There’s this photo that’s been doing the rounds in media circles for years now. It’s a photo of Debbie McGee, relatively attractive young wife of conjuring abomination Paul Daniels. Specifially, it’s a photograph – a Polaroid photograph – of McGee engaging in a certain explicit sex act. But, hey – don’t you worry none about old man Daniels. He recently addressed the matter of the photograph, and reveals in his new autobiography (in which he also claims to have slept with around 300 women – maybe he really does have magic powers…) that the Polaroid was a “fake”, mocked up by a “friend” of his on a “computer”. But of course! And disgraced Labour MP Ron Davis really was “going to dinner” with that “guy” he met in the “park”!

Aside from involving conjuring abomination Paul Daniels, and his relatively attractive young wife (and, indeed, former glamorous assistant) Debbie McGee, this tale of alleged computer trickery has little to do with “real” magic. However, it does underline the technological progress that has rendered Daniels and his like all but obsolete. His primetime BBC1 show was axed years ago, leaving him to eke out a living doing summer seasons at Blackpool. Simply put, Daniels’ brand of magic was no longer relevant to television audiences. Who wants to see another variation on the girl getting cut in half thing, when Jurassic Park has computer generated dinosaurs eating people? As that faked Polaroid proves, the real magic of the modern age is computer technology. And the astonishing amount of free porn there is available over the Internet.

Another part of the problem is that everyone knows how the tricks are done these days. Audiences aren’t as naïve as they once were. Penn And Teller, and assorted other magic-blowers (not to be confused with Debbie McGee – another sort of “blower” altogether) have revealed the secrets behind history’s greatest illusions, and most of the time they turned out to be far less clever than people assumed. Indeed, during David Copperfield’s (most famous illusion; making the Statue Of Liberty “vanish” – at night, naturally) much-publicised early 90s world tour, the posters teased audiences with promises that the crow-like magician would really “fly” around the theatre. Audiences were left feeling cheated when Copperfield took to the air on barely-disguised wires. You see, people have got wise to the tricks. Modern audiences are looking for wires, and most of the time they’re finding them.

The girl being cut in half? She just hides in that curiously over-sized compartment at the bottom of the box. The girl who disappears from one box, only to appear in another? There are two identically-dressed girls. Even contemporary illusionists, like America’s well-respected “street magician” David Blane, have been the victim of trick-busting. Blane’s infamous levitating routine, which so teased viewers of his TV special, has been revealed to be no more clever than standing on tip-toe with one foot, while the other foot was raised a few inches off the ground.

You have to speculate why anyone would want to become a stage magician anyway. Is it to bed 300 women in spite of your hideous appearance? Is it to cover up an otherwise deficient personality? One need only bear witness to the Masonic levels of secrecy that surrounds The Magic Circle to realise that these people are a bit “off”. Indeed, we went to school with one pale loner, and Magic Circle member, who’d wander the school corridors in silence until beckoned across by thugs, and threatened with a beating lest he sate their irrational rages with an impromptu conjuring trick. You know; like a fashionably-dressed time traveller might be elevated to god-hood by a tribe of cavemen impressed by his Nike training pumps. 

Magic is unlikely ever to make a prime-time resurgence on TV. Magicians will still be in demand on the live circuit, where can be satisfied that they’re not being fooled by the usual camera tricks, but these days it’ll take more than pulling doves out of your arse to convince people to give magic a chance. Also, there’s probably a place for children’s entertainers still. Kids never get bored of that thing where they put a spotted hanky inside a bag, and then turn the bag inside out, and the hanky is gone, but the spots are now on the lining of the bag, or the trick where you get a rabbit, and wrap the rabbit’s head in a hanky, and then squash it under your foot until the rabbit bursts. Oh. Oh wait a second… that’s just something we do to impress country girls.

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1.   Where was famous illusionist Houdini born?

2.  Houdini was the first person to do what?

3.  Paul Daniels’ catchphrase is what?

4. Paul Daniels used to where what on his head?

5. David Copperfield is what?


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