Monday 5 December 2016

When opportunity finally knocked for Paul, he grabbed his chance to mesmerise the public

Catherine Wyatt

Published 18/03/2016 | 02:30

Paul Daniels adopting the Marlene Dietrich look for an episode of 'The Paul Daniels Magic Show' on BBC in the 1980s. Photo: PA
Paul Daniels adopting the Marlene Dietrich look for an episode of 'The Paul Daniels Magic Show' on BBC in the 1980s. Photo: PA

Paul Daniels was a performer with a magic touch who entertained TV audiences for decades.

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'The Paul Daniels Magic Show' regularly attracted 15 million viewers in the UK and was sold to 43 countries.

One of the most popular magicians of the 20th century, his success was unrivalled in the magic and entertainment world.

Daniels, born Newton Edward Daniels in Middlesbrough in 1938, became interested in magic as a young child.

But it wasn't until 1969 that he became a full-time magician, when he performed a summer season at Newquay.

The following year, Daniels came second in talent show 'Opportunity Knocks', which led to him being offered a regular slot on the ITV variety show 'The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club'.

Then, in 1979, 'The Paul Daniels Magic Show' hit UK screens on the BBC - and Daniels became a household name. Famous for his self-deprecating humour, his much quoted catchphrase was: "You'll like this... not a lot, but you'll like it."

It was at auditions for the hit show that Daniels met his second wife, Debbie McGee.

Daniels was, at this point, separated from his first wife Jacqueline, with whom he had three sons - Paul, Martin and Gary. Martin Daniels regularly appeared on television as a magician with his father.

Ballet

When McGee met Daniels, she was a soloist in the Iranian National Ballet in Tehran who had been forced to flee the country when the 1979 Iranian Revolution broke out.

After auditioning, the successful ballerina was initially disappointed to be selected for 'The Paul Daniels Show' in Great Yarmouth.

"I had no idea who he was or what he did. People told me he was a magician, and my heart sank," she told 'The Guardian' in 2014.

"Then I saw him on TV at a friend's house, on the quiz show 'Blankety Blank'. He was very funny - he took his jacket off and had a Superman T-shirt on and red knickers over his trousers. I was in hysterics."

Daniels and McGee married in 1988 and she continued to be his assistant on the show until it was axed in 1994.

Daniels also presented game shows in the '80s and '90s, such as 'Wipeout', 'Every Second Counts' and 'Odd One Out'.

His wit, charm and magic skills earned him a reputation that meant he performed for Princes William and Harry, Prime Ministers John Major and James Callaghan, and Prince Rainier of Monaco, among others.

He was famous for his close-up magic and entertainment shows, but was less known for his special effects work. He designed the special effects for the stage productions of 'Cats' and 'Phantom Of The Opera', and was commissioned by the English National Ballet to create magical effects for 'The Nutcracker'.

In his later years, Daniels and his wife toured all over Britain with their magic and comedy shows.

Irish Independent

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