UK Cabaret featured the extraordinary life and times of Britain’s king of magic, Paul Daniels.
Paul Daniels died last month, only weeks after the discovery and diagnosis on an inoperable brain tumour. He was 77.
Born Newton Edward Daniels in Redcar Cleveland, Paul was the son of a cinema projectionist and his background was a humble one. After finding an unwanted book of magic in the loft of a school-friend, the early seeds were planted before leaving school, with his first public performance in the hall of a local Methodist chapel. Using magic and comedy as a way of distracting school bullies, Paul began life as a council clerk, after leaving school, before being enlisted for national service.
Returning to civilian life, Paul began performing in the North-east club scene in 1959. Shortly after marrying his first wife Jacqueline, Paul started in a double act called The Eldani’s, with Jacqueline as his assistant. His catchphrase,: ‘You’ll like this…not a lot, but you’ll like it’, was born as a heckler-stopper in the clubs, all of which led to a big break for the act, when Paul and Jacqueline landed a summer season in Newquay, during the 1969 season.
Turning solo and appearing on the TV talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1970 proved a catalyst for future television appearances on the David Nixon television show.
The early 1970’s proved to mark the end of his marriage, but the couple had three sons and Paul’s career moved up to new heights. Meeting former ballet and show dancer Debbie McGee in 1978, Debbie joined the act and the couple were soon to open in the longest running magic show in London West-End history, which ran for almost two years, opening in 1980 at the Prince of Wales theatre.
Paul Daniels also excelled as a quiz show host, the successful quiz vehicles including Wipe-out and Every Second Counts.
The entertainer will forever be remembered for the long-running BBC 1 primetime Paul Daniels magic show, where Paul regularly re-created some of the stunts first performed by Harry Houdini himself. The shows ratings were colossal during the 1980’s, but in later years Paul began to design tricks and special sets for huge shows and West End musicals.
As reality TV shows began to be absorbed and intermingled into the TV slots, I saw Paul Daniels perform at a show in Whitehaven Cumbria, whilst reviewing for The Stage newspaper. The year was 2000 and Big Brother had just launched. Part of the show took the form of a Q and A session. One audience member asked Paul if he had seen Big Brother and what did he think? Paul replied that he thought,: ‘Ho-Hum’ and had no particular view about something so mundane.
This may lead some of us to wonder what an entertainer who, at his peak, had induced over 20 million people to be amazed by him every Saturday evening on the telly, really thought of the talent-less naval gazers in barmy-land.
The life of Paul Daniels was anything but mundane. As an entertainer he was the real-deal. He knew it and so did his audience. Paul Daniels is survived by his wife Debbie McGee and the three sons from his first marriage.