Daniels in 2013
|Born||Newton Edward Daniels
6 April 1938
South Bank, Middlesbrough, England
|Died||17 March 2016
Wargrave, Berkshire, England
|Cause of death||Brain tumour|
|Spouse(s)||Jacqueline Skipworth (m. 1960–1975)
Debbie McGee (m. 1988–2016, his death)
Newton Edward Daniels (6 April 1938 – 17 March 2016), known by his stage name Paul Daniels, was an English magician and television performer.
Daniels achieved international fame through his television series The Paul Daniels Magic Show, which ran on the BBC from 1979 to 1994. He was known for his catchphrase of "You'll like this ... not a lot, but you'll like it" and also for his marriage to his assistant, Debbie McGee. He was awarded the "Magician of the Year’" Award by the Academy of Magical Arts in 1982, the first magician from outside the United States to receive it. He also won the Golden Rose of Montreux in 1985.
Daniels was known for being outspoken on matters including politics and current affairs as well as magic, entertainment and fellow celebrities. He also appeared in reality television shows.
After Sir William Turners Grammar School on Coatham Road in Coatham, Redcar, and his first job as a junior clerk in the treasurer's office of Eston Council, Daniels served as a conscript in the 1st Battalion, Green Howards, during his national service and was posted to the British garrison in Hong Kong, before training as an accountant in local government. Even at this early age he had thinning hair which he claimed to be an act of "magic". He later sported a wig for much of his television career. After working as a junior clerk and then as an auditor in local government, Daniels joined his parents in the grocery business they were running at the time. He later set up his own shop – at one point a mobile shop – but eventually gave this up in favour of his growing career as a magician.
Daniels' interest in magic began at the age of 11 when, during a holiday, he read a book called How to Entertain at Parties. He began performing magic as a hobby, occasionally entertaining at parties and youth clubs and later doing shows for fellow servicemen during his national service. After returning to civilian life he continued to develop his magic by performing in clubs in the evenings while working at his grocery business during the day. At one point he worked with his first wife Jackie under the name of "The Eldani's", an anagram of Daniels. It was while working the clubs that he developed what would become his long-running catchphrase, "You'll like this ... not a lot, but you'll like it." He stated that he first came up with the line at a club in Bradford as a way to deal with a heckler.
A major turning point in Daniels' career came in 1969 when he was offered a summer season in Newquay in Cornwall. He decided to sell his grocery business and try magic as a full-time career. He made his television debut on the long-running talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1970, and came second. Television producer Johnnie Hamp saw Daniels in that show and later gave him a regular spot on a show compèred by Bernard Manning, The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, for Granada Television.
In 1978 ITV gave Daniels his own Sunday night show, Paul Daniels' Blackpool Bonanza. His first series for the BBC was For My Next Trick, where Daniels appeared with several other magicians and singer Faith Brown. This led to Daniels presenting his own television series, The Paul Daniels Magic Show, on BBC1 from 1979 until 1994. As well as featuring tricks and illusions for pure entertainment, he also included a regular segment (the "Bunko Booth") in which he exposed the confidence tricks of street charlatans. He also replicated the kind of results that have impressed researchers of the paranormal and parapsychologists in a segment called Under Laboratory Conditions, thereby demonstrating his scepticism about claims made in these fields.
Daniels starred in his own stage show, It's Magic, at the Prince of Wales Theatre from 10 December 1980 until 6 February 1982. At that time, the show was one of the longest-running magic shows ever staged in London. By this point he was already working with his future wife, Debbie McGee, whose role as his assistant would become a major feature of his act. She had first worked with him on his summer season show in Great Yarmouth in 1979.
In addition to his magic shows he hosted other television series during the 1980s and 1990s, including three BBC1 quiz shows: Odd One Out, Every Second Counts and Wipeout (all of which were based off short-lived American game shows), and the children's television programme Wizbit (also for the BBC), about a magician called Wizbit and a rabbit called Woolly, who lived in Puzzleopolis.
In 1987, Daniels hosted a controversial Halloween live special of his magic show where he replicated a Harry Houdini escape from an iron maiden. The trick was deliberately staged to give the illusion that the escape had gone tragically wrong and Daniels had been killed – he was later broadcast as having successfully escaped from the device.
Daniels and McGee were the focus of one of the episodes of the 2001 BBC documentary series When Louis Met..., presented by Louis Theroux, with Daniels additionally appearing on Da Ali G Show in an Ali G costume, and was interviewed by Caroline Aherne in her guise as Mrs Merton. In 2004, Daniels and McGee appeared in the Channel 5 reality TV show, The Farm, and in 2006, they appeared in the ITV show The X Factor: Battle of the Stars. They were the first act voted off the show, after singing "Let Me Entertain You" by Robbie Williams. Daniels and McGee also made a guest appearance in the Wife Swap series in early 2007, with McGee changing places with journalist and presenter Vanessa Feltz.
