Welcome to the Calvacade of Magic Presented By Kirk Kirkham

My Father was the Magician known professionally as Kirk Kirkham, his real name was Charles and many folks called him Chuck. He lived from 1926 to 2001. He was an active professional performer from the time he was sixteen years old. Magic was the only living he ever had. He toured with the USO after World War II, did the spook show circuit and television extensively in the 1950's, did thousands of club dates, school shows, and more television in the 60's, continued performing in the 70's but also became a well regarded prop maker who produced equipment for other magicians and attractions around the country.

Currently, David Copperfield has the largest private collection of illusions in the world, but prior to his success and collection, my father may very well have been the previous holder of that title. He owned parts of Thurston's Wonder Show of the Universe and Mysteries of India. He acquired much of the core of his collection from Will Rock back in the early 50's but continued to add to it the rest of his life. He knew and worked with Harry Blackstone Sr., Percy Abbot was a mentor to him. Dante was a personal friend, and he owned famous illusions that belonged to all of them.

My goal is to keep his legacy alive here in cyber space, and provide some historical context to the Southern California Magic scene in the 60's and 70's. I have had virtually no contact with the Magic world since my Mother passed away in 1994. My Dad suffered from Alzheimer's in his last years and he could not write the book that he always said he would get to someday. I don't know enough about magic to write competently concerning history, practice and technique. I can however provide an historical context for my Father, a man who knew almost everything about magic during the 20th Century. He had a huge library, subscribed to dozens of magazines, and had met every important magician of the second half of the century. He was consulted by many of the experts that now make up the intelligentsia of the magic community. He was also a mentor to many fine magicians and scholars of magic. I hope to hear from some of those people as a result of this blog.

Welcome to the Magical World of Kirk Kirkham.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Miniature Santa Promotion

The Girl in a Fishbowl was a well known promotional effect which was exploited for a number of years at a San Fransisco bar/nightclub. It is basically an optical illusion based on lens and light refraction. Many of the old concepts in magic were simply advanced use of science principles, put into an entertainment format. With miniature video cameras, TVs and other technology like holographs, these old school tricks would not carry much cachet these days. As you can see from the above flyer, Kirkham used the concept as a promotion at fairs, conventions and other commercial events. In the late 1960's he had an original idea about adapting the effect for a different kind of promotion

He took the concept and used it as a way of presenting Santa Claus at a shopping center. We acquired a small house trailer, I'm sure we must have leased it, and modified it for the effect. Kids could walk into a lobby area, where the elves would lead them up to a small doll house sized version of Santa's workshop at the North Pole. Santa could be viewed working in the house by looking through a four inch window in the front door of the little house. He was moving around and had a big chair to sit in when needed. The kids could pick up a telephone and Santa would answer and talk to them on the phone. He would respond to them and act appropriately, but he appeared to be only eight inches tall.

The design of the small house is really quite cute, but I have been unable to locate a picture at this time. I know that some exist, it is simply a matter of finding it. The effect was offered with the Christmas themed show that we also did using a self contained stage that my Dad built. I will save that material for another post. I think we did the miniature Santa promotion twice. One time it was at the Arcadia shopping center. As you can see here, it was very enthusiastically received.
Like most kids and now most adults, our fondest childhood memories are of the holiday times. I loved working in the shows around Christmas, the music, shopping and excitement in the air is the stuff of my history. I remember the trailer and effect being put together on the driveway of the house in the Mid-Wick tract in Alhambra, and seeing it in use at the shopping center. Here are is a scrapbook page that had some of the promotional material from the shopping center newspaper that was available to guests while doing their holiday shopping.

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