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, December 4, 2011

Charles and Phyllis as they Started Out

My parents came out to California from their hometown of Battle Creek Michigan. Those of you old enough will recognize right away that Battle Creek is the home of Kellog's Cereal. My Grandfather (my Mother's Father) was one of the head maintenance/equipment engineers at the factory there. They had performed together since they were high school sweethearts. My father spent two years in the Army during World War Two. He was a paratrooper deployed in the Philippines. During the occupation of Japan, he was in Special Services and performed for the occupying forces. He was perhaps the first American Magician to perform in Japan after the war.

When he returned stateside, he spent several months working in the Harry Blackstone show touring the country. My parents married in July of 1947, and my mother was part of the act permanently. They had these shots taken not long after they got to Southern California, maybe 1949 or 1950. She was the floating lady, the divided lady and a general all around box jumper for most of their career. I'm sure they would have been happy had I been born a girl, my Father's onstage work could have continued longer if we'd had a female assistant at the ready. When my mom got older, it was a little difficult for her to jump out of the substitution trunk every night. By her early fifties she was semi-retired to the role of prop delivery and side kick. When she died in 1994, they had been married 47 years. As you can see, they were an amazing looking couple.

I just watched White Christmas on TV and was reminded of all the glamorous nightclubs that once ruled the entertainment world. The way my folks are dressed in these shots shows how much a part of that post war environment really did exist. Performers dressed in fabulous clothes and worked in some pretty great places as well as some dumps. They always classed up whatever joint they performed in.

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