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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The January 2010 entrée: Pete Biro » » Ken Brook, Patrick Page, Bob Read and Fred Robinson » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Medifro
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Hello Smile

While I'm not widely familiar with your material, I've read your name coming up in Bob Read's and Patrick Page's articles in Pabular. I also read that you corresponded with one and only Ken Brook. You've met some of my magic heroes!

Also, do you have any stories to share about them? Also, did you ever meed Fred Robinson?

While I've seen videos of Bob Read and Patrick Page, I never watched Fred Robinson, and only a crude video of Ken Brook. ANYTHING about these two would be awesome! ( and of course, Page and Read ).

Thanks! Smile
~ Feras
Medifro
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Smile I hate myself for bumping this, but goes to show you how interested I am ..
Unless they're isn't any stories about those men :S ..

~ Feras
Pete Biro
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Sorry to have missed this before and not replied.

Pat Page and Bob Read were very good friends and we had all kinds of fun playing with magic and just socializing.

Ken Brooke was a major influence, as were the above, teaching me a lot about what material to use and how to perform it to the max.

When I met Pat he was working behind the counter at Davenport's old location on Great Russell Street, right accross from the British Museum. When in London, which used to be often, I would spend half the day there and the other half at Ken Brooke's Magic Place, which was on Wardour Street. Which has totally changed and is now China Town.

Fred Robinson. I didn't really see Fred that much, mostly at the Monday nights at the Magic Circle. I'm not an advanced card guy, but he knew I loved rising cards and he made up a spectial version and gave it to me.

Read, one time picked my wife, Linda, and I up in his nice Jaguar Saloon car and took us on an historic pub tour. One time at the Desert Seminar, in Las Vegas, Read was in a close up contest and right in the middle of his act an alarm went off (someone went out an armed DO NOT EXIT door)... this caused a bit of a delay, and while Bob was still working the RED LIGHT, signifying you had gone overtime and would be disqualified. Bob just took his jacket off, threw it over the light and kept right on going.

Let me pause here, I have to leave shortly for a meeting (interesting that one of the guys I'm meeting with is R. Paul Wilson, who grew up with Pat Page as a mentor and hero).

More later....
STAY TOONED... @ www.pete-biro.com
Medifro
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WOW. Can't wait for more Smile
Pete Biro
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Ever have your knees buckle out from under you, and fall over backwards when you saw a card trick?

I did once, and only once, at Ken Brooke’s Magic Place.

Finn Jon was in town playing at Raymond’s Review Bar in nearby Soho… Ken asked Finn to do his new trick for me.

I selected three cards; Finn put them back into the deck, and then placed the deck on the floor. The bright sunlight was gleaming through the windows of Ken’s shop, right onto the deck.

Finn told me to take hold of an imaginary bit of thread and to pull… as I did so, in mime, the deck moved, a card swung out… my knees buckled and I fell over backwards.

Lucky for me Ken’s big, soft couch was behind me and broke my fall.

I took a few of these (Esoteric) home with me and witnessed the same reaction on others.

One day Del Cartier and his wife Rhoda were in from New York. Del was the one that helped create the invisible thread that Fred Kaps used for the Dancing Cork (he was in the fabric business).

It was near closing time and we were all about to go out for a bit of food. But before we were ready to leave, Rhoda said to Ken, “As long as we have known you, Ken, we have never gone with you to see you do a show. We hear about it but we have never seen you do a show.”

Ken mumbled something and disappeared into the “back room.” About 10 minutes later out he comes, completely changed into his Dinner Suit… with his table and all his props.

Right there, just for the three of us, Ken did his whole act. The lot, the rings, the silks, the dancing cane, the legs table, the bottles, all the gags and pratfalls, everything!

It was sensational, and he got a standing ovation from an appreciative crowd (of 3)!

Ken was tutoring me on the bottles. I asked him how he got “off” at the death. He said, “You pick up the table, walk toward the wings, and just before you get there you trip and stumble and start to fall… but you catch the table and save everything.”

