Paul Daniels: Sadly Disappears
Paul Daniels was without doubt one of the most accomplished magicians in the world, and certainly one of the most exciting. Add to that a unique comedy patter and you had the complete entertainment performer.
He was a controversial person but deeply respected and admired by fellow magicians. Daniels had worked very hard as an artiste to perfect his craft and was proud of the results. Not a lot. He once told me it took him around ‘300 performances to perfect’ his famous Chop cup routine (as above). Even after his notoriety he was an ever present at worldwide magic conventions, talking to everyone, with a voice often to be heard across an adjacent hall off a joining room.
It was his long running BBC ‘Paul Daniels Magic show’ series (1979 – 1994) the public best knew him for and the hosting of games shows such as ‘Odd One Out’ (1982 – 85), ‘Every Second Counts’ (1986 – 93) and ‘Wipeout’ (1994 – 97) alongside top guest show spots and starring in summer season. Being among the audience at a performance of his own stage West End show, It’s Magic, at the Prince of Wales Theatre, (December 1980 until February 1982) was impressive. At that time, the show was one of the longest-running magic shows ever staged in London. By this point he was already working with his future wife, Debbie McGee, whose role as his assistant would become a major feature of his act. She had first worked with him on his summer season show in Great Yarmouth in 1979 and was once asked by Mrs Merton (1995 Caroline Aherne) ‘What attracted you to the multi-millionaire Paul Daniels’? This sort of banter was taken well by the couple. Their close relationship and Daniels often over bearing personality was highlighted on the fly on the wall documentary ‘When Louis met ..’ (BBC 2001 – Louis Theroux).
Daniels was essentially a shy man. A little schoolboy who found magic could bring him attention. Motivated to become even better in adulthood, he did away with his mobile grocery business and turned pro, after an impressive performance on the TV programme ‘Opportunity Knocks’ (1970), coming second. To make up for his shyness and with growing success, he often would over talk, became self-important and at worst a major irritant to those around him. His outspoken comments on a range of subjects such as politics, political correctness, current affairs, magic, entertainment, fellow celebrities and the BBC while working for them, did not always endure him to his peers. At TV centre in the early nineties, I was discussing a show format with a high ranking Producer, reading my suggestions for host, Daniels being one, he remarked sharply ‘take his name off .. he won’t be here after his contract runs out’. Three years later he wasn’t.
Paul Daniels must be remembered as a talented and extra ordinary magician that could hold his own with the international best, subsequently one of the best magic acts this country has produced. Rest in peace.
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.