I was deeply saddened today to hear of the death of magician Paul Daniels.
Paul was nothing short of a legend, in the truest purest sense of the word and without question one of the greatest magicians of all time. He inspired an entire generation of magicians including myself, who was immediately intrigued by magic when I saw him on television as a young boy.
After The Paul Daniels Magic Show was abruptly axed by the BBC in 1994, it became unfashionable to be a Paul Daniels fan because of his so-called cheesy and dated image. But fashion is fickle while Paul’s magic and performance style were masterful and timeless. His record breaking career has informed almost every working magician in the UK today.
Even his fame was enduring. During last year’s tour, when I spoke to older audiences, even twenty years after going off the air, Paul Daniels was still the first magician that came to mind for most.
I met Paul at one of his shows in Hoxton, South London, only four months before news of his illness hit the Internet one otherwise unremarkable Saturday morning in mid February.
As we entered the theatre, an unassuming old man a little shorter than me, was wandering around humming and periodically throwing an orange in the air. It was Paul, who hadn’t aged a day since I last saw him on television some years earlier.
While showing a touch of frailty, Paul still had all his faculties and was still performing. I was shocked to discover a few days later that he was 77. You would never have known it.
Paul’s approach to professionalism was unparalleled. While he called himself a ‘silly conjuror’ rather than a serious magician, behind all the jokes and laughter was a man who took his act extremely seriously. It had been considered and honed over years – exactly as magic should be.
Paul did what all great entertainers do – in the words of Judy Dench, “Take the job seriously but not yourself.”
Despite his rock star status, he was a very down to Earth guy, easy to talk to, and gave advice openly and with Northern bluntness. He encouraged me. He gave me advice about performing magic on television and about being a professional magician, which I was honoured to receive and will always be thankful for.
When I heard news of his diagnosis, it blind sided me. I thought back to when we had met only four months earlier. It occurred to me that it was likely that he already had the tumour. Not a pleasant thought.
Death comes to us all. It is one of the few inevitabilities of life. Paul’s death has reminded me that life is precious and it’s important that we do, as Paul did, the things we want in life. Paul had said that since he was eleven years old the only thing he had ever wanted to be was a professional magician.
While originally training as an accountant before working in his family’s grocery shop and later setting up a shop of his own, Paul eventually got his wish and leaves behind him an enviable legacy that has genuinely affected the entire world.
How many of us can say that?