Paul Daniels, Britain's most familiar magician, has died aged at the age of 77.
Paul had been spending his last days at home with his wife Debbie McGee and family, since it was announced a few weeks ago that he had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour.
His tricks, illusions, distracting banter and ease with his guests and TV audiences all ensured that he became one of the UK's biggest names on TV, with a primetime show that ran for 15 years from 1979 to 1994 and introduced magic to millions.
Born Newton Edward Daniels in Middlesbrough, his love for magic was sparked by reading a book when he was 11. Despite this, he fulfilled his national service in Hong Kong, then worked for local government and his family’s grocery business before embarking on his career as a magician.
His famous catchphrase, “You’ll like this… not a lot, but you’ll like it” was first heard in a Bradford club, when he was dealing with a heckler. But he was soon on his way, making his television debut on ‘Opportunity Knocks’ in 1970, where he came second.
After working on TV alongside other entertainers, Paul Daniels was given his own BBC programme, ’The Paul Daniels Magic Show’, which ran for 15 years from 1979. As well as tricks with cards, props and other illusions, one of the most memorable parts of the show was ’Under Laboratory Conditions’, when he recreated mind-blowing results that had foxed researchers of the paranormal, hence proving his scepticism in these fields.
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. He was also a committed member of the Magic Circle, and did much to popularise the art of magic in the UK.
By his side for almost all of that time was his assistant, Debbie McGee, who would become his second wife in 1988. When they met, he told her she was too young for him with 20 years between them, but she persisted, and they went on to enjoy a marriage and professional relationship that would last until his death.
Despite TV comedienne Caroline Aherne drawing a big laugh when she once asked Debbie McGee, “What attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?” both she and Paul pointed out that he hadn’t had anything like such enormous wealth when they met, and they remained very happy together until the end of his life.
From the outset, Paul Daniels was always cheerfully outspoken on a range of topics, from the need for unbending criminal justice, to the “genetic knowledge” enjoyed by the peers in the House of Lords.
As his TV work declined from the 1990s onwards, the couple were a regular celebrity pair joining in reality TV shows such as ‘The Farm’ and ‘X Factor: Battle of the Stars’, and showing their funny side, by recreating an Armani ad that originally featured an underwear-clad David and Victoria Beckham. Paul also participated in ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ where he was partnered with Ola Jordan.
Paul and Debbie also continued to perform on stage across the country, with both saying they enjoyed working in the industry too much to give it up. They were still playing to sold-out audiences when Paul’s illness was diagnosed and there will be plenty of people with tickets for their remaining shows, left disappointed that they won’t get to see this most hardworking, confident. disciplined entertainer in action, together with his tirelessly devoted companion at his side.