Saturday morning at Georges.

ONE OF THE DELIGHTS of my sunrise magic years happened every Saturday morning in London. Six sorcerers, some apprentices, some established, used to meet in  Davenports magic shop in Holborn where we would talk  magic, gaze in awe at the many name professionals who called in (Orson Welles, Dante, Edward Victor, Jasper Maskylene, Robert Harbin and many others) and occasionally we bought something.

They were Bobby Bernard, Ted Danson, Roy Walton, Jack Avis, Alex Elmsley and myself.

The proprietor George Davenport was a kindly man who tolerated our using his premises as a clubroom, knowing that many of us had few pennies to spend which we did from time to time on the latest trick or book. But he was always most generous in advising us of items that were not suitable for our emerging skills. He encouraged us in our regular visits knowing that we would one day emerge from our chrysalis and become regular magicians and repay his kindness with future patronage.

His kindness went beyond the doors of that Oxford Street magic shop. At the IBM convention banquets he always used to send over a bottle of wine to Jack Avis and myself and at Christmas gave us magically meaningful presents like a large bath-towel covered in playing cards. George was one of magic’s real gentlemen and we’ll never forget him.

At lunchtime we would repair to a nearby Greek cafe sited ironically in Vernon Place. Here we would spend hours over a plate of spaghetti Bolognese and a cup of coffee interspersed with card moves, the latest from the U.S. and discussion on a recent performance of a name magician. In the mid-afternoon we were often joined by Al Koran, film director and magician Cy Endfield and a largely unknown but excellent card worker Hugh Scott. His visits were infrequent being fitted in between his duties as a royal bodyguard Scotland Yard detective.

Later onto Soho where we would often have a brief visit to Harry Stanley’s studio followed by tea and strawberry shortcake in an Austrian cafe welcomed by the amply bodied Haus Frau Madame Maurier. Then the evening was usually filled by an underground trip to one of the circuit of variety theatres around central London to see a magician appearing on the bill. I remember them all. Benson Du Lay, Douglas Francis, Francis Watts, Shek Ben Ali, Kardomah, Lionel King, Howard de Courcy, Robert Harbin, Donald B. Stuart, Pat Hatton & Peggy, Deveen and his New York Blondes, Cingalee, Reg Salmon, the list is endless. None of them top of the bill but always good, entertaining acts that worked week after week all over Britain. These were halcyon days indeed.

Is it any wonder that my magic is so influenced by my years of seeing stage magicians who only got regular bookings because they were entertaining? Sorry for the drift into nostalgia but I am delighted to know that there are still many magicians today who also have a regular get together with colleagues where I believe some of the best magic is originated. The tradition continues.

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