David Berglas obituary


David Berglas, who has died aged 97, grew to become a range star of the Nineteen Fifties in Britain as a magician, illusionist and “mentalist” – one displaying extraordinary reminiscence abilities – and later took his stage act to Las Vegas.

He was one of many first conjurors to ascertain himself on British tv and was notably admired for his tackle the traditional ACAAN (any card at any quantity) trick. An viewers member can be invited to call a card, maybe the 9 of golf equipment, whereas one other selected a quantity between one and 52, perhaps 31. Then, Berglas would deal the playing cards face up, one after the other, revealing the thirty first card to be the 9 of golf equipment.

With sleeves rolled up, and no pockets, he was additionally adept at producing cigarettes and silk handkerchiefs from his empty fist and he claimed he may determine when {a photograph} was taken just by dealing with it. He referred to his tips as “psychological experiments” and described himself as a “man of thriller”.

The phantasm that made his title got here in 1953 when he was blindfolded and hooded whereas being pushed round London in an try to find a hidden slipper. He directed the driving force to Battersea Park, switched to a ship on the lake there and located the slipper on an island within the center.

A yr later, Berglas – who as soon as accomplished the Cresta toboggan run at St Moritz, Switerland, whereas blindfolded – made a piano disappear from a stage on the Park Lane resort, London, through the Toboggan Membership of Nice Britain’s annual gala dinner. He described how the pianist “fell flat on his face, a weird, surreal determine in a dinner jacket, flat on the parquet flooring, not shifting, and the piano had gone”.

The viewers – who looked for the instrument – had been astonished, but it surely was one of many few thriller stunts that Berglas later defined. Whereas one musician performed a hidden piano off stage, the pianist in view mimed on a hollowed out live performance piano with its inside workings eliminated. Its outer casing, painted black and minimize into 4 items, collapsed and was eliminated by “waiters” whereas the viewers was distracted by flickering chandeliers.

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David Berglas with younger contestants within the southern regional finals of the Day by day Categorical’s ‘spoon-bending’ contest in London, 1975. {Photograph}: Frank Barratt/Getty Pictures

Lots of Berglas’s tips confounded even different magicians. A levitation spectacle had 4 males and 4 girls putting their fingers on a desk, which then rose underneath their palms, moved across the stage in time with the music taking part in, then spun round because the eight collaborating viewers members struggled to maintain up with it.

Berglas broke into radio and tv alongside selection artists together with Jimmy Clitheroe, Terry-Thomas, Charlie Chester, Cardew Robinson and Cyril Fletcher.

On TV, he was in programmes akin to The Companies Present (in 1953) and Garrison Theatre (1954-55), and had his personal 1955 BBC present, You Are Invited to Watch David Berglas, and, later that yr, introduced the sequence Give attention to Hocus on the newly launched ITV. He later skilled a revival on British tv with The Thoughts of David Berglas (1985-86) on Channel 4.

A few of his stunts had been really terrifying. At the very least twice in 1966, blindfolded, he drove a automobile across the streets of London, with the racing driver Graham Hill, terrified, within the passenger seat. Six years earlier, he had executed the identical in Nairobi, Kenya.

“Nothing is inconceivable,” he instructed the Stage newspaper in 1987. “And I can guarantee you I lay no declare to supernatural powers. However let’s consider … I’ve a particular approach of doing issues.”

He was born in Berlin, to Jewish dad and mom, Emmy (nee Esther Kaplan), of Lithuanian descent, and Alfred Berglas, a German from a household of industrialists with a textile mill in France. They fled the Nazis in 1937.

David was despatched to Britain whereas his mom and youthful sister, Gaby, went to the Netherlands and older sister, Ellen, to Switzerland. The entire household was reunited in London the next yr.

Berglas attended Frensham Heights faculty, close to Farnham, Surrey, then, after the top of the second world battle, labored for US intelligence in Germany.

He settled in Bradford in 1947 and began finding out textiles on the metropolis’s technical faculty with a view to becoming a member of a textile mill established by his household in Wyke, close by.

After assembly the magican Ken Brooke, he made magic his passion for the subsequent 5 years. Throughout that point, he modified his profession plans, educated on the Tavistock Clinic, London, labored as a psychotherapist and gave demonstrations of hypnosis.

However in 1952 he turned skilled as a magician and illusionist, taking his present to the Windmill theatre, London, performing six occasions a day for six weeks, and sharing a dressing room with the comic – and later actor – Invoice Maynard.

He adopted it with performances up and down the nation on payments that included stars akin to Morecambe and Clever, Harry Price, Des O’Connor and Ruby Murray. His stage present, Meet David Berglas, was seen internationally and he had tv sequence within the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden.

Berglas was additionally a advisor on function movies. He taught card tips to Orson Welles for the James Bond spoof On line casino Royale (1967), to Ryan O’Neal and Patrick Magee for Barry Lyndon (1970), and to Jack Nicholson (because the Joker) for Batman (1989). For the Bond movie Octopussy (1983), he taught an actor the artwork of pickpocketing and suggested Roger Moore for a scene during which he switched an genuine Fabergé egg for a faux one.

From 1989 to 1998, Berglas was president of the Magic Circle. He was appointed MBE in 2019.

Berglas is survived by his spouse, the previous actor Ruth Shiell, whom he married in 1956, and their son Marvin, present president of the Magic Circle, and daughter, Irena. Their elder son, Peter, died in 2013.


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