At 18, he was called for National Service and was sent to Hong Kong on active duty where he spent part of his time entertaining the British and American servicemen. After demobilisation, Paul decided to leave his secure Civil Service post to manage his parents grocery business. “It was so successful that I was soon able to buy my own shop. But it meant that I was working harder than ever. In the evenings I was entertaining with my magic act in working men’s clubs. I had a gruelling schedule of up to three 45-minute slots every night.”
It was while in one of these clubs in Bradford, that Paul’s most famous catchphrase ‘You’ll like it, not a lot, but you’ll like it,’ came about. “A man called out to me ‘I don’t like your suit,’ so I replied, ‘Oh, well I like yours, not a lot, but I like it.’ It became the hook for what we call a running gag. I’d go back to same man every now and again throughout the show and say, ‘you’ll like this, not a lot, but you’ll like it.’ I was known all over the north of England for saying this long before I became famous.”
Paul developed his showman’s patter according to comments his audiences made. “I’d stay in the toilets after the shows to listen to what people didn’t like about my performance. I even got my girlfriends at the time to do the same. I treated my performances very much as a business.”
Paul quickly learnt from the criticism he overheard, adjusting the way he presented his show. “I learnt not only by listening but by observation. I lived by the quote ‘if we could see ourselves as others see us’. I did just that, I looked at myself to see what I could use to my advantage – I wasn’t tall or suave like Bruce Forsyth for instance, he was king at the time, the top entertainer. I knew I would look all wrong if I tried to be like him. I read lots and lots of comedy and worked on developing my own style. But trying to combine two successful jobs almost killed me. I had to make a choice. Luckily the decision was made for me when I landed a summer season at Newquay. I seized my chance and moved into showbusiness professionally.”
In 1970 Paul was given another big break. He made his television debut on the talent show Opportunity Knocks. Although Paul came second, television executive Johnny Hamp spotted him and offered him a slot on Granada’s popular TV show The Wheeltappers and Shunters Club. This proved to be the launching pad Paul had been waiting for.
So how does he feel about TV shows where the magicians reveal their secrets?
“They don’t bother me. It only annoys the amateurs, not the professional magician. You see I know 15 different ways to cut a woman in half – these programs only ever show one. I bought a trick when I was young and could not get any entertainment out of it, even though I obviously knew how it worked. Then I saw a man perform the same trick and he got a fantastic reaction from the audience. At that moment I realised that the secret is never in the trick, it’s always in the performer.”
These days Paul is interested in developing businesses, from internet marketing to The Paul Daniels Magic Shop. For up and coming magicians he has written a complete masterclass course in magic called How to Make Money by Magic. In 2003 he went on an extensive How to Make Money by Magic tour of Australia, USA and the UK. “Unlike traditional magic lectures, I focused on how to use your existing knowledge of magic to earn money. The emphasis was on the business aspect of show-business. We’ve made the highlights of the tour available on DVD.” Paul has a special ‘Magician’s area’ on his website full of vital tips for budding and performing magicians.
This year Paul has worked in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but he and the lovely Debbie McGee do still make the occasional television appearances, particularly on reality TV shows such as Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends and The Farm.
As far as number plates goes, he says that if he does decide to look for another plate he will certainly have a flick through the Regtransfers magazine, especially now he’s appeared in it!
Before I go, I ask him if he would mind signing the ace of spades playing card for my thirteen year old son. “Goodness me, you must have been having babies as a child” he says, flattering me by thinking I don’t look old enough. I laugh for the umpteenth time – I’ve really enjoyed being entertained for the past couple of hours – meeting the man himself has not shattered any of my childhood illusions.
Interview by Ruby Speechley
Photography by Len Stout
© Regtransfers.co.uk 2006
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