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Interviews - Paul Daniels

Laura: Mr. Paul Daniels, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for ‘Top Hat’. Our members really like to see interviews with some of the big names out there, and as big names go, they don’t get much bigger than yours.

Laura: With your recent tour of ‘An evening with Paul Daniels’ and you lecture tour ‘Paul Daniels Master Class’ you have been very busy lately. It was widely reported that you became ill and was taken to hospital at the end of March. I hope that you are now feeling 100% again. How hard is it on you and your health to keep on doing so much work year in and year out?
Paul Daniels: I have worked flat out for the last 35 years and I prefer to do that. People who don’t work get sick too! I caught a serious virus that could have come from anywhere and hit on anyone. In January I was in polluted water up to my armpits; in February I was in the rain forests in Australia; I came back via Singapore so they were worried about SARS and in March I was in Birmingham. My money is on Birmingham.

Laura: Did you enjoy your lecture tour? And how do you think it went? Several of our members attended one of the days and gave it very favourable reviews on the forum.
Paul Daniels: I enjoy doing something that is new and this was so well organised for me by Andrew Lock that it could not be anything other than enjoyable. What surprised me was to see so many working pros taking notes, both here and in America. The only ‘criticism’ I got was from someone complaining about the price of coffee in the hotel, over which I have no control, and I also pondered upon where he had been for the last ten years. All hotels charge a lot for coffee. There were one or two who thought the stuff would only work if you were famous, but that simply isn’t true. What has been great was to get emails from magicians who have gone out and applied the stuff and got work and publicity.

Laura: I have recently started getting the convention bug and attended my first Blackpool convention earlier in the year. The Blackpool convention attracts a lot of big names in magic, both as a convention lecturer and as attendees. Have you ever been as either, and if so, did you enjoy it?
Paul Daniels: UK conventions were ruined for me by bitchiness and jealousy, which is a real shame because that was where I met so many of my friends. Now I only go to foreign conventions where, to be honest, I am greeted with respect and civility AND I have tons of ‘foreign’ magician friends.

Laura: You have won many awards during your career as a magician, perhaps most notably the ‘Magician of the year Award’ presented by Hollywood’s Academy of Magical Arts in 1983. How did it feel to be the first magician outside of the USA to have won this?
Paul Daniels: All awards and recognition, here and abroad, are to be cherished as recognition by your peers of what you have done in and out of magic.

Laura: What do you feel is your biggest magical achievement?
Paul Daniels: Staying on top for so long!

Laura: Do you still have any magical ambitions, or have you got to the point now where you have done everything you want to do magic wise?
Paul Daniels: I don’t particularly have any magical ambitions, but then, I never did. I just enjoyed the game.

Laura: Everybody has a particular favourite effect that you perform, for me your chop cup routine is absolutely superb. How long did it take you to master that?
Paul Daniels: 20 months.

Laura: What do you feel was your big break into the magic world?
Paul Daniels: I never wanted to ‘break into the magic world’; I wanted to break into the world of entertainment for the public. I know you can make a living entertaining other magicians and that is a different skill to the one that I have.

Laura: What has been, out of all the big illusions you have performed, you favourite to present?
Paul Daniels: I get asked this about tricks of all sizes and I don’t have a favourite anything. I just enjoy all the stuff that I do, have done and am going to do, whilst I am doing it.

Laura: Out of all the magical effects you have seen performed, what has been the one that sticks in your mind the most, and why?
Paul Daniels: Blimey. I have one of those brains that remembers every performance in great detail and can recite even the moves that the performers made. Here I am talking about full time professional performances, not convention competitions.

Laura: How do you feel the general public views your public persona?
Paul Daniels: Some like me. Some don’t. That applies to everyone. I think more like me than don’t, from the reaction I get when I ‘appear’ in public. I hope so.

Laura: What do you think are the defining qualities of a magician?
Paul Daniels: I suppose you mean a good one. That is a person who knows EXACTLY what they are doing and are going to do. They know ALL about the effects they are performing and WHY they are performing them. They know about stagecraft and acting and must be likeable.

Laura: What is the best thing about being a magician?
Paul Daniels: You can work anywhere anytime and always make a living.

Laura: There has been a lot of debate on the Magic Bunny forum about what to call the things that magicians do. Are they tricks or effects?
Paul Daniels: Who cares?

Laura: With the advance of the Internet and with programs such as ‘Secrets of magic revealed’, how do you feel about magic exposure shows and sites? And how do you feel the magic fraternity, as a whole should deal with it?
Paul Daniels: I am not being rude when I say at your level, ignore it. By all means join WAM and let the big boys do the fighting for you.

Laura: Now you have been in the magic business for a long time, what is it you are still getting out of doing it?
Paul Daniels: I like it. Is that too simple? There are other things that I think now that I am moving towards, but I will always enjoy creating the magic of amazement on someone’s face.

Laura: What is the most difficult slight you have mastered?
Paul Daniels: All sleights are difficult when you start, and easy when you have practised. I do hope that you truly, deeply, slowly, analyse EVERY sleight as to why it exists, where to do it, and WHEN.

Laura: Is there any effect that you have not been able to master?
Paul Daniels: Nope.

Laura: Where does the inspiration for you big illusions come from?
Paul Daniels: The more you read about illusions and their designs, the more your brain starts to look at stuff and think up new ones.

Laura: We saw you last year doing short interviews for ‘Lads Army’ talking about your days during national service. Did you enjoy you national service? I know you spent a lot of time in the evenings showing your magic to the American service men stationed with you, do you think this helped you with your patter and presentation?
Paul Daniels: Oddly, because some resented going away for two years, I finished up loving it. I have never been so fit and this showed me what I was capable of doing. As for helping me with patter and presentation, I don’t think it had any more influence than any other part of my career. I am still working on patter and presentation.

Laura: Where does the catch phrase ‘You’ll like this, not a lot’ come from?
Paul Daniels: A heckler shouted out ‘I don’t like your suit’ and I bounced back with ‘That’s a shame, ‘cos I like yours, not a lot, but I like it’ and the audience laughed. I kept it in the act and it even went into the Oxford Dictionary of Slang and Popular Language.

Laura: When I was younger I seem to recall a children’s T.V. show called ‘Wizbit’. I have to confess; the only thing I can remember about it was that he was a yellow cone who was three feet tall, about the size of 3 cornflake packets! Where on earth did you come up with that idea? And did you have fun making it?

Paul Daniels: It was the brainchild of Barry Murray and I get about 10 emails a week about Wizbit. I thought it was great.
Laura: What’s your best line for hecklers?

Paul Daniels: That is too simple a question. I don’t get many hecklers now but answering them is an art form in itself. I used to sit down, imagine someone shouting at me, and then I would write/create ‘stoppers’. Find some old Robert Orben books and read them to give you inspiration.

Laura: And finally, what is the most valuable bit of advice you have received during your career as a magician?
Paul Daniels: From Ken Brooke when I didn’t win a magic competition at a convention: ‘Don’t change son. You’ve got it right for the public, and the silly buggers don’t know.’

Laura: Thank you once again for taking the time to answer these questions. I know our members will enjoy reading the answers.

By Lady Laura




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