we begin talking about tricks, I hope that some scanty autobiographical information will not seem overly vain. It occurs to me that knowing a little background of the fellow whose material one is poised to read may lend it some credentials, some evidence that it is worth your time and consideration. So if you will permit me, I'll now tell you just a little about this odd entertainer, this Ted Lesley, yours truly.
On my birth in 1937, in the town of Düren in the Rheinland, my parents had no idea, quite naturally, what my presence in their lives portended. For a short time, I attended the Werner school in Düren, but was forced to leave when my father, who was a member of the military welfare office, was transferred to Halle on the Saale. In 1947, as the Russians marched into Halle, we retraced our way back to the Rheinland. Our family now consisted of four, as my brother Wolfgang had come into the world. We could not return to Düren, because the war had totally destroyed what had been the second wealthiest city in Germany. For this reason we first went to an aunt on my mother's side who lived in Quadrath-Ichendorf near Cologne. By 1948 my parents were able to open a glass and porcelain business in this idyllic little town.
During our flight from the Russians, most of it on foot, we had the misfortune to drink from a well along the way that was infested with the typhus bacillus. My mother and I caught this dreadful illness and were confined to bed for several months in the University Clinic in Cologne. During this time, naturally I couldn't attend school, so when I returned home my parents hired a tutor to help me make up the lost school year as quickly as possible. The tutor was Carl Bornhausen, and it was he who laid the cornerstone of my future career as a magical entertainer. He would award "achievement cards" when we completed our assignments, and we could wish for something when we had collected ten of them. Herr Bornhausen could perform a few simple magic tricks, and I was more than happy when I had fulfilled my achievement card requirement, because every time, again and again, I would ask this outstanding teacher—much to the dismay of the other participants in this private instruction— to show me some magic. No matter how hard I tried, I never figured out how he did his amusing tricks.
That same year, one of my fellow students was given a magic set. This, as you will readily understand, fascinated me. He performed each of the tricks for me, but to my great disappointment, he wouldn't explain any of the miracles he had shown. As a result, I had to have the same magic set, no matter what the cost. However, my allowance was only two groschen a week, and the magic set, which I found in the toy shop in the neighboring town, cost no less than five and a half marks, fifty-five of my little groschens! This made me determined to increase my income. But how?
"Traudchen" my aunt, and godmother to my sister Ursula (a recent addition to our family), lived with us. One day she asked me to fetch some coal from the cellar for her, and for hauling up four full buckets I received one groschen! With this new source of income added to my normal allowance, it took several weeks to save enough money for the magic set. When I went to buy it, in a book store along the way I discovered The Card Magician by G. Rosanelli, price three marks. Once more I had to save carefully, and within a few more weeks this booklet became the foundation stone of my magical library. From then on I probably got on the nerves of my parents and relatives, as well as my schoolmates, as I displayed my newly learned tricks. My parents, especially my dear father, did not approve of this "hobby", as he saw it. Instead, I must learn "something reasonable" which meant one day taking over the family business.
On completing public school, I went to trade school in the neighboring town of Horrem. To save money for a monthly train ticket, I walked over two miles to school each day, and invested the money I saved in magic tricks, which I purchased at the time from the firm of Janos Bartl in Hamburg. One of these tricks was the well-known Perfect Silk Miracle (Wonder Box), which I performed any time, anywhere. My father's sister lived in Düren, and my family occasionally visited her there. It so happened that I had this prop with me during a weekend visit and my aunt had never seen this "sensational" effect. My cousins, however, wanted to go to the movies, and I discovered to my dismay that they hadn't the slightest interest in seeing my new trick. Thanks to this set of circumstances, I found myself sitting in the movie theater with my Perfect Silk Miracle lying ignored in my lap. The man seated next to me looked with surprise at the chrome-plated thing, and later told me he was a mechanic for a magic dealer named Werner Geissler, known to magicians as Werry. To my great excitement he promised to take me to Werr/s shop after the show.
I got to know Werry in his former location on Paradiesplatz in Düren. He was the first dealer who performed his tricks for me—even though I hadn't a pfennig in my pocket. Naturally, the good Werry did not suspect this, so I tried to remain as cool as possible after the performance of each Werry miracle. For this reason, after each trick I asked him, "Don't you have anything else?" I must have really undermined his morale with this remark. Nevertheless, Werry never let it show, and when we talk about our first meeting over thirty years ago, we still laugh about my cheeky, youthful remarks. I still vividly remember the trick I purchased from Werry, the Coin in Bottle, which he sold for a ridiculously low three and a half marks. This was one of the best purchases I ever made, and I still feature it in my shows. Later I contributed some of my earliest writings on magic to Worry's magazine and "favorite child" Magische Welt, and today I'm extremely proud to number Werry among my friends.
At that time, in our town there were only two or three television sets. I remember quite well the one in the Römer-treppchen, the tavern where my father was a regular. This set had a screen the size of a postcard. One evening a live broadcast of the well-known illusionist Kalanag was announced. I watched this show in total amazement and wonder. It was in the Römertreppchen as well that I got through my first formal show as a "magician" performing for my father's friends.