In August 2011, while filming a scene for ITV's Sooty, Daniels was struck by a flying pizza, thrown by the puppet Sooty. He got a piece of pizza in his eye and called in to a cottage hospital for them to rinse it out.
In 2013, Daniels and Debbie McGee toured their 'First Farewell Tour'.
Daniels was awarded the prestigious "Magician of the Year’" Award by the Academy of Magical Arts in 1982, and was the first magician from outside the US to receive it. An Easter special of The Paul Daniels Magic Show won the Golden Rose of Montreux Award at the International TV Festival in Switzerland in 1985.
Politics and other views
Daniels was a supporter of the Conservative Party. He was reported to have considered leaving the UK with the election of a Labour Party government at the 1997 general election. Daniels later said that his views had been misrepresented and he would only have considered leaving if they raised income tax. Daniels stated that he had limited sympathy with the homeless because he had come from a "very poor" background and "grafted" to achieve his success. In 2011, he tweeted that he did not consider the term "Paki" to be any more offensive than the word "Brit" and described those who held the opposite view of being excessively politically correct. Daniels was personally affected by the winter storms of 2013–2014 and described himself in an interview for Channel 4 News as a climate change sceptic, instead attributing flooding to changes in procedures of The Environment Agency, particularly with regards to dredging. He supported the hereditary system in the House of Lords, expressing pro-aristocratic views. On the subject of criminal justice, he once publicly offered to help the murderer Ian Huntley end his own life.
Daniels refused to attend magic conferences in the UK since they "...were ruined for me by bitchiness and jealousy...now I only go to foreign conventions where, to be honest, I am greeted with respect and civility AND I have tons of 'foreign' magician friends." He was dismissive of modern illusionists, once describing David Blaine as "not very original". He commented on other television personalities such as Anne Robinson and Chris Morris, claiming that Robinson had hated him ever since his 1987 Halloween special hoax performance, while describing Morris as "just nasty." He was dismissive of the younger generation of impressionists, saying: "Forget Alistair McGowan. There's been no-one good since Mike Yarwood." Daniels was also critical of journalists, stating "I don't really understand why journalism has to be so nasty, so sarcastic and intrusive".
Following the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal in 2012, Daniels said that he believed fellow BBC broadcaster Jimmy Savile was "undoubtedly a bad guy" but questioned whether some accusers were "for real". His comments were criticised by the NSPCC and Mark Williams-Thomas, the former child protection officer who had exposed Savile's crimes. Williams-Thomas accused Daniels of "belittling" the victims of Jimmy Savile in one of his blog posts. The entry was later removed from the blog.
Family and personal life
Daniels married his first wife, Jacqueline Skipworth (born 1942), in 1960, when she was 17 and he was 21. They had three sons together: Gary, Paul and Martin. All three sons occasionally appeared on The Paul Daniels Magic Show in varying capacities. Paul's father, Hughie, often made props for the show, such as wooden boxes for the Selbit Sawing illusion, whilst his mother, Nancy, sewed the stage curtains for his theatre tours.
Daniels married his second wife, long-time assistant Debbie McGee, on 2 April 1988 in Buckinghamshire. The couple met in London in May 1979 during rehearsals for Daniels' summer season show in Great Yarmouth that year. When they married, he was 50 and she was 29. McGee went on to work with Daniels in his 1980 summer show in Bournemouth and then his London stage show It's Magic before being offered the role of assistant in his long-running television series. Their relationship gradually became more established until he proposed in 1987. Early in their marriage they lived in a house in Denham that once belonged to Roger Moore. In 1998 they moved to a house on the banks of the River Thames at Wargrave in Berkshire.
Daniels' autobiography, Under No Illusion, includes descriptions of his and McGee's joking life:
I was writing and needed to concentrate, so I had a "Do Not Disturb" sign on my back. Eventually I went to bed and Debbie was lying stark naked on the bed – eat your heart out fellas! She was wearing the sort of sleeping blindfold you get on long-haul flights. Printed on it was Do Not Disturb. But further down her body she had a sign that said Disturb!"
In 2012, Daniels cut off his left index finger and the tip of his ring finger, in an accident with a circular saw, in the garden shed of his Wargrave home. He drove himself from his home to hospital in Henley-on-Thames, where the index finger was reattached.
Health problems and death
On 20 February 2016, he had a fall and was taken to hospital, where he was treated by medical staff for suspected pernicious anemia. However it was later discovered that he had an incurable brain tumour. He died less than a month later on 17 March, at the age of 77. Tributes included one from fellow magician Dynamo: “Paul was truly a giant of the entertainment world who really defined magic for over 20 years,” he said. “As a working-class magician from the North, he was personally a huge inspiration for me and I know that he has inspired countless magicians around the world and will forever be known as one of the all-time greats.”
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- Paul Daniels, Under No Illusion, Blake Publishing (May 2000), ISBN 1-85782-314-1
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|Host of Wipeout