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.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Crushing a Woman

This illusion is something that my Dad and Jim Sommers built. I never saw him perform it, or at least I can't remember it. It seems that a Magician named Chang was coming to the U.S. and wanted to lease equipment. He apparently called Ed Smith who believed my Dad had Dante's version of the prop. I guess he did not but was familiar enough with it that he was able to reproduce it along with Jim. Ed Smith provided them with sufficient funds that they in fact were able to make two sets of the illusion. Since Chang did an Oriental Act, they painted it with characters and made the tubing look like bamboo. I spoke with Jim Sommers and he tells me that he found the Japanese characters for the seasons and used them on the prop. The lady who lived next door to us on Hope Street was a Japanese woman and she saw the doors when they were drying and made a comment about how, yes it really was Spring out.

 This was taken at the house we rented in South Pasadena on Hope street. We were only there three or four years and left in early 1963. You can see the five garage structure behind the props, I'm sure that was one of the big attractions. There was a lot of storage space. When we moved to East Los Angeles, my Dad had to rent garages two doors down and a block down from neighbors, to accommodate the props we had no room for in the garage behind our house.

This is a shot of Jim Sommers posing with both props. One of these was leased to Chang and then Ed Smith sold it to another South American Magician, I thought we may have kept the second one but I don't really know. My Dad had an idea for a version of this that used a fish tank instead of two other girls to occupy the crushing boxes. With dramatic lighting and music it would have been spectacular. There were several times he spoke to possible backers of a in residence illusion show and mentioned this as one of the new attractions, but we never built it.

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