…on meeting a childhood hero (or two)

One of the things I remember from my childhood was the whole family sitting down to watch and enjoy The Paul Daniels Magic Show, with Paul Daniels (of course) who was ably assisted by The Lovely Debbie McGee (who he went on to marry).

Each episode featured performances by guest acts but also a lot of magic from Paul, ranging from close-up card tricks to much larger scale tricks and even what’s claimed to be the fastest trick in the world (as seen on the YouTube clip above). It was all good, clean fun on an otherwise often dull Saturday evening’s telly.

Times changed, viewer tastes moved on, and eventually Paul disappeared in large part from our screens, but I still remember some of the astounding tricks from his show. And, of course, his cheeky patter and bubbly persona which was very much a part of the whole appeal.

Fast forward too many years to mention to the present day, today in particular, when I had occasion to go and visit Paul at his rather nice home on the Thames in Berkshire.

What would it be like meeting this guy who was a bit of a hero for me when I was growing up? They say that one should never meet one’s heros as it’s a letdown.

Anyway, I duly arrived at what I thought was their house (a little confusion with the name), and parked up. While I was sorting myself out and double-checking, someone had wandered up to the car and asked if they could help – it was Mr Daniels himself, so this was the right house! Quickly introducing myself, I was warmly welcomed and ushered into his house and sat in a lovely room while he went off to try to find the errant magazines. While I was waiting a lady came back inside (they had a film-crew in the grounds all day for some project or other, which was apparently dragging on a bit). Smiling sweetly she extended a hand “Hello, I’m Debbie McGee” she said. I thought “I know who you are! I’m a stranger, sat in your house, and you’re being very sweet about it!”. Paul eventually returned with the magazines, and we had a brief chat as he sorted them out. Previously when arranging when to come get the magazines, I’d asked if it might be OK to have a quick photo with him, “Not a problem” he’d said. However, they had a film crew in the garden who were running late and needed them both for some more shots, so I thought I’d collect the magazines and leave swiftly, but Paul was having none of it – I was taken outside with him and Debbie (who was mentioning how nice she thought my car was – yay!) and we posed in their garden (right on the river, fabulous!) as he got one of the film crew to take the photos with my camera. Fantastic.

A brief couple of handshakes and a quick goodbye and I left them to it so as not to detain them longer, although I got the impression that Paul and Debbie were in no rush to get rid of me – consummate professionals, and an absolute charming pleasure to have met them both. Still can’t quite believe I was stood in the house and grounds of the man we as a family used to look forward to watching on TV all those years ago…