Musha Cay and The Islands of Copperfield Bay are absolutely spectacular. Why did you choose these islands in particular?
I searched around the world visiting various islands. I visited the classic places: Tahiti, Bora Bora, Fiji, the BVI… They’re all really beautiful and have their own unique traits. In The Exumas in The Bahamas you have a unique combination of water that looks amazing, like the Maldives, and I was able to find a string of islands that also had elevation – height for the islands themselves. Often you find really beautiful water but the actual land is flat, or amazing jungle but the water is less special. I wanted to find a grouping of islands where the centerpiece islands looked like an island you dreamed of as a child. A very unusual combination. And I just fell in love with the people and the opportunity to create amazing things. It wasn’t just how many islands – it was a palette to create a different kind of magic, a different kind of experience for people. So that’s where it began.
When you first visited the islands were they completely undeveloped, completely uninhabited?
No, one of them was being developed at that time for someone’s personal use. And then years passed after I first saw it and it had been turned into a bespoke chartering experience, much like chartering a yacht. The island would be rented to one family or group at a time. They were looking to sell it. I realized that I could also acquire the islands around it. So, if I were to make it an experience to share with other people I could give them real privacy, because not only could I secure one island with staff quarters, but the islands around it for people who might be interested in enjoying the hard work I was about to put into it. So, we embarked on a 5-year, $35 million renovation, changing every generator, every piece of furniture, every wall covering, every towel, the water makers, the generators, the golf carts – every single thing was transformed, little by little, step by step over a period of 5 years. I got a chance to put my own stamp on it. The bones were great, but, with island properties, it is important to face the challenges of salt air and salt water. It takes a bit of understanding of those challenges. But, for me, it is extremely worth it.
There are design influences from everywhere from Bali to Burma? What were your main sources of inspiration?
As I travelled the world as an entertainer, I met a lot of people with a lot of gifts and saw a lot of things that represent vacation, wonder, travel, exploration. The entire island has become an adventurer’s club. There are rooms based on Africa, rooms based on Burma, rooms based on Bali. When you go there you feel a lot of soul. There’s lots of art and artefacts I discovered around the world. Every room has a story. There are rooms dedicated to Houdini – a very important figure in my business. Houdini’s pool table is there. All the artefacts on the wall belong to Houdini so when you are playing pool in the room you are surrounded by the belongings of one of the legends of my business.
So you’ve managed to sprinkle a little bit of magic on the islands as well?
I guess you could put it that way. Everywhere you look, even the gym is based on Jack Johnson, the famous boxer played by James Earl Jones in the movie The Great White Hope. There is a statue in front of the gym of the fighter that was beneath the Eiffel Tower a hundred years ago. If you want to read the story and hear about his journey, you can choose to do that. If you want to hear about Houdini, you can do that. If you want to hear about the stories of the island, you can do that. Many people just feel the detail, but if you want to look deeper, there is a lot to discover.
Well, you have done an amazing job. I love your attention to detail, not only to the property, but to everything around it as well. I know, for example, that you worked with Jason Taylor on an underwater sculpture…
He is a brilliant, brilliant guy and we collaborated. Not only is it a sculpture, it is a sculpture that is a piano and, the lower you get, you can actually hear the piano playing. There was a book that I wrote that was illustrated by a friend of mine, the Director of Shrek II, about a sailor, a grand piano and a mermaid, so you swim down to the mermaid at the bottom of the ocean and you can hear the piano playing. It is an immersive, interactive experience.
With multiple live shows on every day at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, you are an incredibly busy man. How much time do you actually get to spend on the islands?
I go there up to 10 weeks a year. When it is chartered, obviously I don’t go there. During the 10 weeks I’m not performing I either go there or travel with my family.
How do you like to spend your time there?
With what we’ve designed, it can be anything you want it to be. It is really a bespoke experience – it really becomes fantasy island. If you want to go there and be James Bond, we’ve got helicopters that appear on the beach. We’ve got laser tag experiences – all themed to a James Bond kind of adventure. We’ve got a treasure hunt experience where you can hear music as you travel around the island uncovering clues, some of which are magical. You can levitate on the beach, you can watch your friends head get cut off on a giant guillotine. We have a movie theatre that appears on the beach. But, many people choose to do absolutely nothing, which is as good as anything. Just having the privacy of the island is experience enough. So, every time I’m there, to answer your question, I take some of the ideas I’m working on, and try the experiences out.
Are you planning on developing any of the other islands?
Perhaps – We do have plans. Taking it little by little. Some of the plans we have for the other islands we might be doing on Musha, the main island. Although the island next to us is 450 acres, which is a great opportunity. A lot of the ideas are being put on the original island, which allows us to leave the other islands pure and unspoiled.
Musha Cay and the Islands of Copperfield Bay are available for private hire. For details, see www.mushacay.com