Regulite

In September 1955 the first British commercial television service was broadcast. Unlike the BBC which relied on a universally levied licence fee for its funding, the new commercial service, Associated Rediffusion, was paid for by advertising which appeared in the breaks between programmes.

On the second day of transmission the first commercial television series was broadcast; a magic show called Focus on Hocus. David was the chairman and each week performed several routines. Regular guests included Michael Bailey and his wife Valerie, billed as Mr and Mrs Magic, and Joe Stuthard, who presented a different con game in each show. David Jacobs, a former radio Luxembourg presenter, made the show's opening and closing announcements. It was the first of many television appearances Jacobs was to make as he later became a popular television personality in his own right. It was a job he almost didn't get because David wanted someone with more television experience. Now, whenever they meet, Jacobs introduces David as "the man who almost ruined my career in television before it had even started!"

Assisting David in this particular show were two very attractive girls. One was his fiancée, a young actress called Ruth Shiell, who, the following month, became his wife. The other was Jackie Collins, sister of actress Joan Collins and now better known as one of the world's best-selling authors.

Because Associate Rediffusion made its money through advertising there were strict rules about the use of commercial products on their shows. Presenters were forbidden from mentioning brands by name and everyday items used on the shows would have their brand names crudely blacked out.

But, as with all things, there were ways around such rules. David was approached by a company who made a household light called Regulite. Regulite's salespeople asked if he could somehow display the lamp in the background of his new television show. "I'll do better than that," said David, "I'll make a feature of it."

The Regulite was a table lamp with an internal dimmer mechanism and its brightness could be adjusted to four different settings by turning a knob on its base. David set about devising a routine that would not only make use of its special lighting qualities but feature all its sales points.

The routine was a clever one, a baffling piece of magic, elements of which later found their way into other of his television presentations. It began with David introducing a volunteer from the audience. It was a gimmick on this show to have three volunteers each week who belonged to the same profession; for instance three plumbers, three bank managers and so on. This particular week featured three ambulance drivers and one of them had joined David on screen.

He introduced the volunteer to the lamp and extolled its revolutionary qualities. It was a mushroom shaped lamp with a base made of Bakelite. Adjusting the knob on the base he demonstrated how the brightness of the light could be adjusted to alter the mood of the room. "Everyone should have one in their home," said David. "It makes an excellent night light for the young or the elderly." And as he turned the luminance up a notch, he said, "It also makes an excellent light for viewing television. You should be using it now." It was a blatant plug but he didn't once mention the product's name. Readers of Britain's television listings magazines or that evening's newspaper would no doubt have seen the half-page advertisements Regulite had, coincidentally, chosen to run that day.

The advertisement over, David carried on with the routine. He lifted a tablecloth, which covered a nearby table, to reveal two dozen small objects, all kinds of small novelties and household goods. He asked the spectator to think of just one of the objects then he covered them again. The volunteer then chose a light bulb from a number of different bulbs on display. It was a frosted 60-watt bulb and David fitted it into the lamp and demonstrated that it worked on the four different settings.

The volunteer was shown a rather strange chair insulated with foam rubber. Apprehensively, he sat down in it. He grew more nervous when David unplugged the lamp from the mains cable and attached it to two leads each of which terminated in a copper handle.

He presented these to the volunteer and asked him to take one in each hand.

Now everything was ready. "What we want to do," said David, "Is to prove that the power of the mind can generate electricity." The volunteer was asked to name his chosen object, which turned out to be an egg, and then visualize the object in the light bulb.

He gripped the copper handles tightly and concentrated. Slowly the lamp began to glow. As it did an electronic organ played strange sci-fi chords. It was all getting a little mysterious. "Focus your mind on the object," said David, "and project that thought into the bulb." As the notes climbed higher the bulb grew brighter. There was energy in thought after all. Suddenly the light went out and the volunteer dropped the copper handles, apparently exhausted.

"Let's try it again," said David. Once again the volunteer took up the handles, furrowed his brow and began to concentrate. Slowly the bulb began to glow, getting brighter and brighter with each second. When the bulb was at its brightest, and the organ music had reached a crescendo, the light went out and the spectator collapsed back into his chair thoroughly convinced that he could generate electricity by the power of his mind.

