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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Magicians of old » » Ali Bey Biography (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Leslie Melville
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Some time ago (about eighteen months), with a view to writing his biography, I began researching the life of Ali Bey - The Great Arabian Wizard. He played British Music Halls(Vaudeville) during the late 1940's and early 50's.

His professional career was curtailed when a safety curtain was accidentally lowered onto him while taking a call. For the relatively short time that he was around, he presented the most spectacular 20 minute illusion act seen in the U.K. Anyone witnessing the performance would never have forgotten it!

Most of my researches are complete, but there are one or two niggling gaps that are holding up the completion of the manuscript.

During his incapacity, following the accident, about six weeks of his dates were filled by another well known act of the time, "The Great Masoni" (Eric Mason). The unusual element in this 'covering' period was that Eric Mason played the dates as 'Ali Bey', actually taking on the character and performing the same act complete with Ali Bey's own assistants!

I have asked around among most of the people who might have known the details but no one thus far has been able to tell me how this situation came about!

I find it an extraordinary thing for anyone to do! Obviously, when an artiste is unable to appear, the agent/booker must find a suitable replacement. But I know of no other instance where an established magician actually goes out and literally presents another's act in the guise of the artiste being replaced.

At the time, Eric Mason had a successful illusion show and could quite easily have filled Ali Bey's dates with his own presentation. Kardomah and Bob Harbin were two who subsequently did cover some of the later dates.

Does anyone else know of this happening with any other magic act? I would be fascinated to know the details. Of course if there is someone who can enlighten me on the details of the Ali Bey/Eric Mason experience I will be forever grateful!

Leslie.
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Daveandrews
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Leslie, sorry I can't help with your research, but just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your lecture at the Bexleyheath Society.

Many thanks.

Best,

Dave
http://[URL]www.partymagic.org.uk" target="_blank">www.partymagic.org.uk" target="_blank">http://[URL]www.partymagic.org.uk

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Bill Palmer
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Have you talked to Chris Woodward about this? He or his wife should know.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

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Leslie Melville
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Thanks Bill, I'll check it out. I know Chris moderately well but didn't know that he had specific knowledge of Ali Bey - maybe Eric Mason? I will certainly ask him. Thanks again.

Leslie.
Stories....?....That's telling!
nina1
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For any information about Ali Bey please contact me as I am Ali bey's daughter who performed on stage with him through out his career and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Mavis Hewson nee. Lemmy
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In response to your question "Does anyone else know of this happening with any other magic act?", according to Will Dexter in his book "The Riddle of Chung Ling Soo", William Robinson (Chung Ling Soo) would perform in place of Alexander Herrmann. To quote Dexter, "He (Herrmann) instilled into Billy (Robinson)the essential principles of the complex art of make-up. On more than one occassion, Herrmann would take a night off, leaving Billy to play his part. And Robinson would go on and present the whole of Herrmann's show without the audience suspecting it."

Additionally John Steinmeyer in his book "The Glorious Deception: The Double Life of William Robinson, a.k.a. Chung Ling Soo the "Marvelous Chinese Conjurer" wrote ". . . we do have a good record of at least one impersonation. On December 3, 1895, Herrmann was performing his magic act at the California Theater in San Francisco. At the same time he was across town at the Mechanics' Pavilion, riding one of his high stepping stallions at the Pacific Coast Association Horse Show. Herrmann traveled with his own horses, and he couldn't resist the opportunity to attend the show. The newspapers reported on Herrmann's marvelous feat, concluding that it was truly the work of a master magician. Herrmann dismissed the feat, disingenuously suggesting that his program allowed for various breaks - like his wife's dances - that allowed him a little time to leave the theater. The actual secret - William Robinson - wasn't exposed until much later."
Leslie Melville
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Thanks for that interesting information. Following Ali Bey's accident and on his return to the act, I understand that there were occasional performances when he was in such pain that one of his assistants (Brett Creswell)stood in and took on the role. I have also been told that Victor Spink, his business manager on more than one instance, performed as an assistant during the act.

The Great Masoni story is somewhat different in that he took on the Ali Bey persona for the entire run of his engagement - several weeks. There was no formal acknowledgement and audiences were unaware of the change; Goodliffe (owner and editor of 'Abracadabra') was impressed at the time and wrote a glowing report of the Masoni duplication! I believe that Ali Bey himself was less than pleased with Masoni's interpretation and couldn't wait to reclaim his act - probably coming back too soon!

It is all fascinating stuff!
Stories....?....That's telling!
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