|Born||Debra Ann McGee
31 October 1958
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, England
|Occupation||Radio presenter and magician's assistant|
(m. 1988–2016; his death)
Debra Ann "Debbie" McGee (born 31 October 1958) is an English television, radio and stage performer who is best known as the assistant and widow of magician Paul Daniels. McGee is a former ballet dancer and for three years was artistic director of her own ballet company. She presents a Sunday morning show for BBC Radio Berkshire.
Early life and magic career
McGee was born in Kingston upon Thames, to Patrick McGee and Lillian Howes. When McGee was young her parents ran a corner shop. Later, her father worked for a large manufacturing firm making gold rings and other jewellery. Her sister worked as a banker in the City of London and her brother worked as an accountant.
McGee enjoyed music and dressing up from an early age, so her mother enrolled her in a dance school when she was seven. She attended Our Lady Immaculate RC Primary School in Tolworth, followed by Tolworth Girls' School, a secondary school also in Tolworth. At 16 McGee auditioned for and won a place at the Royal Ballet School. After graduating, she joined the Iranian National Ballet in Tehran. Aged 19, she became part of the Corps de Ballet and later a soloist, but her ballet career was brought to an abrupt halt by the Islamic Revolution. She was forced to flee the country and returned to the UK with little in the way of money and possessions. Seeking new work she auditioned for the Bernard Delfont Organisation, which was responsible for a number of big summer resort shows and touring productions.
Delfont found her a job performing on stage with magician Paul Daniels in his 1979 summer show in Great Yarmouth. She met Daniels on 23 May 1979 at rehearsals for the show, which were held at a church hall in London.
She later joined Dougie Squires's Second Generation troupe as a dancer, which involved touring Europe with acts including Chris de Burgh and James Last. After winter work in pantomime, McGee joined Daniels again for his 1980 summer season in Bournemouth. She then performed in his London stage show It's Magic, which opened on 10 December 1980 and which, by the time it closed 14 months later, had become one of the longest running magic shows ever to play in the West End.
McGee achieved national and international fame through television appearances with Daniels. After seeing her on stage in the West End, BBC producer John Fisher asked Debbie to appear in the BBC One series The Paul Daniels Magic Show, which had begun in 1979. That series continued until 1994 and regularly attracted audiences of 15 million in the UK and was sold to 43 countries. Daniels regularly referred to McGee on his TV shows as "The lovely Debbie McGee", a phrase that entered popular culture as a stereotype for magicians' assistants. Daniels and McGee were married in Buckinghamshire in April 1988.
Debbie McGee's pastimes include golf and she has played in celebrity charity events. She has collaborated with novelist Susan Wilson on a number of books, and she is known for her work with dogs.
In 2000, McGee and Daniels set up Ballet Imaginaire to produce ballet shows and tour them around the country. Ticket sales were reportedly poor. Preparations were recorded by Louis Theroux but were not broadcast until well after the company had stopped touring.
In 2004 McGee presented Box Jumpers, a two-part radio documentary about magician's assistants for BBC Radio 4. She works as a presenter for BBC Radio Berkshire, where, since 8 June 2008, she has hosted a regular Sunday morning show from 9 am to noon.
Television and film
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In 2001, McGee appeared in the documentary Paul Daniels in a Black Hole, which challenged Daniels to be recognised as a famed magician in the United States within one week.
McGee appeared on comedian Caroline Aherne's talk show The Mrs Merton Show in 1995; Aherne's character Mrs Merton asked McGee "what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?", a joke which a poll later ranked as Britain's second-best one-liner. The couple later joked about the quip, with Daniels saying "when Debbie and I got married, I certainly wasn’t a millionaire and the other funny thing was Caroline had just married a millionaire so we thought that was hysterical". Calling the continuing popularity of the joke "lovely", McGee credits the appearance on Mrs Merton for kickstarting her own fame, saying "after Mrs Merton people started to really recognise me. It gave us great publicity."
In October 2004, McGee and her husband appeared on The Farm, Five's version of the RTÉ show Celebrity Farm. In May 2006, she appeared on The X Factor: Battle of the Stars with her husband singing Let Me Entertain You by Robbie Williams. Debbie and Paul were knocked out in the first round of the talent show.
On 1 April 2007, McGee appeared along with her husband, Vanessa Feltz and her fiancé Ben Ofoedu in a celebrity edition of Channel 4's hit reality television show Wife Swap. In 2008 McGee appeared on Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. On 14 September 2010, McGee appeared on the celebrity version of Come Dine With Me.
In 2012, McGee made a cameo appearance as herself in an episode of the UK TV comedy drama Stella.
McGee continued to work alongside her husband in venues around the world. Also, according to the biography on her personal website, she has been writing a book for a long time. A cookery and party book written by McGee has appeared on WH Smith and Amazon websites called Dine with Debbie, although it is no longer in print.
In 2005, she was appointed brand ambassador for 'Good Boy' chocolates.
In 2006 she and her friend Sue Simons started a modelling and casting agency called Debbie McGee Models. The firm was criticised in several British newspapers for taking fees from prospective models but not being able to find them work. Sue Simons later resigned as a director and in December 2007 a one-line statement appeared on the agency's website saying the firm had been taken over. The website closed down soon afterwards. McGee has said she left the business to concentrate on life with her husband.
In February 2009, McGee and Daniels appeared in Closer magazine in a picture recreating an image from an Armani advert that featured footballer David Beckham and his wife Victoria. Later in the summer of that year, she appeared in a fringe theatre show in London called Frank's Closet.
On 21 August 2013, McGee took part in the Dead Air Podcast, a show hosted by Nick Lee and Rob Oldfield.
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