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, April 21, 2012

Orson Wells and Kirkham Magic

In response to the last post, featuring what turns out to be the Nicola Throne Chair, as once owned by Blackstone Sr. and Kirk Kirkham, I received an e-mail note that one of the readers seems to recall seeing this illusion performed by Orson Wells on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, sometime in the early 1980s. I went in search of a video for such a performance and came up empty handed. If Wells did present it, there is a good chance he rented it from my Dad, I don't think Wells kept a collection of large illusions.I was reminded however that we had a couple of contacts with the Great Orson Wells during his lifetime.

At the time that was mentioned in the email, I remember my Dad digging out some props that Mr. Wells was interested in using. One was a large wooden barrel that had some kind of gimmick to it that I was not familiar with. The barrel had warped in storage, and my Dad put it in the swimming pool at the apartment building to try to get in back in shape. I don't think it worked, and the attempt to get a large water soaked oak barrel out of the pool was something for a Laurel and Hardy movie. I remember that Wells came to the apartment but I don't think he even got out of the car. He and my dad had their meeting in the parking area in front of the building.

My Father had history with Orson Wells and that was probably one of the reasons we were contacted. Back in 1956 or 57, Wells did a Magic act at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. My Father was the technical adviser, which meant he supplied a lot of the props, played the role of assistant and did general show work for the run of the performance. I don't think that they worked more than a few weeks in the nascent gambling mecca. I do know that my Mom was with them because of the following physical evidence.

I originally saw this picture in Magic Magazine, shortly after my Mom passes away in 1994. She was given a nice obituary and this photo was featured at the end of the magazine. I have misplaced the copy I have, but when I was looking for the Orson Wells Video on the Carson show, I ran across this photo. Wells looks a little worse for wear, but Mom always seemed great on stage.

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