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.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Kirk Kirkham and James Hamilton

Kirk Kirkham and Jim Hamilton circa 1970
Of the many magicians that befriended my Father, James Hamilton was one that I was on the most familiar terms with. He was one of the original Long Beach Mystics, and I knew him when he went by his real name which is Polish or Ukrainian and nearly impossible to say much less spell. Jim worked in many of the big shows we did in the late sixties and seventies, he also helped in the last big shows my Dad did in 1986 at Long Beach and Pasadena.

Some time in 1973, I got to return the favor. Jim was doing a big show and needed an assistant. I was asked to help and was happy to do so. The theme of his act at the time was oriental and we rehearsed several times at the apartment of another Southern California Magician, Bob Wagner. His sister Pat Kass also worked the show with Jim and I. My memory is not as sharp on the performance as it is on the lead up to it, I think the show was at Plumber Park in West Hollywood. I had a great time and it was nice to be able to help Jim out the way he had helped my father so often.

Many years ago Jim relocated to San Francisco, and he has been very active in the Magic business there. He does a parlor show that is a salute to Alexander Hermann. I have only one photo of Jim working on stage, and interestingly enough it was taken by another friend of my Dad's who is a follower on this blog, (Hi Ron, do you remember taking this shot?)

A year after my Mother passed away, my Dad was living with us in a new house in a new town. I don't think he knew most of the time who we all were but he loved playing with the dog and shooting baskets in the backyard with my daughter Amanda who was six at the time. I needed to go up to San Fransisco to help a friend of mine and Jim offered to have my Dad stay with him for a day or two while I was there. Dad seemed to remember Jim and enjoyed their visit together. I think they even went to the movies and saw "Dumb and Dumber".

I haven't talked to Jim since then, but he very kindly shared some memories in the article that appears in the current "Magic" Magazine. He said some wonderful things about Dad and he was right in saying that my Dad knew everything about any prop. Somewhere I have a great shot of Jim on stage with my Dad, acting as waiter for a little decanter trick that he would do in front of the curtain while the next illusion scene was being set up. I will add it to this post when I locate it.

Of course I am trying to focus on magic themed posts here but I remember Jim best as a guest at my parents home. He was there for many holiday dinners and Sunday afternoon visits. He was one of the few magicians that my wife got to meet when we were over at my folks place. Sitting next to Jim at the dining room table in my parent's apartment is one of her fond memories of my parents. I know she shared some jokes with him about the Kirkham family dynamics in the kitchen. I don't remember if he was there when my Mom tried oyster dressing for Thanksgiving, but she does mention occasionally how she and Jim laughed together when Mom and Dad were struggling with a Prime Rib which had not had the bones broken and cut. Our meal almost ended up on the floor and they were both cracking up.  I'd like to thank Jim for his friendship with my Dad over many years.

This last photo also features film producer Bill Self, a friend of my Dad's friend Ron Pascu. Ron informs me that he recently passed away. They all looked like they were enjoying themselves don't they?

1 comment:

  1. Last foto is Ormond McGill, a good friend of mine as was your Father, with James again who sadly has passed on.
    My stage name was William Wizard, did meet Phyllis and was at your apartment a few times. Greatly respected Kirk's magic knowledge. Kirk was famous for totally impromptu effects one in which he apparently made a semi truck vanish...Remember some hand-made vanishing candles?