My earliest remembrances of magicians was when I was 4 years old; every week I’d excitedly look forward to matching “The Magic Land of Alakazam” featuring Mark Wilson, and his lovely wife/assistant, Nani Darnell. My gaze fixated in front of our television in the apartment which was our home in the Cote-des-Neiges area of Montreal, Canada, I’d marvel at the wonders before my eyes: a rabbit appearing out of nowhere; a magic wand seeming to contain the arcane “power” to make people appear and disappear; jumbo, glittery props being wheeled on and off, but most importantly, the welcoming, reassuring, and comforting voice of this “miracle-maker”, this handsomely-dressed gentleman in a tux and cape, who led us weekly on journeys of wonder and excitement. Playing cards were expertly, smoothly and artistically manipulated, as well, by Mark Wilson. Oh, how I longed to be this nice, amazing person!
A few years later, imagine my anticipation and delight: yet another magician was soon to appear regularly on our television, through the brand-new Montreal channel, “CFCF“:Magic Tom Auburn and his “Surprise Party” show! Magic Tom’s show ran for more than twenty years on our local channels, both in English and in French; I recall he had a second TV-show, a variety-showcase for younger talent, on Saturdays as well! It was from Tom Auburn that I, as well as many other aspiring young Montreal magicians began to call themselves “Magic Mark”, or “Magic Richard”; I, of course, eventually called myself “Magic Mike” many years later after relocating to central Canada.
It seems that my formative years were always filled with the wonder of magicians on television: Paul Daniels from England, “The Amazing Kreskin“, “Fantasio” and his candelabras and candles, Richard Ross and his mystifying linking and un-linking jumbo silver hoops, only a few of many magicians who appeared (and disappeared?) on Ed Sullivan’s Sunday evening variety TV-show, Johnny Carson (himself an amateur magician) who had many magicians on his show, Dick Van Dyke, was yet another television/movie entertainer who started his professional career doing magic! Of course, later on in the ’80’s and ’90’s, there was Doug Henning, a Winnipeg-born magician with his television specials and Broadway extravaganzas, as well as David Copperfield’s regular magic-themed TV specials. Even magician Harry Anderson had a successful TV foray called “Night Court”, a showcase for Anderson’s tricks and gags! The 1980’s and ’90’s were ripe with magic-themed specials on TV, including “The World’s Greatest Magic“. But I digressed slightly from my childhood. There were the TV-commercials for “Pinky Stamps” (a Montreal anomaly in the ’50’s and ’60’s) featuring local magician Henry Gordon, who also had a counter in his novelty-store devoted to magic; it was from Mr. Gordon that my dad bought me, at age 14, my very first magic-tricks. I remember Henry Gordon saying to my dad, “He’ll be in magic for the rest of his life!” Little did I realize how true that statement would turn out to be. Of course, Montreal was a hot-bed of novelty/magic-stores in the 60’s, ’70’s, and ’80’s, including the world-renowned “Perfect Magic“, owned by Phil and Evelyn Matlin, and Herb Morissey’s “Morissey Magic“, which along with “Henry Gordon’s Party Centre”, are both now defunct. The shops themselves will be the subject of a future article, let alone the world-famous professional magicians that were spawned from them.
Indeed, growing up in Montreal contributed to my experiencing a most wonderful, inspiring, and magical childhood.