Memory Lane


Magick first opened in Sheffield on Howard Street in November 1977. Abba was at number 1 in the charts with ‘Name of the Game’ closely followed by Queen, Status Quo, Showaddywaddy, The Bee Gees and The Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band. But it was the ’70s. And our trousers were wider than our shoes.

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This was our first shop. Note the throng of eager customers, assuming a throng is six or over.

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And is that Robbo in the cat suit? Thereby droops a tail.

After a few years we moved to an external unit in the Sheaf Market, facing onto the Park Square Roundabout. We’ve been in our current home at 82 Broad Street since 1988. And I reckon we’ll be here a mite or two longer.

The more astute will have realised that this November marks our 40th anniversary. To celebrate this auspicious event we’re holding an open day here at The Lounge on Saturday 18 November. Friends of Magick old and new are invited to attend and join the frivolity. There could be cakes. And possibly a few tricks. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

More details as the day approaches at https://www.facebook.com/events/1983183801958794/

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I’m sure that by now all my astute readers, and even the less astute one, will have answered most if not all of the questions in this year’s SCM Christmas Quiz. In case you haven’t, here they are:

1. The badge of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians is known as the Scaratika. What two magical symbols does it incorporate?

Answer: A Scarab and a Swastika. To the Ancient Egyptians, the scarab was a symbol of Khepri, a manifestation of the sun god Ra, from an analogy between the beetle’s behaviour of rolling a ball of dung across the ground and Khepri’s task of rolling the sun across the sky. They accordingly held the species to be sacred. The swastika is an ancient Indian religious symbol of peace and continuity. It is considered to be a sacred and auspicious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism and dates back at least 11,000 years.

2. Bess Houdini held annual séances on Halloween for ten years after her husband’s death in 1926. Which secret phrase did her husband Harry promise to use to prove that his ghost was actually trying to contact her?

a) Flowers do not fade.
b) I am Erik.
c) Rosabelle believe.
d) It’s the kiss that holds the key.

Answer: c). “Rosabelle” was a song that Bess used in her original act at Coney Island. Harry Houdini spent much of his later life trying to disprove spiritualism and expose phony mediums. The agreement with his wife was his ultimate means of proving that a return from the dead was impossible. The séances were supposed to continue each year for the rest of her life.

In 1929 a medium reported that the special phrase had been uttered during a séance, but Bess claimed that the news was false – she had been ill during the séance and the secrecy of the phrase could have been compromised. Bess held annual séances for 10 years, and then gave up on waiting and passed responsibility on to magician William B. Gibson.

3. David Wighton was born in London, England in 1868. He is best known for the Mascot Moth illusion in which a woman vanishes into thin air. What is his stage name?

Answer: David Devant. Incidentally,  Devant was the first Honorary President of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians.

4. Who is generally credited as the inventor of the Sawing in Half illusion?

Answer: P. T. Selbit (Percy Thomas Tibbles). A description of the illusion was published by the great French magician Jean Robert-Houdin in 1858, but Robert-Houdin’s idea remained just that, a written description of an effect. Selbit is generally recognised as the first magician to perform such a trick on a public stage, which he did at the Finsbury Park Empire theatre in London on 17 January 1921. In fact, Selbit had previously performed the illusion in December 1920 before a select audience of promoters and theatrical agents at the St. George’s Hall

5. Considered by many to be the father of modern magic, this French magician was originally a watchmaker but later performed throughout Europe during the 1840s and 1850s. The “Light and Heavy Chest” was one of his most famous tricks.

Answer: Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin.

6.  What was the stage name of famous British magician Newton Edward Daniels?

Answer: Paul Daniels.

7. These two German magicians were famous for their work with big cats.

Answer: Siegfried & Roy.

8. A magician makes a coin vanish from his or her hands. Which European country is connected with this sleight?

Answer: France (French Drop).

9. Invented by Theo Bamberg some time in the early 1900s, this little container is a classic prop for coin magic.

Answer: Okito Coin Box (Okito was Bamberg’s stage name).

10. The inaugural meeting of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians took place on 18 May. But what year?

Answer: 1920.

There was also a tie-breaker question, which we didn’t have to use. It was:

Tie Breaker: Claude Conlin was a mind-reading magician with a disreputable past. He had been married seven, eleven or even fourteen times, depending on who you believe. He was a con man, possibly a murderer and was imprisoned for fraud. Nevertheless, he was probably the highest paid mentalist of his time. What was Conlin’s stage name?

Answer next week.

NGM Competition bw

I recently came across a few old photographs and press cuttings which my reader may find amusing.

This cutting is from the Nottingham Evening Post, circa 1960. Second from left is Ken Scholes, I believe, who wrote for Harry Stanley’s Unique Magic Studio and The Gen. I’m third from left, with hair. The guy in Chinese costume is Ron Massey and on the right is fellow Long Eaton Grammar School student Allan Falconer, now Director of Corporate Outreach and Professor of Geography at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, USA.

Stan LeslieSad to report that long-time Sheffield Circle member Stan Leslie (Stan Whomersley) died on 6 January. His funeral service on 25 January was well attended by his many friends, fellow entertainers and SCM members. Stan had been a member of the Circle since 1957.

His daughter, who many members will remember performing a two-person mind-reading act at SCM events some years ago, read a version of an appropriate poem by David Whalen (Stan was a keen ballroom dancer as well as a magician):

When the music stops

When the music stops, the dance is done
So listen and dance with all your mind and your heart.
Always dance as if it were the last one
Live life to the fullest, make the most of your part.

When the magic is gone, it’s gone forever
So leave room for mystery in all of your days.
Keep a bit of excitement in every endeavour
Once the magic is gone, it’s gone always.

When the music has stopped, and the magic has gone
We can smile and look back at a life that’s well done.

Actually, the magic does live on, in the memories of Stan’s friends, fellow magicians, and those who saw him perform his well-known drunk act over the years. Earlier today I found a VHS videotape recorded at the Regal Theatre, Worksop, in 1991. The picture and sound quality aren’t great, and I had to cut a small section part-way through due to an unfortunate glitch on the tape. But it’s good to have this reminder of one of Sheffield’s magical characters, and a classic act!

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Andy the Clown (in civilian dress) and Sam

A definite touch of deja vu in the Lounge yesterday. Came down from my office and found a small white poodle rushing happily around the feet of the assembled Loungers. For an instant I was transported back almost twenty years… Who else remembers Brandy the shop dog?

It wasn’t Brandy, of course; he must be long gone. But just for that moment I thought it was. In fact it was Sam (another coincidence?), Andy the Clown’s poodle. Here they are on the right..

And below is Brandy himself, guarding the stairs leading to what was the costume department and is now my flat.

Brandy

Recently moved some boxes from storage and in going through them I came across several packs of old photographs. There are quite a few taken at various magic conventions and events I’ve attended over the years. I’ll probably post the odd one here from time to time as I have a moment to scan them. Here’s one of me giving some up-and-coming magician a few tips on his cup-and-ball routine…