Copperfield Fumes

04/16/1998 at 12:00 AM EDT

Master illusionist David Copperfield, 44, survived the "Tornado of Fire" finale to his CBS TV special Tuesday night with two words: "I'm hot." As two stagehands sprayed fire extinguishers on his legs, the slender magician fell to the floor and then got up as the music swelled and the network cut to commercials. Total time spent inside the 2,000-degree "Vortex of Fire": 30 seconds. "It was exhausting, and it was scary," Copperfield told reporters afterwards. "I felt a burning sensation in my throat." Preparation for the stunt was not without incident. Copperfield was taken to a New York hospital on Friday in a state of "extreme exhaustion" after he collapsed during rehearsals for the special. Earlier, crew member Cathy Henderson sued Copperfield and his companies for $15,000, claiming in her court papers that she was injured when she was thrown 10 feet in the air by the power of the man-made tornado during a rehearsal in Portugal.

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