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.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Topsy Turvy Illusion

The English magician, Robert Harbin, produced some great effects and published them in a book that he put out around 1970. The book originally sold for around a hundred dollars which was pretty steep for the times. It was supposed to be a limited edition, maybe just a couple hundred sold in the U.S.. There was some controversy at the time because magicians in the U.S. started producing the props that Harbin provided plans for. I don't know if the buyers were supposed to agree not to do so, or if there was some other embargo in place. I do remember that Jim Sommers, a friend of my Dad, presented the Zig Zag Girl out here on the West Coast long before every other magician in the 1970s was using the effect as a substitute for sawing a woman in half.

One of the other illusions in the book was Topsy Turvey. A girl goes in to a narrow box that pivots on a podium from side to side, she can be right side up and then flipped over to be upside down.

The Magician turns the girl upside down, shows her to the audience, and closes the panel. Then with a clap of the hands and by changing the indicator arrow on the fron of the pedestal she reverses positions instantly.

As I mentioned in another post, it would have extended my Dad's stage career considerably if I had been a girl, or if I could stay 13 or fourteen for an extra few years. I am posing here because I was available everyday while he was building this prop. I am pretty sure that this was another illusion he made for Tihany. We never did it on stage. In the early eighties, we did perform the Zig Zag on stage for certain shows.

My Dad frequently added improvements to blueprint plans that he would start with. Most of the time, he figured out proportions and angles that would be much more convincing and dramatic looking, than what was originally called for. Clients often had color schemes they wanted and the customer is always right, but here are some details on this that made the prop look better: he used some sparkling gold material that was very popular at the time for all the arrows, instead of simple paint; the panels are framed with red pin stripes to add color and contrast; the pedestal is not framed, to make it look narrower than it would have appeared as well; there was a set of rollers that covered part of the gimmick, which were far superior to the elastic that was called for in the original plans.

Most of the props my Dad made, could be displayed like fine furniture, but they were also sturdy and practical working props.

No comments:

Post a Comment