20 Questions with Paul Daniels



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Posted Sept. 29, 2002

Paul Daniels is a true "Superstar" in the world of magic. Think Johnny Carson in the States...everyone knows who he is, and the mere mention of his name brings a smile to everyone's face. Paul Daniels is one of the most recognized personalities in the UK, and most of Europe. His television shows were always among the most popular shows on television. He has since "retired", that is, he performs on stage with his unique and enjoyable one man show. To watch him work a crowd is to watch pure perfection in every sense. His timing is flawless, his personality is instantly lovable, and his magic is the icing on the cake. He has had an amazing career in magic, and it still continues, although not at the same frenetic pace as when he was appearing on television every week. Now, he likes to spend a lot of time with Debbie,travelling and enjoying the finer things in life, like his recently purchased boat and the comforts of his beautiful home.

We are honored to have Paul as a member of our esteemed Panel of Magic Advisors as well. He was one of the first people to accept our invitation. That's the kind of man he is. He is generous with his time and his knowledge, and together with his wife, Debbie, they are truly one of the most respected couples in the world of magic.

I asked Paul if he wouldn't mind answering some questions for us. Here's the results:

1. How do you think your latest TV show turned out?
'Latest' TV shows nowadays means guesting on shows that I cannot help but feel are being made with the lowest budgets and with no 'feeling' for entertainment. The current programme makers are being taught by people who have never actually made shows and work on theory, not practice.

2. What is the toughest part about being Paul Daniels?
I enjoy life so I can't think of a tough part. It just seems to be great.

3. What's the best part about being Paul Daniels?
I get paid for playing with my toys.

4. For those who may not have read your book, how and where did you meet Debbie?
Debbie auditioned as a dancer for my live show, got the job and we got along. It was a long time before we got it together on a permanent basis, but we dated a lot.

5. What is something that the public does not know about you?
If I told you, then they would know!

6. Would you like to bring your very successful one-man show to America?
Very much. I love performing for audiences that don't know me AND I love America. That sounds like every performer that comes over here and says they love England, but in my case it is true. Occasionally I get to work on a cruise ship for Americans and they love mys show, so maybe that is why I love America!!!!

7. Talk about magicians as trickaholics as opposed to entertainers.
'Magicians' have to remember, simply HAVE to remember, that the world of magic has SO many different faces and levels. There is nothing wrong with any of them provided you are aware of which one you fit into and don't knock the ones higher up as if you were the be all and end all. We all start off with the magic book or magic set and at that stage we are the absolute beginners, loving and playing at magic stuff. Later most of us join a magic club and even get to go to conventions. The VAST majority of magicians NEVER go beyond this, rarely hone our magical skills in a group of tricks that we perform and perform and perform.

Most members of magic clubs seem to need a 'fix' of new material all the time, need the latest, need the trick they see at a convention that they can't figure out, need, need, need................and these are the trickaholics that keep the dealers in business. Then some of them become performers on the convention circuit and most of them become what a friend of mine calls Magic Magazine Heroes. They couldn't earn a living outside magic, and those that do will never become stars, EXCEPT IN THE EYES OF THE TRICKAHOLICS. Precious few become Stars, recognised by the public in general, and generally criticised by the trickaholics. That's sad.

Gil Leaney, a great prop maker, once said to me, 'You know Paul, there is a big difference between the amateur and the professional, but it is nothing like the gap between the professional and the big guys, and them down there will never see it.'

8. How has your life changed since Sept 11th?
Not at all. I did not stop flying. I worked shows in the Middle East two weeks later. What we all must remember is that the vast majority of all creeds and colours do not want trouble, do not want war. We do have a FEW, very FEW, idiots out there in EVERY country (and yes, sadly, this also includes the UK and the USA) who for some distorted reason want to kill other humans and they will find followers and create disaster, trouble and death. That does not mean that we should react in the same way. I am sure that the use of reason, in the form of finding out why they are so disturbed, the use of propoganda and publicity in print and the internet, and the non providing of arms to any faction, is a far better method of dealing with these problems.

