Sorry, I used up my 1000 words in my previous review, but something (entirely narcissistic of course) made me wonder if this anecdote might add something to the mix.
Being the trainee in the London BBC studios as I was in 1980 meant that one of my jobs was to lug (and those EMI 2001's, plonked on Vinton HP pedestals were big, heavy, mothers) all of the cameras from wherever the camera crew had locked them off, to the line up area. This was a grey-scale chart (Royle's 57?) which we used to tweak the cameras so that they all matched.
The job had a couple of bonuses. The first was I got to drive the cranes as there was always at least one on the PDMS, and they had to be manoeuvred over to the line-up chart as well. The second was the time I managed to spend in the company of the improbably named 'Ali Bongo' He is not credited for this on the IMDb, but Bongo devised most of these tricks, and was always there in the background. During the line-up period (which lasted about an hour before the audience were admitted) he was running through the gags to make sure they were set up and working.
William Wallace, as he was born, was a magician in his own right: usually appearing on stage dressed in costume reminiscent of Ali Baba (hence his stage name), but while working with Daniels he wore more conventional garb. It was one of the few occasions when I didn't have to be asked or forced to move the cameras, as I would be there as soon as I saw him. Here's a couple of tricks he showed me. I should confess that Wallace/Bongo remains Vice Chair of the Magic Circle to this day and is opposed to revealing such secrets. But as these are nearly 25 years old and not performed anymore, I hope he'll forgive me.
From a props table Daniels would retrieve a fishing rod, and wave it in front of the audience. At the end of the quite short line would be a potato chip fixed on the hook, because as Daniels would explain, fish and chips go together. At that he would flick the rod, rather like cracking a whip and there would appear a goldfish wriggling madly on the end of the chip. He would quickly run his hand to the end of the line take the fish and pop it into a waiting fish tank where it would swim perfectly happily while the audience applauded. To show it was no fluke he'd repeat the trick three or four times. The trick?
The 'chip' was plastic and hollow. Hidden inside was a deflated orange balloon (attached to the line rather than the chip) which the flick would dislodge leaving it flapping realistically outside. Daniels would then hold the chip, pull gently on the line which would draw the 'fish' back into its hiding place and then walk to the tank. The tank was a metal framed affair and cleverly concealed along the inside top edge was a shallow gutter where a few goldfish would be gasping and wriggling, hidden from all eyes. Daniels would simply flick one into the water giving the impression that he'd dropped it from his hand and repeat the whole thing again. Applause!
The next was even more audacious and required a member of the audience. Daniels would manoeuvre him towards the 'Jury' and ask to borrow his jacket. Although the Jury were supposed always to be behind Daniels, this gag required him to move back towards where a low wall separated them from the band section behind so that all prying eyes were now in front of him.
Daniels would swirl the jacket around and then carrying it only by the collar would walk a few paces forward, lower the jacket to the floor and then whip it up to reveal six or so fish bowls, full of water - and fish, stacked one on top of the other. The audience would go mad while he handed the jacket back with a flourish. The trick?
Hidden behind the wall from both audience and jury (but of course in full view of the band who were in on it) was the stack of bowls, all neatly trussed up in a lightweight harness. Once the completely innocent stooge had arrived on stage, Daniels would take his jacket, and naturally the guy followed him wherever he went. Daniels, cracking jokes as he went, would move back towards the hiding place, and swing the jacket around and about, including around behind the wall, and collect the fish bowls behind the jacket as he did so. He would then pull a pin on the harness which released the straps which he could then gather one-handed up into his sleeve while the audience were gasping with delight at the fish bowls which had seemingly appeared in front of them. Given that he was inches from the stooge, merely feet from the Jury, this one impressed me more than the others, because of its audacity.
I think that was the beauty of Daniels. Like all magicians he relied on technology, vast numbers of assistants and co-conspirators, but behind all of that was a confidence bordering on arrogance and talent to pull off some great tricks which nobody had at the time, and few can match now.
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