I couldn’t believe this. You have to miss? Ken said, “Peter, I’ll teach you, come on.”

Ken grabbed the tray with the tea pot and all the cups that were always there, and we went down the stairs to the street. He said, “Watch carefully.”

Ken started to walk, briskly toward a group of ladies, then “tripped” and started to fall forward. They screamed and leaped out of the way, but Ken “saved” it just in time.

He did this maybe 10 times showing me how to trip and catch myself. I was afraid to try it and told him I would work on it later when I got home.

I did to it one time, dropped one bottled, but it did pay well.

He also taught me how to stand in a funny position, said, “The trick will play funnier if you stand crooked, like this.” He stood with his body straight, but on an angle to one side. I do use this.

On the wall was a photo. It was of the Mad Comics character that adorned so many of their covers. It was nicely framed and the name Ken had written on it was “Channing Schwartz.” This was probably only funny to a few people, but to those few it was hilarious.

One night Fred Kaps was in and at closing Ken told us to come with him. We didn’t know where we were going, we figured it might have been to the Dog and Duck pub, or a restaurant, but the cab ride was rather lengthy and we wound up in a dark and scary place, along the docks on the River Themes.

Fred and I were a bit nervous, but we followed Ken. All of a sudden we were on a gangplank and onto a yacht that was tied up there. We got on board and lo and behold it was John Calvert’s yacht. We spent the whole night there doing and talking about magic with Calvert and his lady Tami. What an evening.

Ken had already had his stroke. He was in hospital when I arrived on one of my many visits to London. I got directions to Tunbridge Wells (where he was in hospital) so I could visit. When I got there his partner Frank Farrow was there. Frank said, “Great to see you, we need your signature, do you mind?” I asked what for? He said, “It’s the renewal of the contract between Ken and I for our business arrangement.

I was happy to be a witness and sign the contract to keep Ken Brooke’s Magic Place going.

One thing few may know, but at Wardour Street, we shared the “Loo” with Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice, the famous songwriters (Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar and more) as their office was up one flight from The Magic Place.

It isn’t always good news. I had just bought a brand new light tan sport jacket and the Sharpie pen had just come on the market. I had one in my inside jacket pocket and it leaked black ink all over the inside. I asked Ken if he knew of a cleaners that could get the stain out. He sent me to one down the street that “Did a lot of the artiste’s clothes,” he said.

So, I took it in and showed them the problem. They told me to come back the next day and it would be fixed.

Sorry, but they made it worse. The stain could not be seen on the outside of the jacket “before” I gave it to them. But after it was a huge round black circle stain on the outside.
It wasn’t Ken’s fault.

Went by his digs one night to listen to his newest toy, a Bang and Oulofson (spelling?) stereo, after which he made Yorkshire Pudding.

I forget the year (you can check it out) but we tried and tried, and finally got an OK from Ken to get him over here to the States. We were going to honor him at the Desert Magic Seminar in Las Vegas, Nevada, and put on a party for him at Siegfried and Roy’s home.

Ken, with his friend Paul Stone, flew into Los Angeles and checked into a hotel in Santa Monica, right on the beach of the Pacific Ocean. We did the usual visiting the Magic Castle, etc.

Ken was invited to visit Ricky Jay at his home and see his collection, so I picked Ken and Paul up at their hotel and promptly got lost driving all over Los Angeles trying to find Ricky’s house. Which I finally did.

Then next morning it was time to drive to Las Vegas. It is about a five hour drive from Los Angeles. It was a bright sunny and hot day at the beach when I picked them up. To get to Las Vegas the drive takes us up over a mountain pass, and at that time I was driving a car a mate of mine sold me that he had brought over from England. It was a right-hand-steering Mercedes Benz Estate Wagon. Ken thought this was great, riding around in the USA in a car from the U.K.