During that same period I belonged to the Catholic Kol-ping Youth Club, which met twice a month in a tavern in the
neighboring town of Ichendorf. In the party room of this tavern there was a sensational television set for that period. This set projected its image onto what seemed at the time a gigantic special screen. It was almost like being at the movies. If a magic show was advertised in a magazine, I would always try to be in this tavern to watch it.
One magician, whom I was able to admire many times on the gigantic Ichendorf screen, fascinated me far more than Kalanag. The artistic personality whom I admired so much was Punx, who is certainly well-known to all readers of this book. His television performances overshadowed everything I had seen at the time. He was also the first artist who did not simply perform, but in his extraordinary way celebrated unusual, diabolical trick principles with presentations that were tailor-made for his personality. I have been more than fortunate to be able to know him and his charming wife Dagmar personally for more than twelve years. Ironically, Ludwig Hanemann-Punx appears to enjoy more popularity in the English-speaking world than in Germany since his two books, .. .setzt Euch zu meinen Füßen and Abschiedsvorstellung, as well as his series of brochures Experimente mit dem Uberraum have been masterfully translated into English by the American magician Bill Palmer. These three translations— Magical Adventures and Fairy Tales, Fourth Dimensional Mysteries, and Farewell Performance—have received dozens of outstanding reviews and excellent sales in the U.S.A. In my opinion, Punx is the Hofzinser of this century, from whom generations after us can and will learn.
Eventually I did learn something "respectable", as my parents wished. At first I apprenticed with the tax office, and in 19631 was made a bookkeeper and was transferred to Berlin. At this time the Red Rose, a nightclub that enjoyed high praise from the critics, was established in that city. There I became acquainted with many great magicians and entertainers,
The Disreputable Plageth whom I visited almost every evening, and I became friends with several of the artists I met in this club.
In 1974 I was booked for a large fair show in Hanover, which an old friend, Raxon, helped me land (more of this and him in Chapter Four). For it I conceived a stage performance that was recorded by Z.D.F. (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen), a German television network, which later broadcast it.
At this time, I was still a bookkeeper and worked for a Berlin film producer, who was quarreling with his partner, Ottokar Runze. Because they both wanted to dissolve the partnership, it was my task to draw up a separation agreement. The final conversation took place in Runze's home. In order to relax the emotion laden atmosphere a little, I first performed a couple of mental effects, which fascinated Herr Runze. To my surprise he immediately offered me the role of second lead in his new film The Lord of Bnrmbek. I played a shady salesman named Plageth. After the shooting, I decided to hang up my former profession for the last time and become a professional entertainer.
Rolf S. Eden, a nightclub owner known far beyond the borders of Berlin, saw my performance on the Z.D.F. broadcast. He called me one day and contracted me to work at his club, the New Eden, for a week's trial run, as a sort of "all-around performer". From this week at the New Eden came almost four years of nearly uninterrupted activity, which I consider to be my term of apprenticeship in my new profession as a magical entertainer and mentalist. I am still thankful to Herr Eden for making this possible.
During the first year of my engagement at New Eden, I met Bernd Martin Langschied, who was to become my dearest friend and my partner on stage and in business. Without Bernd I would never have achieved my goal to become a prominent entertainer.
Bernd Martin Langschied
During this same period several concert directors and talent agents began to show interest in me, which led to my doing some large shows (galas) and month-long engagements. On the occasion of one of these galas at the former Berlin Hilton (now the Intercontinental), the director, Herr Engelhardt, noticed me and engaged me as an entertainer in the Hilton Pavilion bar. There I performed only a part of my stage show, but on occasion I also worked the tables of the guests as a close-up performer, a type of work that, at this time, was practically unknown in Germany. Through this contact with the exclusive guests of the hotel I became quite well-known and was able to assemble a lucrative group of clients. Some of these hotel guests continue to book me to this day. (Over the years I have found that word-of-mouth advertising is far superior to any other type of publicity.)
By 1981 many companies were asking me if I could put together large programs for them. For this reason, my partner Bernd and I founded a gala-show direction service, which is now well-known throughout Germany under the name, Magic Productions Show Service GmbH Berlin...
.. .which brings us pretty much up to date. While there are many more stories I could tell, I have set out here to write a book of my professional secrets and routines, not an autobiography. However, as we proceed I shall mention a few very special friends who have particularly helped and inspired me during my career. Now, though, let me just sum up everything in my life by admitting that I love magic more than anything in the world; and so, I hope, do you. So let's talk about some of the material I've developed and performed professionally over the years. Yes! Let's talk about our mutual love.
Ted Lesley Berlin, 1994
The Magic Productions Show Service GmbH Berlin staff From left to right: Henning Heinrich (project leader), Sabine Adrian (secretary), Ted Lesley (executive), Bernd M. Langschied (executive, director, show designer)
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