9. You were just at the SAM Convention in New York City. Two part question: (a) How would you evaluate the quality of the talent in the shows? (b) Your favorite part of the convention?
I did go to SAM. I rarely go to the shows and never go to the competitions. (An aside here: So many competition acts copy a well known magician's style and, sometimes, tricks. Wouldn't it be great if, when they first started this, in their magic clubs, the magic club's committee warned that they would be kicked out if they continued along that path?) I go to conventions to wander around the dealers, and, mostly, to meet friends and we sit and talk about life, the family, the kids and all the stuff that really matters.

That having been said, there was a big lesson to be learned on the last Gala show. It was full of really good acts, really good, and then a man walked on who had been a full time working pro all his life AND IT SHOWED. He started small, did a trick that most magicians would not bother with any more but he timed it well, then he went into a routine that is absolutely honed to perfection and yet still injected apparent ad-libs and tore the place apart. Then on came a colourful, but average, quick change costume act that pranced about a lot. Why don't magicians who want to do this stuff take REAL dancing lessons, get a REAL professional director to advise them? I am sure he would tell them not to do it. The lesson? NEVER follow Jay Marshall.

10. What is your feeling about contests?
Contests are fine, but all my life I have been convinced that they should never be judged by other magicians, but rather by members of the public. Firstly, who decides that the judges are good enough to judge? Secondly, who do the acts WANT to entertain? Perhaps there should be two competitions held at the same time and two awards given, one for 'The Best Entertainer for Magicians' and one for 'The Best Entertainer'. I know, I know.......'Ah, but what about MAGICAL skills?' .......... Who CARES?

11. If you did not become a world famous magician, what other profession would you be in?
I started out as a Local Government Officer in the Treasurer's Department - are you asleep yet?

12. What was the hardest part of doing your television shows?
It didn't seem like it was hard at the time. It wasn't until the BBC changed its policy and I was told that they didn't want any more that my body breathed a HUGE sigh of relief and I realised that it HAD been hard work.

13. Is there anything that you have not done, that you wish you had?
I would like to have acted in a movie. I would still like to act in a movie. I love movies.

14. What would be one piece of advice to someone who is considering a career in magic?
Look at other star acts, non magical, and figure out why they are stars. Then treat this world of SHOW business..............as a BUSINESS.

15. Would you care to recall the worst magic performance you ever witnessed?
Too many to list here, mostly seen at conventions and in competitions, but hey, that is where you learn what NOT to do.

16. Tell us about the magic organization that tried to expel you for "exposure".
The story is too long, but basically a man called Derek Lever tried to get me kicked out of the IBM for 'exposing' magic secrets by selling tricks "to non magicians'. I was sitting at the back of the theatre where this AGM was being held and they did not know I was there. I stood up and pointed out that we all started with such magic sets, and as the vast majority of the IBM membership were non magicians anyway, making their living by being carpenters, plumbers, accountants, solicitors and so on, every dealer in the world was doing what Derek Lever was accusing me of. The motion was voted out.

17. I was with Seabrooke at his club in Bushy in April, and one day he was not wearing his water rat pin, what's the penalty?
The Grand Order of Water Rats is an brotherhood of men who for over 100 years have raised funds for, and looked after, those in need. It is entirely formed of men of good standing in the world of show business. We fine each other, to raise funds, for all sorts of things and the non wearing of an emblem is one of them. The 'donation' is up to the individual Rat.

18. I would love to be a water rat. Is it just open to Brits or does an Italian Jew from America have a chance?
It isn't easy to get in, I can tell you. But Howard Keel is a Rat, Bob Hope is a Rat, Laurel and Hardy were Rats, so other countries do have a chance.

19. Can I have that tie you wore to FISM in Lisbon?
I have over 500 ties. Which one was it?

20. Not to sound like Barbara Walters here, but how does Paul Daniels want to be remembered?
As the world's longest living individual.

Superstar Paul Daniels is finally unloading some of his treasures from his long and illustrious career. He has accumulated a massive collection of props, books, posters, and memorabilia, much of which he says he no longer needs and doesn't want to store. I suspect Debbie would also like to see the pile become smaller! In any event, you can view this once in a lifetime collection of magic treasures by clicking here.

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