Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Paul Daniels RIP

Magicians don't win our hearts- not the way comedians do. Comedians are on our side- most of them- fighting against the powers that be- but magicians set out to shock and fool us- and you don't make friends that way. Magicians cultivate distance. In the past that meant robes or evening dress (the hat from which rabbits were extracted was always the hat of the upper classes- a topper) and  perhaps a foreign name- Chinese or French or Italian. The greatest of them all used a stage name that was an Italianisation of the French name of the greatest magician of the generation before. His real name was Weiss. You all know who I mean.

We love comedians for being like us, for being vulnerable and fallible and put upon. A magician can't afford any of that. The essence of his act is control. Our sympathy is the last thing he needs.

Paul Daniels broke the mould in one way- his name wasn't posh and neither was he- but the distance was still there. His persona was brash and chirpy and didn't invite intimacy; there was a hardness. When Mrs Merton got in her cruel and never to be forgotten dig at Debbie McGee- the second Mrs Daniels- she knew she had the public on her side and would get away with it. Daniels and Debbie were wondered at but never loved. She wouldn't have tried that on with Mrs Eric Morecambe or Mrs Tommy Cooper.

Daniels was the greatest magician of his generation- an illusionist with a conscience who eschewed camera-tricks- a master of close-up presdigitation but also of the big, heart-stopping stunt. He amazed us for a decade and then his star faded and we got our revenge on him by maintaining we'd always thought him a bit naff.  That was very ungracious of us.

No, I didn't love him either. But- put it this way; there were- and are- many comedians I'm fond of whose work I don't always bother to watch (and God save us from the never-ending Morecambe and Wise repeats) but I never if I could help it missed The Paul Daniels Magic Show.
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