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, May 24, 2013

Orson Welles in Wonderland

As I posted last year, my parents worked with Orson Welles in Las Vegas in 1956. The Great one fancied himself as a magician as well as genius. That would be for others to decide. From the reviews it appears that his goals exceeded his grasp, which given his history seems appropriate. He did however lease props from my folks for his show and both of them assisted on a nightly basis for at least three weeks. I know that because here is the contract they had for their services.

The venture apparently started off a little rough. It was at first a seventy-five minute show, featuring big illusions and dramatic readings. It looks like it did not take long to trim it down to a more manageable length. Here is the first review in the Variety.

The girl assistant mentioned is of course the amazing Phyllis Kirkham. In case you have not seen the earlier post, here is another look at the effect featuring her.

I also found this second shot of Dad on stage in the background while Welles appears to be using the police in Vegas as part of the act. I think this might be a segment of  the mind reading routine that the review refers to. I can't identify the apparatus on the table, it could be a record player, radio or phone equipment. Anyway, this was just a little more of the stuff I found on the Vegas adventure with Orson Welles.


  1. That is amazing! Love Welles and you don't see much written about his love of magic, but it permeated a lot of what he did in film.

  2. Thanks for coming by JD, this is a little intersection of my movie life and my personal history. Glad you enjoyed.

  3. Are you also related to Richard A Kirkham, the Calicornia artist perhaps?(Grandfather etc?)

  4. Are you also related to Richard A Kirkham, the Calicornia artist perhaps?(Grandfather etc?)