Paul DANIELS (1938-2016)

Paul Daniels
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THIS IS YOUR LIFE - Paul Daniels, magician, was surprised by Michael Aspel, at Davenport’s Magic Shop in London’s Charing Cross.

Paul began performing magic as a hobby at the age of 11, occasionally entertaining at parties and youth clubs and later doing shows for fellow servicemen during his national service. After returning to civilian life he continued to develop his magic by performing in clubs in the evenings.

In 1969 he was offered a summer season in Newquay, Cornwall, after which he decided to try magic as a full-time career. He made his television debut on the long-running ITV talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1970, and came second. Television producer Johnnie Hamp saw Paul in that show and later gave him a regular spot on his ITV variety show, The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club.

Paul achieved international fame through his BBC television series The Paul Daniels Magic Show, which began in 1979. He was awarded the ‘Magician of the Year’ Award by the Academy of Magical Arts in 1982, the first magician from outside the United States to receive it.

Screenshots of Paul Daniels This Is Your Life

In her autobiography, A Coward's Chronicles, the entertainer Marti Caine, recalls her experience of this particular edition of This Is Your Life...

Wednesday 5 October

Today is Paul Daniels’ ‘This Is Your Life’ and I’m a surprise guest. A car is picking me up at 1.30 to take me to Thames TV to be made up as a Chinese coolie. That’s all I know.

Two other unlikely ‘coolies’ were already in make-up having the final touches applied; one was Bert Weedon, the other Duncan Goodhew – both good-natured souls. The make-up girl went to work on me as Duncan and I reminisced about the last time we’d worked together.

Bert and Duncan were as uninformed as I regarding the forthcoming events of the programme. If the subject finds out he or she is being ‘done’, the programme is cancelled.

They got me in 1979 when Eamonn Andrews hosted the show. I had absolutely no idea and put Malc’s brief disappearances and inexplicable whispered phone calls down to the fact he was being unfaithful to his mistress. I had secretly harboured a vague desire to be a subject (Vague desire? You used to stay in every Wednesday to see if it was you!), and was delighted by the accolade. I hoped Paul would be.

Just as my make-up was finished an old mandarin shuffled in, slit-eyed and moustached, and said, ‘Hello’ in Michael Aspel’s voice. He was quite unrecognisable. He explained the set-up; Duncan and I were to pull an Aspel-laden rickshaw through the busy streets of Charing Cross – ignoring the irate rush-hour traffic, which was being held up by an army of floor assistants – to the steps of Charing Cross underground station. From there we had to shuffle down the underground to Davenports Magic Shop, where Paul had been lured in order to buy an ancient Chinese trick, hence the coolie gear.

It’s a wonderful shop, with a little theatre at the back to demonstrate various rare feats of magic to interested parties.

Duncan, Bert and I were to secrete ourselves behind the curtains along with Aspel, who was to demonstrate the trick with the help of his three ‘assistants’. Paul came in and didn’t seem at all surprised by the theatrics when the curtains opened revealing the four of us. He didn’t recognise Aspel until the red book was produced from the wide sleeves of his costume and in his best mandarin accent he said, ‘Paul Daniels – This Is Your Rife.’

programme details...

  • Edition No: 740
  • Subject No: 734
  • Broadcast date: Wed 2 Nov 1988
  • Broadcast time: 7-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Wed 5 Oct 1988
  • Venue: Teddington Studios
  • Series: 29
  • Edition: 3
  • Code name: Father

on the guest list...

  • Mac Wilson
  • Geoffrey Atkins
  • Gil Leaney
  • Ali Bongo
  • Terry Herbert
  • The Great Kovari
  • Rovi
  • Alan Shackson
  • Ann Shackson
  • Terry Seabrooke
  • John Wade
  • Jay Marshall
  • John Fisher
  • Members of the South Bank Methodist Youth Club
  • Members of the Middlesbrough Circle of Magicians
  • Duncan Goodhew
  • Bert Weedon
  • David Berglas
  • Marti Caine
  • Debbie McGee - wife
  • Hughie - father
  • Nancy - mother
  • Trevor - brother
  • Rosie - sister-in-law
  • Mark - nephew
  • David - nephew
  • Ruth Jones
  • Peter Schollick
  • Bill Wright
  • Paul - son
  • Martin - son
  • Gary - son
  • Martin Marshall
  • Robert Powell
  • Johnny Paul
  • Max Bygraves
  • Filmed tributes:
  • David Copperfield
  • Members of The Academy of Magical Arts

external link...

production team...

  • Researcher: Louise Clover
  • Writer: Norman Giller
  • Directors: Brian Klein, David Clark
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
names listed in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
Series 29 subjects: Mickey Rooney > Phil Collins > Paul Daniels > Tom Finney > Esther Rantzen > Richard Todd > Engelbert Humperdinck > Barry McGuigan > Robert Maxwell > Harry Corbett > Cliff Morgan > Roy Hudd > Claire Rayner > Cyril Bertram Mills > Dora Bryan > Margaret Hayles > Denis Healey > Gillian Lynne > Nigel Mansell > Su Pollard