Paul Daniels was probably the first ‘proper’ magician I knew about when I was growing up. My parents had given me one of his magic kits for Christmas when I was six years old, so he was definitely my first inspiration to pursue magic as a career.
Although his particular performing style isn’t the kind of thing I’d watch now, I think it’s safe to say that his ‘Cup & Ball’ trick is probably one of the best comedy magic routines I’ve ever seen. Completely honed through years of performances with an absolutely killer ending.
Along with being a terrific magician, Paul was also something of a marketing machine, jumping on the latest trend or reference to use to his advantage. Just as he did here:
David and Victoria Beckham were part of a marketing campaign for Armani, and as such, were photographed in their underwear. Not missing a beat, Paul (aged 74), along with his wife Debbie, recreated the same photo.
The photo was picked up by all the major news outlets and TV shows, including the long-running Richard & Judy, who invited them on as guests. Paul is known for having inspired a new generation of magicians, so as part of the interview, they also wanted to bring on a young magician he’s impacted. Cue my entrance, stage left.
I'd been featured in a local newspaper, the Liverpool Echo, that very week - and as part of the story I mentioned how I got interested in magic because of Paul Daniels’ kit. One of the researchers from Richard & Judy stumbled upon the article and got in touch to ask if I’d be on the show. Paul was a real idol of mine, so to get to be on National TV and perform in front of him was incredible. And outrageously nerve-wracking.
A few days later, we jumped on the train to London to do the filming. I had no idea how the show would be filmed or what kind of tricks they’d be looking for, so I brought some different options along with me and hoped for the best!
We were picked up at Euston station and made our way to the studio.
Each turn of the car on that journey filled me with more anxiety; this was mostly due to the fact that I knew it was taking me to meet Paul, not because I don’t like Hondas.
Arriving at the large, impressive studio, I was led inside and almost immediately taken into make-up - before being whisked off to have a quick chat with the producer. One of the things I remember most about the day was just how quick everything was. It felt like within 30 minutes of entering the building, I was sat behind a fake bar and bracing myself for the red light to turn on above the camera. Paul and Debbie would be watching alongside Richard & Judy in another room; so, all I had to do was wait for the 10-second countdown and try not to faint before hearing, “Action!"
The segment was short but fun, and an incredible experience of performing in front of a live TV audience. I got to meet Paul afterwards, and he was incredibly sweet and offered some amazing advice. After around 20 minutes or so, we shook hands and I left to get the train back to Liverpool.
Paul Daniels was a magic legend and it was a privilege to be able to meet him.
As I write this, 17 years after receiving it, I still own that magic kit.