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September 18, 2014

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Photos: Joanie Spina, David Copperfield’s former assistant, fights for her life, helps others

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David Linsell

Joanie Spina.

Fundraiser for Joanie Spina

A fundraiser for Joanie Spina. Jinger Leigh, Spina, Janice West and Fielding West are pictured here. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

Sir Pat Trick.

MGM Grand headliner magician David Copperfield has been an unsung hero in his two-year medical support of Joanie Spina, his assistant of 10 years, as she battles an incurable lung disease and is on oxygen to cope with the respiratory illness. In turn, she is helping others and is a tireless advocate for animal rights. This is one more of those amazing and courageous Las Vegas hero stories.

It looked as if she would have to return to Boston to be with family, but loyal magicians in Las Vegas rallied with David to ensure that she could stay on here and had the financial support to cope with the illness. Lance Burton, Mac King, Jeff McBride, Johnny Thompson, Norm Neilsen, Jan Rouven, Fielding West, Jarrett and Raja and others, including David’s former employees, turned out for a fundraising party.

Joanie, who directed many shows, including “Carnival of Wonders,” over the last decade, also wrote the “Directions” column at Las-Vegas headquartered Magic magazine for four years. Publisher Stan Allen told me: “She is a remarkable lady and is beloved in the magic community. She always opened her heart to every person who has ever crossed her path.”

She demonstrated her remarkable generosity one more time at the recent Magic Live held at the Orleans with young magician Patrick Thernes, who appears onstage as Sir Pat Trick. His height, weight and stature all worked against him becoming a success, but Joanie saw the star that could shine.

Stan related: “Her presentation at the sessions was by far the most memorable moment. Many of those attending didn’t know just how much she was suffering. In her columns, she taught techniques and offered suggestions on improving your act.

“Having been David’s chief assistant for many years, a performer on her own and with directing credits on a number of other shows, she knows what she’s talking about. And she prove it in spades at our convention.

“Joanie told the story of Sir Pat Trick. She talked about their first meeting and how she took a look at his original DVD in 2011 and thought how joyless it was. In fact, she admitted that she found it depressing. After some suggestions, she received a second DVD.

“Better, she said, but still not right. Some friends gave Patrick some tough love, suggesting that the character did not work for him and making him aware of his “denial of physique” that was evident within the act. Patrick switched gears completely and became happy, upbeat and energetic onstage.

“I nearly fell out of my chair,” is the way Joanie describes her feeling after watching the next DVD Patrick sent her. Using Skype, Joanie worked with Patrick on music choices, and soon the act was ready to present. Joanie revealed that Patrick’s journey to Las Vegas was his first trip on an airplane. He was very nervous performing his magic act to a room bursting at the seams with his peers. No pressure!

“The act was 10 times better than what was on the DVD. When it finished, the entire theater audience leapt to their feet and applauded. Patrick was visibly touched and broke into tears at the standing ovation. All their hard work paid off, and Joanie walked out onstage to join him.

“They embraced, and both of them cried, as did the audience. The overwhelming emotion, combined with Patrick’s underdog spirit and the knowledge of Joanie’s sickness, was too much to hold in.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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