Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Ted Banks From the Music Halls of England To Behind the Scenes with Blackstone


Ted Banks is on the far right.

Ted Banks was from England. His real name was Edward William Coppin. He was a member of Fred Karno’s Army of British Music Hall Comedians. Karno was a British Theater impresario and really he was a comedian creator. In 1911, Fred Karno sent some of his players over to the United States to appear in a play called A Night In An English Music Hall. Among the ‘players’ sent over to be in this production, Charles Chaplin, Stan Laurel and Ted Banks. Charles soon struck out on his own to become famous in the flickers, or early silent movie motion pictures. 

It is here, that I must clear up some mis-information. Several magical periodicals, and also newspapers have that Ted then started The Keystone Trio with Stan Laurel and another woman. That is not the case. The Keystone Trio was started by Edgar Hurley and his wife Ethel.

Edgar and his wife were also former Karno performers. Stan Laurel joined with them for a time until the group split up. Stan Laurel went off to team up with Oliver Hardy to become the famous comedy duo, Laurel and Hardy.

What happened to Ted Banks/William Coppin?. He did not go off into the movies like Chaplin and Laurel did. One reference said he went to work backstage for Thurston for a time and then eventually landed in the Blackstone show. I know he started with Blackstone in 1923. In 1927, he married a member of the cast, Della Cowell. She became known by the stage name Sally Banks, so they were Ted and Sally Banks.

There is a surprising article in Billboard Magazine April 17th, 1937. It mentions that Banks has worked for Blackstone for 14 years, but while in Wheeling WV, he left the show. He returned to Colon Mich and was set to take up work on the west coast.

Blackstone & Banks

On Sept 11, 1937, Billboard says that Ted has joined the Percy Abbott staff in Colon. In 1937, 38, 39 and more, Ted was involved as stage manager for the Abbotts Get Together and the IBM National Convention in 1939. On Nov 22, 1941, Ted Banks returns to the Blackstone Show. Why did he leave in the first place. I believe he got diagnosed with a heart condition and life on the road became difficult. When he returned to the Blackstone show, he was given lighter duties because of his heart ailment. 

On Sept 2, 1942, the Blackstone crew was in Decatur ILL to perform at the Lincoln Theater. While preparing for the show, actually during the showing of the matinee movie before the live stage show, a fire was discovered next door in the Drug Store. To learn more about the fire and the conditions you can listen to my podcast Ep 78

The sad part of the story, Ted Banks died of a heart attack that evening after the stressful day of dealing with the fire and moving the show hurriedly out of the theater. He was only 50 years old.

Banks and Blackstone looking at the fire.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

New Magic Detective Podcast Episode on Magicians of the Holocaust


I first wrote an article on magicians of the Holocaust back in 2011. I decided to update the article and put it up on my podcast. This time I've added to the list a female magician named Miss Blanche. There are a few more details on each of the various artists that were not in the original article.

To hear the podcast, you can simply click the link below!

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Too Clever For My Own Good -


The Mak Magic Version of the Magic Tea Kettle

There is an aged old trick known as The Inexhaustible Bottle. There were also versions with Tea Kettles, Punch Bowls and more. The idea was that any drink called for would come forth from the object. It was a wonderful mystery, presented by Robert Houdin, Robert Heller, David Devant, Charles Hoffman and many others.

Then a version came along called simply, 'The Magic Tea Kettle'. I believe it was put out by MakMagic. In this rendition, several different colored liquids were poured out of the kettle and then it was opened to reveal a bunch of dry colored scarves. Honestly, a bit of a let down compared to the original, but with the selling point of 'no skill required' you get what you paid for.

As fate would have it, I got one of these things when I was a kid magician. And I"m not 100% sure it was mine, it may have been my little brothers who for the briefest of time was also into magic. At any rate, regardless of who owned it, not that great a trick.

Fast forward many years to the publication of The Conjuring Anthology by Jim Steinmeyer, and he has a version of the Magic Tea Kettle in the book. He first came up with a routine called Hospitality, which was sold as a separate manuscript. But this newer tea kettle had a very different method and you could pour real drinks, not colored water, from the kettle. I loved the idea and made one up. The trick was called The Accommodating Kettle, on pages 326-332.

As I recall, you could pour, milk, orange juice, cherry drink, lemonade and maybe more. But it began by opening the lid of the tea kettle and pouring in a bottle of soda. So to have this dark liquid go in and then all these different drinks come out, that was pretty impressive. AND you could pass out all the drinks to be verified they are what they are. The routine was based upon a pseudo psychological premise, and was really well constructed.

It all sounds good, right. Well, then I get this 'flash of brilliance' and I decide to add a kicker to the trick (which I will share in a moment). So I'm at a show, I'm doing THIS trick, I'm pouring out drinks, handing out the cups and letting people try them. In this case, because it was an audience of a lot of kids, I thought it best to give the cups to the adults, just to be safe. And each one verified the contents. THEN came the kicker, I poured the orange juice back into the spout and opened the lid...........I then poured out several live swimming goldfish. What a lovely ending I thought.....

UNTIL, I noticed one of the adults. Her eyes were wide as saucers, she was turning a bit green, and any second she would begin to projectile vomit! SHE thought she just drank, 'fish water', lol. I quickly explained, she was safe, everyone was safe, the fish NEVER came in contact with their drink. It took a moment to calm them down, and then they all had a very hearty laugh over it. But it was then that I realized, I was being too clever for my own good. The fish ending was scraped after that. But it made a fun story to share, and I hope you got a good laugh out of it.