Anyway, as we got along the drive to the highest point over the mountain it began to snow.

Snow in California.

Ken went crazy, he yelled, “Stop the car, stop! Where’s the camera Paul? Bloody Hell, we were on the beach this morning and now we’re in a Bloody snow storm.”

I had tried for years to get Ken to visit the U.S., but he always said, “No.” Finally I got all over him to give me his reason.

Finally, he told me the story. He, when working for Harry Stanley, did come over to do an IBM Convention in Florida. He did a spot on the show and “went a bomb” – getting raves from everybody.

One such person was Mark Leddy. He was the top agent for variety acts in New York, and told Ken he wanted him to come to New York the next week and to be on the Ed Sullivan Show, Toast of the Town. This was American’s number one TV Variety show.

Unfortunately, Ken was under the control of Harry Stanley at that time and Harry wouldn’t let him do it. Seems Ken had a lecture scheduled and that was it.

Ken was heartbroken over this and was so soured on the U.S. he didn’t ever want to come back.

Ricky Jay came with me on one trip and got along great with Ken. But, one day Ricky was telling someone how great the Paul Fox cups were, for the cups and balls, because, “The design is such that it shows of the final loads to look bigger than the cups.”

Ken didn’t buy this, telling Ricky, “It isn’t the size, it’s the change. I’ll prove it to you.”
Ken grabbed his cups, closed the shop and we headed for the market a few streets away. Ken asked one of the merchants for the “smallest lemons you have.” He bought three and we headed for the Dog and Duck pub.

After stepping to the bar and ordering a pint Ken pointed to a table in the corner with six people, three couples, having a time and told Ricky and I to “come watch…it isn’t the size, it’s the change.”

Ken began doing his cups and balls routine and they, as well as we, were enjoying every bit of it. Then at the finish, Ken lifted the cups and there were these three small lemons. The crowd (several others had joined in on the watching) went crazy. They screamed and hollered, they were destroyed, they couldn’t believe their eyes.”

Ken picked up his cups, turned to Ricky and said, “It’s not the size, it’s the change.”

Pat Page, Ricky and I went to a small circus one night. There was a juggling act that featured the Diablo (spinning top on string). At the interval a young boy came on and did the Diablo to sell cheap versions for a quid. We each bought one.

After, Ricky and I went to our hotel (Russell Hotel) and tried, and tried, and tried, but couldn’t get it going. Ricky got tired and went to bed. I kept at it and all of a sudden figured out how to get it going.

Next morning when we got up I showed Ricky I could do it. He tried and tried, but just couldn’t get it.

We went to Davenport’s to see Pat and he had figured out how to do it, but Ricky, still trying couldn’t do it. He was getting upset with himself.

Ricky had someplace to visit so we decided to meet at Ken’s later that afternoon. I got to Ken’s early. Ken said, “What’s in the bag?” I showed him the Diablo and he said, “Give it to me, I used to pitch them, watch.” Ken did all kinds of tricks well. I told him how Ricky was unable to even get it started. So, Ken said, “Let’s have some fun. When Ricky gets here I’ll ask what’s in the bag, you show me and I’ll tell you I have never seen one, what do you do with it.”

Well, not only did this knock Ricky for a loop but he was even more frustrated.

That’s not the end.

Later, Albert Goshman arrived (I think we were all coming through on the way to a convention somewhere) and we all were chatting away when Goshman spotted the Diablo on the couch. He didn’t say anything, but he walked over, picked it up and started to juggle it like a pro. Seems he had learned this when he was a youngster.

Exit Ricky.

Watching Ken dem in the shop was something else. I remember one day a young magician came in after reading some adverts and asked to see the Nemo Rising Cards.

Ken picked it up and said, “This is what I think of this trick,” and he threw it across the studio into the corner where it landed with a thud. He told the kid it was too hard to do and he would never be able to learn how to do it.

The kid asked about something else and Ken refused to sell it. Trick after trick, same thing.

