International Man of Mystery

In the wake of Variety other forms of work opened up, notably corporate presentations in which David used his magic at product launches and sales conferences. For David the trend began in the early sixties with a promotion for Creda Cookers, which he toured around the UK, installing a portable theatre at different hotels. Its success led to further work for English Electric, Glaxo, Rank, Ford, IBM, ICA, General Electric and most of the top pharmaceutical

Ruth Shiell.

David with Kalanag and panel member Dr. Rainbacher on the 1960 German television series, Grenze des Wissens.

companies. As you'll see from the examples given in this book, his ability to devise new and clever presentations was still to the fore. David's corporate presentations were not mere redressings of commonplace tricks. They were baffling, humorous dramas that sold the specific qualities of whatever items were being promoted. They were hard work but they also paid well.

On the 5th of October 1956 he married Ruth Shiell, a former model and actress, lie had met her some years earlier at a British Ring dinner where he was performing. He thought she was one of the most attractive girls he had ever seen. At that time she knew him only from the radio and recalls wondering what the mysterious man behind the distinctive voice was like. That they have happily remained together for over forty-six years is something of an achievement in show business circles and proves that it was a fortuitous match. Ruth has been the dream partner, supporting David in whatever activity he got involved in. When their children, Peter, Marvin and Irena were growing up David made the decision to curtail his appearances on I K television in case it impacted on their liv es. He sought more work abroad and found it with foreign broadcasters, corporate clients and cruise lines. He more or less disappeared from the map as far as British magicians w ere concerned because they never got an opportunity to sec him perform. Instead they heard about the phenomenal successes of shows like Opus 13 and could only wonder as to whether any of it was true. The International Man of Mystery was born, a globetrotting magician with a reputation for the impossible.

On being interviewed on German television about a forthcoming series, David was asked how he intended to communicate to the viewers. Mistakenly they had assumed that David only spoke English. He announced that among the many other miracles on offer he also intended to learn German in time for the series. This was a surprise because the first show was mere weeks away. T hey applauded his intentions and two weeks later inv ited him back to see how he was doing. He duly returned, his German excruciatingly bad and barely understandable but nevertheless impressive for someone who had apparently only studied it for a short time. On a third visit he was not only speaking fluently but could include many of Germany's regional dialects!

His ability to speak and understand several languages certainly helped him perform abroad but he has long been an advocate of clear simple English which when combined with the right body language can create a basic language that can be easily understood by foreign audiences. It is a strategy he has put to good use over the years and enabled him to work shows that few others could have dreamed of doing.

In I960 he starred in Grenze r/es 11 "issens (Border of Knowledge), a television series on the paranormal recorded at the Rivas Studios in Munich and produced by I lelmut Schreiber, a man more popularly known as Kalanag. The series sought out Europe's top psychics and asked them to demonstrate their powers in the studio. Psychometrists, dowsers and spirit painters, among others, gave their performances before a panel of experts, which included a doctor, lawyer, the chief of police, priest, parapsychologist and a knowledgeable magician, Henk Vermevden. David thought it the most impressive panel he had ever had on any of his series, each of them being an eloquent and entertaining speaker.

His job was not to debunk the psychics but to offer up an alternative demonstration, showing that w hat they purported to do by psychic means could also be achieved in other ways. Seven thirty-minute programmes were made in all, in anticipation of the production company having access to the newly formed commercial network in Germany. Unfortunately, the company Kalanag was working for didn't get the franchise and the programmes remained untransmitted. Which is a shame because among the many programmes he produced was a series of six magic shows featuring Fred Kaps, now presumably lost in some archive.

In 1962 David was offered a five-week tour of New Zealand with comedian Vic Oliver. In discussing the travel arrangements David discovered that he could make as many stopovers along the route as he wished, as long as he never travelled backwards. He decided to make an impromptu world tour, lasting three months, working his magic and visiting friends and relatives along the way. He first flew to Rome where his Aunt Edith lived, and from there to Cairo and then to Karachi. On his way to Delhi he met a lady who was going to see the Dalai Lama. Not wishing to miss an opportunity to meet him. Dav id cheekily asked if he could go along. I nbelievably, later that day he found himself in the presence of Tibet's spiritual leader proving that sometimes the direct approach can pay. From Delhi David travelled by coach to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. It was while on that journey that he saw a small village that for him represented the ideal location for the Indian Rope Trick as David had always imagined it. He had read every version of this mythical effect and had long considered how he might perform it, given the right conditions. The village he saw from the coach seemed to be the embodiment of those circumstances. Fie was so intrigued that on the next day he returned to the place and began his preparations.

