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.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ice Capades 1976-1977

The first production that my Dad did with the Ice Capades was in 1976. I know that was the year because we went back to Battle Creek, Drove through New York, Down to Atlantic City (Where my Dad worked with the Capades on Rehearsals), made a long drive through Philadelphia, down to Williamsburg, back up to D.C. , and then back to Michigan. It was the bicentennial, and everyone seemed to be on the road. Dorthy Hamil had just won her gold metal at the Winter Olympics and she was joining the show about the same time my Dad showed up to start rehearsals.

Several of the props from this production ended up being re-purposed for the show in 1984, and one specific prop ended up in a Rock show that I will write about in another post. This project was worked on at my dad's shop on Walnut in Pasadena. It was basically a four car garage that he rented. I would say we were there from 1972 till about 1983. It was a place where we developed a lot of ideas, built a lot of props and created some good memories.

This is the show that this production style cabinet was originally made. As you can see it had a modern, deco style design. It was open on both side because I believe the skaters may have jumped thru it as part of the act. With both sides open you could clearly see it was empty. When it came back to us in 1984, it still was in good shape. Most of the work we did on it then was cosmetic in nature. This shot was taken on the driveway of the garage shop area.

One prop that did not come back was a cylindrical crystal casket illusion. Actually, it may have come back and then gone out to someone else, because I think I still have the hoop that held the curtain which was raised and lowered to allow the girl to disappear. Again, you can see my Dad's friend Ed Linde in this photo, the other man is Mark Gregory. He was one of those people in our lives, on a nearly daily basis for a period of time. (Others included Kelly Green, Bob Mason, Jim Sommers, Lou Lancaster, and Torchy Towner). He was the bright guy that came up with the plastic mold material that Dad used in making some small magic props. It was heavier than most plastics, it felt like really dense wood, so they dubbed it "pris-teak" or pressed teak. He later moved to Michigan and began restoring, casting and trading in carousel horses.

Another prop that we built that was not used in a later Ice show was the "Spiker". The skater is loaded into a steel frame box, sides are added, and then two sets of five long spikes are inserted into the box from each side. The girls hand is sticking out of a small window in one side of the box, with a bright silk scarf in it. The magician snatches the silk, the sides are quickly taken away and she has vanished. The sides are restored, the spikes removed, the prop is spun, and again the sides come down revealing the girls reappearing and without any holes.

The "Magician" in this show was the previously mentioned David Sadlier. He was an accomplished skater and appeared as a featured performer in the Ice Capades for several years. He was the most "out front" performer doing the magic sequences. I am pretty sure he did the Chinese Magic in the 1984 show as well. He wore a bright white and silver sequined set of tails with an outlandish top hat to identify him as the magician.

My memory is that he has a flash appearance in a "Throne Chair"illusion that we built. He then does much the same dove catching act and production of four skaters that I wrote about in the 1984 show. The crystal casket produces his beautiful skating partner and assistant in the rest of the act.

I do not have as many memories of this project as I did of the other because most of it happened during my first year at USC, and I only helped out occasionally. I do know that I am lucky I am not blind, because one night when we worked past midnight to clear a deadline, I got a sliver of aluminum tailing in my eye while cutting material for the spiker illusion. My Dad was very calm, and he was able to remove it before it did any damage. We stopped working then and went to dinner at the Salt Shaker in Pasadena at 1 or 2 in the morning. We did not tell my Mom about this incident and I never used a power saw again without having goggles on.

When the show came out to the West coast the next spring, we all went to it with my Dad's friend Piet Paulo. His girlfriend/wife at the time was a pretty girl, but she was also an alcoholic and she caused a scene in the stands while the show was on. My parents were embarrassed, I was mortified and my girlfriend, who came with us (she is now my wife of 31 years) didn't know what to think. It was not long after that Piet had a new girlfriend and later wife that we came to know pretty well Her name was Lexie. Anyway, there are a number of shots here that are from that visit to Southern California by the East Company of Ice Capades.

The title of the show that season was "It's Magic Time". It was a very successful collaboration, one that lead to a return opportunity several years later. My Dad must have loved the challenge of putting together a big production like this because it seems we had something similar going every couple of years in the late 60s through the late 80s.

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