A TRIBUTE TO KEN BROOKE Fred Robinson
With the passing of Ken Brooke, I lost a friend and magic lost one of its most colourful and popular characters.
Known to countless magicians, throughout the world, who witnessed his unique brand of salesmanship, he demonstrated his wares, both at conventions and at "The Magic Place". He was, without question, the finest demonstrator of magic, during this era and, possibly, any other.
To miss the opportunity of seeing Ken in action, was, to most magicians, unthinkable. His "sales pitches" were among the highlights of any convention. To call them demonstrations would bMt misnomer. They- were entertaining presentations, by an outstanding performer; as carefully rehearsed as the act of the most fastidious artiste.
Gifted as Ken undoubtedly was, it would be misleading and unjust to attribute his success to inherent talent, alone. Underlying this success was his immense capacity for sheer hard work and attention to detail. Years, as a professional performer, had provided him with the experience to see the entertainment potential in an effect, before deciding to put it on the market. The instructions, accompanying such tricks, provided a wealth of advice to the purchaser, enabling him to extract the maximum reaction, from his audience.
One can see evidence, of this truth, in the number of performers, currently featuring such effects as the Malini Egg Bag, Nudist Pack, Chop Cup, Multiplying Bottles, Confabulation etc. etc. Behind these tricks and many others, one can discern the influence of Ken Brooke.
As far as I am aware, Ken did not invent a single trick. Certainly, he never made any claim to having done so. His great contribution was to breathe life into many effects, by providing them with professional routines. These, he then proceeded to promote by performing them to potential customers. Advertising, through the magical press, also played its part. Punters learned to trust the man, behind those persuasive advertisements, knowing that they would not be throwing their money away, on some "pipe dream".
Ken's influence, for the betterment of our art, extended far deeper than is generally realised. In-paying his personal tribute, during the funeral service, John Fisher remarked upon how variable he had always found Ken's judgement to be, regarding magicians and their acts. For readers, outside of these islands, John is the T.V. producer, to whom we are indebted for the excellent Paul Daniels magic series. Paul himself, when asked, during a radio interview, who had been the greatest influence in his career, replied, "Someone you may never have heard of — Ken Brooke."
Many leading magicians regularly sought his advice. One, to my personal knowledge, was that now legendary figure, Fred Kaps. That these people, at the top of their respective fields, should have taken Ken's advice, is further evidence of the respect, with which his knowledge and experience were regarded.
It is only when one reflects upon the various aspects, of magic and magicians, with which he has been associated, that the total sum, of his valuable contributions, becomes apparent.
Ken Brooke left a legacy — a legacy, from which magicians of today and of the future, will continue to draw sustenance, during the years ahead.
This brief record of Ken's contribution to magic does nothing to account for his popularity. A popularity not only amongst magicians but also amongst those, with whom he came into contact, away from the magic scene. We, who came to know him intimately, can possibly claim to give a few indications.
Hiding behind that bold, confident and sometimes abrasive manner, was a highly sensative and humane person. One, who had sincere compassion for people in trouble and who was quick to show his concern, in a practical way. His generosity was boundless. Giving pleasure to others was part of his normal lifestyle. Utterly unselfish, he shared what he had with his friends. It is impossible to imagine that he was ever guilty of any mean or petty action.
His long and distressing illness revealed, to me personally, that his thought for others remained undiminished, despite his own disability. He was completely devoid of self pity. My last remembrance of him is the broad smile, across his face, as he stood at the door, when I turned to wave, what proved to be, the last good-bye.
The last booklet that Ken published, was a collection of many of the "bits of business", which he used. It was compiled during the latter stages of his illness, when he was severely incapacitated.
That he should have entitled this collection "A Lifetime of Joy" during such a dark period jn his life, is more revealing, of the real Ken Brooke, than any words of mine could be. A suitable note to bring this tribute to a close.
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