And so one hot afternoon, as the sun beat down on the sleepy village, David, disguised as a Jaduwalla, began to gather a crowd with a few impressive conjuring feats. They were the prelude to the main event, the Indian Rope Trick itself. Fie had wanted to emulate the oft-told version as closely as possible. A rope was thrown into the air where it remained rigid. A small boy climbed up to the top and disappeared. David commanded him to return but his calls were ignored. He drew a scimitar from his belt and pointed it at the sky before slicing it back and forth in the air. There was a scream and the boy's dismembered body fell to the ground. David gathered them up and threw them into a sack. I Ie mumbled some enchantment, clapped his hands and the boy reappeared from behind a bush, happy and smiling and waving his arms. So what was in the sack? David tipped it upside down and a slurry of rocks and sticks came tumbling out. The audience applauded and David and the boy walked among them and gathered a few coins in appreciation of their performance.

David had no chance of recouping his investment. The stunt had cost him dearly.

involving riggers, scenic artists, assistants and two identical looking boys, but it was always his dream to perform The Rope Trick in the country of its origin. It was a personal challenge and it just had to be met. The performance wouldn't have stood up to close scrutiny by an inquisitive press but as an open-air theatrical stunt it worked well and was, more importantly, an ambition achieved.

He then travelled to Kuala Lumpur and to Singapore where he had a cousin who happened to be a friend of the Maharaja of Jodhpur. David accompanied him on a tiger hunt in a jungle so thick that an elephant could pass by without you knowing. It was a thrilling time. From there he went to Hong Kong and then on to Darwin and, finally, Sydney in Australia.

From Sydney David flew to New Zealand and did his Five-week tour, working every main town in the two islands. It went well but at Auckland he was greeted by a most unexpected visitor. It happened late one night as he opened the door to his hotel room, tired, bleary eyed and weighed down by suitcases. He put the light on, took two steps forward and one huge step back. There was a dead body in his room! It was sitting in an armchair motionless with its mouth agape. David's heart was thumping. Then the corpse opened an eye and said, "Hello David." It was magician Max Andrews, an old friend from London who now lived in New Zealand. He had seen the posters announcing that David was in town and persuaded the porter to let him into the room. Although it was nice to see a friendly face from London their meeting came as a bit of a shock.

After the five weeks he returned to Sydney where he did several shows booked by agent Jack Neary. He had written to Neary before the tour asking whether he could arrange some bookings and Neary had replied with an offer of a television show and several club dates. David was glad of the work but wondered if there was more to be had. He sent a telegram back to Neary saying, "Is that all you can get?" Thinking that David was referring to the fee rather than the number of dates, he promptly offered him more money! He stayed several weeks in Sydney, working at Chequers, the most prestigious club in the city. He stayed in the same hotel as a well-known actress who had worked the club shortly before him as a singer. In fact David had designed a magical publicity giveaway for her, a version of the old boomerang optical illusion, an appropriate choice given that he was in Australia. She was a nice girl despite being a bit coarse and with a tendency to walk around half naked and swear like a trouper. Her name was Jane Russell, the Hollywood movie star!

David was performing impromptu stunts wherever he could on his tour but his best was arranged for his last day in Australia, when he had asked some journalists to meet him at noon on Sydney Harbour Bridge, a well-known landmark. There he predicted the number and type of boats passing below the bridge within a specified time, an impressive feat they would write up in their newspapers. This was. however, merely the first part of a much more ambitious stunt. He said his goodbyes, went to the airport and got on the plane to Honolulu in Hawaii. He had arranged a press conference at his hotel for midday. He performed some effects

David has served as a consultant to major films from the 1960's through the 1990's.

On the set of Casino Royale with Orson Welles.

for the assembled journalists and gave interviews. The press conference in Hawaii took place at midday on Sunday May 27, 1962. Which, strangely, is exactly the same time and day that the press conference in Sydney had taken place. David had managed to appear in two different places at precisely the same time! And he had the press stories to confirm it. The effect was carefully planned, knowing in advance that he would be flying back over the International Dateline. Because of a geographical paradox he would be arriving at his destination long before he left Sydney. It was just too good an opportunity to miss and a stunt befitting an International Man of Mystery.

There was one more medium to conquer, the movies. He had already appeared in a cinema commercial back in I960. He was working in South Africa at the time, gaining much publicity, and was chosen to star in a Gold Dollar Cigarette commercial for cinema distribution. It was produced in Johannesburg and features David not only performing some manipulations as he sells the benefits of Gold Dollar cigarettes but affecting an American accent in an effort to pretend that it had been shot in the USA!

Cinema is a 24 four frames-per-second illusion and many magicians have been associated with its early development and continue to be used as consultants, their expertise lying in the fact that they can produce miracles on demand. David's opportunity to bring his talents to the aid of filmmaking came in 1967 with the production of Casino Roy ale, a James Bond spoof

Body Language

Body Language

Is a handshake really just a mere handshake, or does it express so much more? Discover Body Language and How it Can Benefit You. You will never be in the dark again on a persons mood when you can read their body language!

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment