfield might be interested in helping her career.
In July 2007, the woman alleges, she was invited to Musha Cay, Copperfield's $50 million private island in the Bahamas. The woman was assured, the lawsuit said, that others would be on the island and that she would have her own room.
The lawsuit alleges Copperfield and his assistant misled the woman and knew that she would be alone with him. The woman claims that she wouldn't have gone had she known she'd be alone with the magician.
Right. The guy offers to fly you to his own tropical island, and you accept, but you're afraid to be alone with him. Disturbing.
She said the 52-year-old magician drove her to the beach her first night on the island, and then returned to her room and removed her passport from her purse.
After dinner and watching a movie in Copperfield's room, the woman claims, he "attacked [her] and sexually assaulted her" on the bed, threatening to kill her if she didn't perform certain sex acts.
OK, you're a show business superstar with your own private tropical island, yet you can only score with chicks by threatening to kill them? Disturbing.
Throughout the assault (the woman) physically and verbally resisted Defendant Copperfield and struggled to get away from him," the lawsuit claims.
The next day, she said, she tried to hide but Copperfield found her and took her back to the private beach outside his bedroom. She said the magician held her head underwater until she thought she would drown after she refused his demand to "get naked."
"He then told her, 'this is an example of what you will get if you tell anyone.' " The lawsuit alleges he took off her swimsuit top and forced her to perform another sex act.
She claims a third assault took place when Copperfield dragged her from the shower in her room a short time later.
At this point, I'm thinking that David Kotkin, a/k/a "Copperfield," needs to spend a little less time working on his magic act and a little more time working on his romantic act.

The business about demanding that the chick "get naked"? That's never worked for me. I've been married for 20 years, and if I demanded that my wife "get naked," she'd laugh in my face. On the other hand, maybe if I had my own private tropical island . . . Disturbing.
Copperfield has disputed the allegations from the outset. His attorneys say that there were more than 40 people on the island during the woman's three-night, four-day visit.
"Her allegation that there was no one on the island to help her — even if she needed help — is preposterous," his statement says. The woman met and talked with other guests, sunbathed "and swam on island beaches, day after day. She even had dinner with a group of island guests," according to the statement.
Regardless of the truth or falsehood of the claims in this case, this "victim" has already exposed a disturbing pattern. Whenever a 52-year-old show-business superstar invites a 22-year-old ex-beauty queen to his own private tropical island, she might have reason to think he's going to expect her to "perform certain sex acts" with him. (You've been warned, ladies.)

This disturbing pattern is not limited to 52-year-old show-business superstars and 22-year-old ex-beauty queens. Generally speaking, if you're a chick and a guy says, "Hey, wanna come over to my place?" you should be suspicious. Whether it's his college dorm room, his apartment or his private tropical island, a lot of guys seem to have this misguided expectation that a chick who comes over to their place is just beggin' for some action.

This expectation -- "If she comes over to my place, she's ready to put out" -- is disturbing, especially when stated in such blunt terms. What's more disturbing is that any woman, even a 22-year-old ex-beauty queen, could be so stupid as to be unaware of the existence of such expectations.

Even if David Kotkin a/k/a "Copperfield" didn't forcibly rape the 22-year-old ex-beauty queen, you've got to figure any guy would have had his feelings hurt if, after flying her to his own tropical island -- four days and three nights in the Bahamas -- she were less than enthusiastic about his (surprise!) erotic interest in her.

This is why you find a lot of guys who are resentful toward the entire notion of "date rape." Having swept away all the norms and rules of traditional society, the sexual revolution and feminism have created a world in which the rules appear to be contingent, improvised and whimsical.

However, whereas the old rules were widely recognized and thus easily enforced by informal means -- slap his face, "unhand me, you cad!" and then ostracize the creep henceforth -- the new rules seem routinely to require federal lawsuits and grand jury inquisitions to sort them out. We've abandoned rules enforceable by individual action in favor of rules requiring enforcement by trial lawyers.

We await legal disposition of the disturbing case of Doe v. Kotkin, but the verdict is already in on the sexual revolution: It's been a complete catastrophe.

For the benefit of any young people (or 52-year-old show-business superstars) forced to sort out the new rules for themselves in this disturbing environment, allow me to offer a few suggestions by way of etiquette:
  • In general, be careful about situations where you are alone with a person of the opposite sex.
This is especially true in terms of someone you don't know very well. Even if nothing happens, people talk.
  • Ladies, if you're going to turn a guy down, turn him down up front, and be clear about it.
Apparently, some women use ambiguity in an effort to avoid hurting a guy's feelings. They don't like a guy "that way," but don't want to say so, and therefore allow the guy to waste his time in futile pursuit of a romance that is never going to happen.