However by the end of the day he sold the lot, just about everything to the kid. Ken had made him want everything so bad he bought it all.

It may have been my last visit the The Magic Place, Ken had had the stroke and was having difficulty speaking. This saddened all of us who so loved this man.

Anyway, Ken brought me into the back room and told me, “Go through all the files, take one of every instruction, I want you to have a record of all the tricks.”

In addition, Ken had a blue scrap book of photos depicting himself in all kinds of situations. They were really all photos of other people in strange and exotic places, but Ken had “superimposed” is face on all the bodies. It is a very, very funny collection of pictures, and Ken’s comment on each is priceless. It is one of my most cherished possessions.

One night Ken was teaching me the proper handling for Chase the Ace (which I still do today), but when I moved the card’s he’d grab them out of my hands and hit me with them, saying, “No, no, not that way. Hold them still, if you move them people can’t tell what card you’re showing them.”

He was a great teacher.

He always warned visiting magicians to “Leave the 3-Card Monte workers alone if you see any on the streets. You tell them you’re a magician they don’t care, they want you out of there and have ‘mugs’ working with them that will get you out of there and can harm you to.”

Ken was putting the Malini Egg Bag together. He had gotten the real handling and work on the bag from Charlie Miller, but needed instructions to go with it. And you know what a stickler Ken was for having the best instructions.

So, thankfully, I happened to be in London at this time and knowing I did some drawing, Ken asked me to make the sketches as he did each move.

What was great about this was the fact that he did each move over and over again so I could make the drawings from the correct angles to help the student. Once finished, I had now learned how to do this from Ken himself. Then Ken shipped my sketches over to Sid Lorraine, in Canada, to do the final ink drawings that appeared in the final instructions.

This particular set of instructions became the standard by which all others are held up to, and they continue to be the best ever for learning to do the egg bag.

Ken was having fits with people like Tony Spina at Tannen’s in New York. Ken would come out with an exclusive trick and before you know it Tannen’s was selling the same trick.

I called Spina on this in a column I wrote for a magazine published by Lloyd Jones. Spina was furious that I put Ken’s complaint in print. Spina wrote me a letter, which basically said, “If one of my customers comes into my store and wants to buy a trick of Ken Brooke’s but Ken doesn’t wholesale to dealers, then I HAVE TO MAKE THE TRICK TO MAKE THE SALE.”

When I reprinted his letter word for word it showed the world how bad this guy was, it showed he thought it was just fine for him to steal someone else’s magic, because he had to, to please his customers.
STAY TOONED... @ www.pete-biro.com
Donal Chayce
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Quote:
On 2010-01-28 15:03, Pete Biro wrote:
...
Exit Ricky.


:lol: What a great story!
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steve spill
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Funny stuff. The Jay story is hilarious. Sad some dealers still feel like Spina. You need to write a book about you anecdotal life.
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Wow...Thanks Pete. Great read. Write a book of these memories. It would be a must have.
...Your professional woodworking and "tender" loving care in the products you make, make the wait worthwhile. Thanks for all you do...

http://Sefalaljia.com
Pete Biro
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Lot of it is in "Pete's Leaflet" - which I think I will publish... Then it might be fun to ADD some chapters of stuff not in the originals.

STAY TOONED... Smile
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Medifro
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OMG
Medifro
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THAT POST WAS SENSATIONAL.

I kept reading it over again and tears began to come Smile .. That was simply amazing. Thanks ALOT for sharing.

~ Feras
Pete Biro
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You're very welcome, I'm glad I made those notes and could share them.
STAY TOONED... @ www.pete-biro.com
Elliott Hodges
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Pete, do you think it's in the change not the size?

I disagree with Ken.
Small lemons are still gonna be pretty big compared to the balls he was using.
if he'd have loaded three coloured balls exactly the same size as the ones he was using all along under the cups the reaction wouldn't have been the same surely?
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