Magician Paul Daniels dies from brain tumour

Paul Daniels and Debbie Magee at Cromer Pier signing autographs. Photo by Keith J. Deacon MA

Paul Daniels and Debbie Magee at Cromer Pier signing autographs. Photo by Keith J. Deacon MA - Credit: Keith J Deacon

Magician Paul Daniels has died after a short battle with a brain tumour, his publicist has confirmed.

Lowestoft's London Street North illuminated by Christmas lights switched on by Paul Daniels.

Lowestoft's London Street North illuminated by Christmas lights switched on by Paul Daniels. - Credit: Copyright Archant Norfolk.

He may have been the son of a cinema projectionist from Middlesbrough, who ended his days living on the bank of the River Thames.

But for Paul Daniels, who died today at the age of 77, Norfolk - and one town in particular - always held a special place in his heart.

The magician regularly took family holidays on the Broads and, as a performer, staged shows at venues throughout the region, from its biggest theatres to village halls.

Indeed, it was at rehearsals for his 1979 summer show at Great Yarmouth that he met his future wife, Debbie McGee. After a more recent magic show, at the resort's Britannia Theatre in September 2012, he described it as one of the best he had ever performed at. 'It is such a good place,' he said at the time.

Magician Paul Daniels at Spixworth Village Hall and Social Club.

Magician Paul Daniels at Spixworth Village Hall and Social Club. - Credit: Evening News © 2006

'Of course 33 and a half years ago it was where me and Debbie first met. And my family holidays used to be on the Broads. I just love Yarmouth.'

A year later in 2013, the magician was back in the region, at the unveiling of Davenport's Magic Kingdom, in North Walsham, to which he had donated some pieces.

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Other venues to have welcomed the entertainer over the years include the Beccles Public Hall, King's Lynn Corn Exchange, the Pavilion Theatre, at Cromer, and Dereham Memorial Hall. He even performed at Spixworth Village Hall, north of Norwich, in 2006 to help local fundraising.

At the time, it was said that many locals had assumed the performance would be by an impersonator, rather than the magician himself.

In January, however, he had to pull out of a show at Bungay's Fisher Theatre. The following month, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, following a fall at his home. He was at his Berkshire home with wife McGee when he died in the early hours of yesterday.

Following his death, tributes poured in from the world of showbusinesses, and beyond.

Mark Linsey, acting director of BBC Television, said: 'Paul was an outstanding showman and one of the great entertainers of BBC television.'

The Magic Circle said Daniels had 'been an inspiration to many magicians' and is of 'legendary status' in the world of magic.

As well as McGee, who had been his on-stage assistant, Daniels leaves his three sons from a previous marriage - Martin, Paul and Gary.

His son, Martin Daniels, said last week that his own show in Beccles would still go ahead at the end of the month.

Sue Bergin, event coordinator, said: 'It was only last Christmas that Paul and Debbie performed to a sell-out audience where [their] Intimate Magic Show was one of the highlights of the year.'

Fans have taken to Twitter to pay tribute.

Dan Roper said: 'Sorry to hear of the passing of Paul Daniels - he memorably performed at Spixworth village hall to help local fundraising.'

Rick Wakeman said: 'I am so sad at so many friends passing away. Paul Daniels and Debbie were great friends & a wonderful couple. I shall miss Paul greatly.'

•Obituary

The Paul Daniels Magic Show regularly attracted 15 million viewers in the UK and was sold to 43 countries.

One of the most popular magicians of the 20th century, his success was unrivalled in the magic and entertainment world.

Daniels, born Newton Edwards Daniels in Middlesbrough in 1938, became interested in magic as a young child.

But it wasn't until 1969 that he became a full-time magician when he performed a summer season at Newquay.

The following year Daniels came second in talent show Opportunity Knocks, which led to him being offered a regular slot on the ITV variety show The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club.

Then in 1979 The Paul Daniels Magic Show hit UK screens on the BBC and Daniels became a household name.

Famous for his self-deprecating humour, his catchphrase was: 'You'll like this... not a lot, but you'll like it.'

It was at auditions for the hit show that Daniels met his second wife, Debbie McGee.

Daniels was, at this point, separated from his first wife Jacqueline, with whom he had three sons, Paul, Martin and Gary. Martin Daniels regularly appeared on television with his father as a magician.

When McGee met Daniels, she was a soloist in the Iranian National Ballet in Tehran who had been forced to flee the country when the 1979 Iranian Revolution broke out.

After auditioning, the successful ballerina was initially disappointed to be selected for The Paul Daniels Show in Great Yarmouth.

'I had no idea who he was or what he did. People told me he was a magician, and my heart sank,' she told The Guardian in 2014.

'Then I saw him on TV at a friend's house, on the quiz show Blankety Blank. He was very funny - he took his jacket off and had a Superman T-shirt on and red knickers over his trousers. I was in hysterics,' she added.

Daniels and McGee married in 1988 and she continued to be his assistant on the show until it was axed in 1994.

Daniels also presented game shows in the 1980s and 90s such as Wipeout, Every Second Counts and Odd One Out.

His wit, charm, and magic skills earned him a reputation which meant that he performed for Princes William and Harry, Prime Ministers John Major and James Callaghan, Prince Rainier of Monaco and others.

Daniels was famous for his close-up magic and entertainment shows, but was less known for his special effects work.

He designed the special effects for the stage productions of Cats and Phantom Of The Opera, and was commissioned by the English National ballet to create magical effects for The Nutcracker.

In his later years, Daniels and his wife toured the country with magic and comedy shows, entertaining old fans and new generations alike with his skills.

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