"Remind us again, which object were you concentrating on?" asked David. "The egg," replied the spectator. "Oh, the egg in the eggcup?" said David. "No, just the egg," was the reply. David lifted the tablecloth to reveal that the egg was, indeed, no longer in its cup. It had disappeared. Then he reached inside the lampshade and removed the, still warm, bulb from its fitting. The bulb was dropped into a transparent cellophane bag where it could be safely and gently cracked open with a small hammer. As the bulb broke into pieces the vanished egg was revealed inside. It was taken from the bag and cracked into a glass. No doubt about it, it was a real egg. The volunteer's thoughts had literally materialised inside the bulb.

Revelations: The routine combined several standard effects, notably the vanish of an egg and the lighting of a bulb, to create something truly unique.

Let's start with the familiar. The disappearance of the egg was as simple as it was effective. Several years earlier David had bought an ingenious little magical device from Davenports. It was a trick eggcup used to vanish an egg. In fact the egg was just a half-shell, which would tip back and rotate a full 180 degrees at the slightest touch, nestling upside down in the cup and giving it the appearance of being empty.

The trick eggcup, with the egg showing, was placed among the other objects on the table. To make it disappear David nudged the egg with the tablecloth as he covered it, prompting it to flip itself over and hide itself in the cup. When the tablecloth was lifted liter in the performance the egg was nowhere to be seen. ;

Naturally this meant that the egg had to be forced on the volunteer. David djbesn't recall which particular technique he used on this occasion other than it was done befc|e the show. It's possible he used a number of picture cards to represent the objects on the table. The volunteer chose one (actually forced) under the pretext that choosing an object now would save any confusion later. David would have told him, "Don't tell me what it is and keep it in your mind." It was important that the volunteer did not suspect that David knew which object had been chosen. See the DIY Routine for a more detailed description of this type of before-the-show strategy.

The 60-watt frosted bulb was also forced, this time using Magicians Choice. The bulb matched a duplicate, which David had in a clip under his jacket. The duplicate bulb had a real egg inside, the innards of the bulb having been removed. It was extremely difficult and time consuming to prepare. The glass had to be cut open at the neck so that the egg could be inserted and then resealed without the join showing.

The lamp wasn't so innocent either and was never under the volunteer's control. The wires from the bulb fitting went down the shaft of the lamp to the base and terminated in two metal studs. These made a connection to two other studs hidden in the surface of the table upon which the lamp rested. The table studs were connected to wires which ran down the inside of the table leg and offstage to the rheostat and a helpful stagehand. When the spectator concentrated, the stagehand turned up the rheostat and the bulb in the lamp glowed.

The copper handles and the foam rubber insulated chair were all elements of showmanship and helped convince the spectator he played a part in the activity of the lamp.

When it was time to remove the bulb from the lamp, David palmed the duplicate from under his jacket, and reached under the shade as if to remove the bulb. Secretly he left the palmed bulb there, held in a special clip on the inside of the shade, and withdrew his hand quickly as if he had just touched something hot, saying that the bulb was still warm. It was a subtle touch and gave the audience a chance to see that his hands were empty. Next time he reached under the shade he removed the prepared bulb from its clip, leaving the real bulb in the socket. The prepared bulb was broken open in the transparent cellophane bag so that the egg could be revealed.

The most important part of the routine was the ability to sell it convincingly. The electronic music played an important part in this respect. It set the tense mood of the experiment and the increasing pitch helped convince the volunteer that he was lighting the lamp by mind power alone. It worked so effectively that each time the backstage stage assistant turned the lamp off the volunteer would drop the copper handles and collapse back into his chair exhausted.

Now you might well wonder why David went to so much trouble for the Regulite company. What could possibly have induced him to put his mind to the problem? Let us just say that the manufacturers were so impressed with David's presentation that he later did quite a lot of promotional work for them. Not only that but every light in his home, the table lamps, the standard lamp and the reading lights above his bed were fitted with a Regulite dimmer. We tell you this in the hope that the statute of limitations on this minor misdemeanor have long since run out.

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