You’ll like this, not a lot, but you’ll like it. ATV Today remembers magician-comedian, actor and television presenter Paul Daniels following his funeral which took place earlier today in Buckinghamshire. Daniels died aged 77 on March 17th.
Just over a month ago a spokesperson for the veteran of stage and screen made the announcement, via the Paul Daniels official website, that the star was suffering from an incurable tumour on the brain. A huge outpouring of support for the North East born performer followed from fellow celebrities and members of the public. Daniels passed away on Thursday the 17th of March at his home in Berkshire with wife Debbie McGee by his side.
“One of our most beloved entertainers, Paul Daniels, has passed away at the age of 77. The TV star, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour earlier this year, passed away peacefully at home with Debbie at his side in the early hours of this morning. Debbie and the family would like to thank everyone for their support and asks that their privacy be respected at this sad time.” – Paul Daniels’ publicist
Paul with second wife Debbie McGee on Granada’s Celebrity Stars in their Eyes for ITV
Daniels was born Newton Edward Daniels in Middlesbrough, in Teesside, and first ventured as a professional into the world of showbiz via the tough North East workingmens clubs. Here he found it was handy to have comedy mixed with magic in order to keep rowdy and disruptive, sometimes worse for drink, club patrons in their place. Its indeed how his catchphrase “You’ll like this… not a lot, but you’ll like it.” came into existence. He’d began his fascination with magic aged eleven when, while studying at Redcar’s Sir William Turner grammar school, he found an old magic tricks book at a school pals house. By the age of 14 he was performing small-scale local shows at a Youth Club.
In 1970, eleven years after his first social club act performance, his routine had been seen by television executives and he was urged to audition for Thames Television’s talent show Opportunity Knocks – where he made his broadcasting debut. He was later signed up to appear on fellow ITV series The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club from Granada in Manchester, appearing as a regular across its later series. He also guest starred on The David Nixon Magic Show (ITV/Thames TV) and was later given his own ITV series, Paul Daniels’ Blackpool Bonanza in 1978 (Granada TV).
It was 1978 that he was lured over to the BBC where he first presented and performed magic in For My Next Trick. The following year the series was re-branded as The Paul Daniels Magic Show running until 1994. In the gaps between the TV series’ Daniels also continued to work live with summer season stage shows across the UK. In 1979 during rehearsals for one such gig he met future wife Debbie McGee who would later become his main assistant in both the stage and television shows. They married in 1988, he’d earlier, before meeting Debbie, divorced his first wife Jacqueline Skipworth whom he married in 1960 and had three children with; Paul, Gary and Martin. Martin would also take up magic, performing with his dad on the television magic show, as well as having his own successful career.
Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee on the his long running BBC One series The Paul Daniels Magic Show in 1985
“Paul didn’t know [he was dying]. The tumour was pressing on the part of the brain that processes information. Although he was talking and communicating and knowing who I was he wasn’t taking in new information, which is actually hard to tell because he seemed quite normal. He just seemed really tired.
“The day I was told I came home from hospital that night and cried the whole night. Then I said to myself, ‘OK what would he do in this situation?’ Let’s go and find out from the doctors what we’re going to do and whatever time he’s got left I’m going to make it the best time possible. That’s what I did. He never saw me cry. I smiled, I put my make-up on and hair every day. We were going to try something but he wasn’t up to it. He wasn’t in any pain whatsoever and he just slipped away.
“Our life has been full of laughter… even minutes before he slipped into that sleep he was smiling at me and singing Beatles songs. The way to describe Paul was if he was in the queue for the post office he was either doing tricks on them or making them all laugh. And he was as happy doing that as he was walking on stage at the Palladium or doing a TV show or doing a show for the Royal Family. He loved people. He was interested in everybody.” – Debbie McGee speaking to the BBC
In addition to his trick shows Daniels also became a popular television personality; first appearing as a regular panelist on the Terry Wogan hosted game show Blankety Blank. This lead to Paul being offered his own quiz to host Odd One Out, and later presided over fellow prime time offerings Every Second Counts and Wipeout. When Wipeout moved to daytime Bob Monkhouse took over the hosting duties. Daniels however continued to be seen on television with guest stints on Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes, Celebrity Wife Swap, The X Factor Battle of the Stars and Strictly Come Dancing to name a few.
Paul also worked behind the scenes on several high profile theatrical productions designing the special effects including for the stage production of Cats and also The Phantom Of The Opera. He was also commissioned to create magical effects for The Nutcracker by the English National Ballet.
“Paul was an outstanding showman and one of the great entertainers of BBC Television. His long-running magic show delighted viewers, as did his BBC One quiz shows Odd One Out, Wipeout and Every Second Counts, and children’s favourite Wizbit. He will be missed and our thoughts are with his family.” – Mark Linsey, Acting Director of BBC Television
Across 2015 and into January this year he had been touring, alongside Debbie, with his magic show and had been booked to appear at a number of venues across the UK well into autumn this year. Just before his illness was made public a number of upcoming appearances had been cancelled.
“At the height of his career The Paul Daniels Magic Show on BBC One pulled more than 20 million viewers – that was more than one third of the British population regularly tuning in on a Saturday night to watch a magician to make them laugh and witness feats of wonder such as his famous Chop Cup routine.
“In this day and age of fragmented media platforms no other magician is likely to be able to achieve such a TV ratings record.
“While the magic world owes Paul a huge debt, our thoughts go out to his wife Debbie and sons Martin, Gary and Paul.” – The Magic Circle
Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee on Thames Television’s The X Factor Battle Of The Stars in 2006 for ITV
“Without Paul Daniels I don’t think I’d be doing magic today, so it’s really a testament to how important he is for the magic world, he was a true master and his death is just such sad news.
“He was a real personality, he didn’t just perform a bunch of tricks, he knew how to take something and make it magical but humorous at the same time.
“He had his own style which I don’t think anybody could ever emulate or recreate. Paul Daniels for me is probably the best magician Britain has ever had. He has such an amazing legacy in magic.” – Magician Dynamo speaking to the BBC
At lunchtime today friends and family gathered at Milton Chapel at Chilterns Crematorium for the funeral, where at 12.15pm a white coffin with magic cards painted on one side, a silver magic wand on the front and a large wreath of red roses on top – from Debbie with a note which read: ‘Love You Always XXXX’ – arrived to a large crowd of mourners. Personalities spotted at the farewell included comedian Barry Cryer who appeared alongside Daniels on Blankety Blank, actress Bonnie Langford and television presenter Gloria Hunniford.
Across his career he supported many charities and in his final weeks a fundraising website had been set up under his name to raise money for good causes, including a brain tumour charity and the Royal Berks charity, based at the Reading hospital which treated the star.