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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Zig Zag Girl Early 1970s

I have mentioned this illusion in another post. The original concept came from Robert Harbin the English Magician. A Girl is placed into this cabinet, and then two blades are forced through the cabinet from front to back. The section in the middle is forced to the side and the girl appears to have been dismembered in three sections.

I first saw the illusion performed by Jim Sommers, in a late 1960's convention show in Beverly Hills/Hollywood. As I recall, there was quite a stir because the illusion was not widely available and there were proprietary claims being made by a number of people. The paint job on the Sommers built illusion was white and red. This orange and yellow combination is very indicative of the times that it was built.

One of the novel elements of the trick is that you see the girls face, one foot, and both hands through the whole procedure. It is simple to perform and has a great visual effect for the audience. Again, my Dad added a few improvements, there is a special panel that makes the mid section appear even further over than in the basic design. There were far superior rollers built into the prop he constructed. Also, the whole thing basically collapsed flat for transportation.

He built two or three at least. We kept one to use in our act when we were not doing a sawing in half routine. By the time I was out of High School, I had stopped working in the show on a regular basis. I have no memory of being on stage while the illusion was done by my Dad. I did see him do it a couple of times including a performance at the annual Knott's Berry Farm Halloween Haunt.

If you look closely at the pictures here, you can see subtle differences in the paint job and the frame on the shelf that the girl's middle moves to. This is another one of the props that just looks like a museum quality art piece. I do remember helping with the paint job on one of these, but not much else. My Dad was a stickler about the way the paint needed to look. Lots of layers, very shiny. This last shot is of one of the props in my Dad's library at their apartment.

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