This kind of ambiguity seems to be implicated in most college "date rape" scenarios. The guy asks the girl to come to his dorm room or apartment, she agrees, he interprets her agreement as de facto sexual consent, she resists and, next thing you know, there's a girl crying at the campus clinic and the Womyn's Studies department is organizing candlelight vigils for a "Take Back the Night" rally.

The fact that these "date rapes" tend to occur after the consumption of massive quantities of alcohol only adds to the disturbing stupidity of it all. To put it in the bluntest possible terms, any drunk 19-year-old guy is a potential sexual predator. A drunk 19-year-old guy will screw anything with a pulse. Any girl who doesn't understand that is probably too stupid to be attending college.
  • Guys, a selfish attitude about sex is self-defeating.
What is so stupidly disturbing about this case against David Kotkin a/k/a "Copperfield" is the evidence that he has a stunted, puerile notion of sexual entitlement. Whatever it was that actually happened on his private island resort -- and we'll leave that determination to the legal authorities -- it appears that Copperfield more or less expected this 22-year-old ex-beauty queen to deliver the goods.

However reasonable that expectation must have seemed to Copperfield -- "For crying out loud, I'm a show-business superstar with my own private tropical island!" -- it was decidedly not an expectation in accord with chivalrous customs of generous hospitality.

While I've never owned a tropical island in the Bahamas, I think that the principles I learned back in the day of inviting girls to visit Room 215 Patterson Hall would apply equally well in Copperfield's situation:
  • OK, the girl's accepted your invitation. You might be in luck. But you've got to play it cool. She shows up, and you greet her with courtesy and hospitality. ("Would you like a delicious cold beverage? I've got some wine coolers here in the fridge . . .")
  • Don't move too fast. Unless she's totally making the moves on you, chill out and read her signals. If she just wants to talk, just talk. No pressure, see? This girl's got friends, and you don't want her telling her friends that you're such a desperate loser that you started making the moves on her and she turned you down. The key to developing a reputation as irresistible is to avoid provoking resistance.
  • If you're going to make a move, make a move. Forget that slowly-work-your-way-up-to-it approach. Assuming you're reading the signals correctly, a green light means "go." Chicks dig the bold proposition. Take her in your arms and tell her you've been burning with desire for her ever since the first time you saw her. Gently kiss her neck and whisper your passionate intention to ravish every inch of her glorious naked body.
  • Be willing to take no for an answer and to apologize for any unintended offense. Hey, even an ace pilot sometimes accidentally locks onto the wrong target, OK? This girl came over to your dorm room to study for the art history exam and when she started talking suggestively about Michelangelo's David, you took it the wrong way. It happens.
Chicks sometimes aren't so clear about the signals they send. My senior year in college, on the afternoon of a big concert on the quad, a girlfriend of my girlfriend came over to my dorm room. Lucy kissed me, got completely naked and still ended up saying, "no," an answer I was obliged to accept.

I never forgave Lucy for that -- which is why I feel no compunction about naming her -- but I had to accept it. (Even though I had been burning with desire for Lucy since the first time I saw her.)

When you get to be a senior in college, you ought to understand stuff like that. Certainly, by the time you're a 52-year-old show-business superstar with your own private tropical island, you ought to understand that stuff. And if you don't understand it . . .


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All Girls Names Tonya (And Other Lessons of a Misspent Youth) is one of those books that no publisher in their right mind would ever pay me to write. But if you don't think these stories are completely worthless, please hit the tip jar.


  1. Can't help but think of that classic scene from the Philadelphia story when reading that post concerning the "rules".

  2. Everything else being equal, this is hardly a surprise. Copperfield's reputation is, to be kind, ungentlemanly.

    - Brian Moore

  3. I'm just surprised he needs to hire lawyers to make this lawsuit disappear.

    "Look into my eyes. You are thinking 'settlement' . . . You are thinking 'very modest settlement' . . ."

  4. It's he said/she said, and the burden of proof is on her. It just seems like they hoped to cash in, and when there was no cash, they filed suit on the last day. The link to the complaint is below. If I were the guy and guilty, this is the way I'd handle it. If I were the girl and lying, this is also the way I'd handle it.