Paul Daniels (born Newton Edward Daniels on 6 April 1938) is a British magician and television performer. He achieved national fame through his television series The Paul Daniels Magic Show, which ran on the BBC from 1979 to 1994.
During World War II Paul was evacuated to the Helmsley area. After Sir William Turners Grammar School on Coatham Road in Coatham, Redcar (now the Redcar & Cleveland College Connections Campus on Corporation Road) and his first job as a junior clerk in the treasurer's office of Eston council, Daniels served in the 1st Battalion, The Green Howards during his National Service and was posted to the British garrison in Hong Kong, before training as an accountant in the Civil Service. Even at this early age he had thinning hair which he claimed to be an act of 'magic'. Unbeknownst to TV audiences, Daniels later sported a wig for much of his television career. After working as a junior clerk and then as an auditor in local government Daniels joined his parents in the grocery business they were running at the time. He later set up his own shop but eventually gave this up in favour of his growing career as a magician.
A major turning point in Daniels's career came in 1969 when he was offered a summer season at Newquay. He decided to sell his grocery business and try magic as a full time business. He made his television debut on the long-running talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1970, and came second. Television producer Johnnie Hamp saw Daniels in that show and later gave him a regular spot on The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club for Granada Television.
Daniels starred in his own stage show, It's Magic, at the Prince of Wales Theatre from 10 December 1980 until 6 February 1982. At that time, the show was one of the longest-running magic shows ever staged in London. By this point he was already working with his future wife, Debbie McGee, whose role as his assistant would become a major feature of his act. She had first worked with him on his summer season show in Great Yarmouth in 1979.
Daniels presented his own television series, The Paul Daniels Magic Show, on the BBC from 1979 until 1994. As well as featuring tricks and illusions for pure entertainment, he also included a regular segment (the "Bunco Booth") in which he exposed the confidence tricks of street charlatans. He also replicated the kind of results that have impressed researchers of the paranormal and parapsychologists (in a segment known as "Under laboratory conditions"), thereby demonstrating his skepticism about claims made in these fields.
In addition to his magic shows he hosted a number of other television series during the 1980s and 1990s, including three BBC1 quiz shows: Odd One Out, Every Second Counts and Wipeout, and the children's television programme Wizbit (also for the BBC), about a magician called Wizbit and a rabbit called Woolly, who lived in Puzzleopolis.
On the magic circuit, Daniels' appeal diminished as the 1980s drew to a close, and in the 1990s, ratings slumped. A 1995 magic show for the BBC entitled Secrets, set in a variety club, failed to catch on and was not renewed. He has, however, made several guest appearances on television, though this has often been as the unsuspecting butt of the joke on satirical comedy shows, such as the Chris Morris show, Brass Eye. Daniels and McGee were the focus of one of the episodes of the 2001 BBC documentary series When Louis Met…, presented by Louis Theroux, with Daniels additionally appearing on Da Ali G Show in an Ali G costume, interviewed by Caroline Hook in her guise as Mrs Merton. In 2004, he and Debbie appeared in the Channel 5 reality TV show, The Farm, and in 2006, they appeared in the ITV show The X Factor: Battle Of The Stars. They were the first act voted off the show, after singing Let Me Entertain You by Robbie Williams. Daniels and McGee also made a guest appearance in the Wife Swap series in early 2007, with McGee changing places with journalist and presenter Vanessa Feltz. In 2008 Daniels was part of Dec's team in the Ant v Dec segment of Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, but was eliminated by Dec after the team lost the Bobsleigh challenge in show 3 (of 6).
In 2005, 22-year-old TV presenter Kat Shoob complained in a magazine interview that Daniels had tricked her into kissing him on the lips during a television appearance. Despite describing it as her "worst ever experience" Shoob appeared to laugh off the incident during the interview.
Despite the end of his television show, Daniels still tours doing live magic and recently presented a show about magician 'Max Malini'. On 28 November 2006, Daniels presented a magic show at the Eton College Magic Society to about 500 Etonians. He currently owns a magic/fancy dress shop in Wigan town centre. He has stated he has an ambition to star in a Hollywood film.
More recently he was named "World Greatest Magician" by students at Boston Spa School, Yorkshire. Daniels turned up to the ceremony and gave an impromptu show.
On the subject of criminal justice, he has stated: "...make them afraid of the punishment...when I heard Ian Huntley had tried to commit suicide – I’d have helped him. There are no ifs or buts about Huntley. With him, I wouldn’t even have told him the result of the trial, he'd just have gone to sleep and never woken up".
Daniels has stated that he has very little sympathy with the homeless since, in his words, "I was always trying to be best, to get ahead of the other guy. And I can't say why, I just knew I could...I saw Peter Stringfellow on TV one time, and we both have a little, but not very much, sympathy for the homeless, because both of us came from very poor backgrounds, got off our arses, and grafted".
Daniels now refuses to attend magic conferences in the UK since they "...were ruined for me by bitchiness and jealousy...now I only go to foreign conventions where, to be honest, I am greeted with respect and civility AND I have tons of ‘foreign’ magician friends.
He is dismissive of modern illusionists. He has described David Blaine as "not very original".
He is also dismissive of modern impressionists - "I don't think much to modern impressionists either. Forget Alistair McGowan."
On journalism - "I don't really understand why journalism has to be so nasty, so sarcastic and intrusive". Daniels has often remarked that for his final trick he would like to make "disappear The Sun", a reference to the British tabloid newspaper.
On Anne Robinson, following his 1987 Halloween special hoax performance, he said: "[she] was asked to leave the room, not knowing if it was for real or not, and I banned her from telling the press. She's hated me ever since, but then she's a nasty piece of work. A real bitch. So is Cilla Black."
On the satirist, Chris Morris he commented: "[He's] just nasty."
On the hereditary system in the House of Lords - "The hereditary peers, the real Lords, have the genetic knowledge so they know what to pass and what not to let through. I believe the gene carries more than physical characteristics. It's more than just education that makes the Lords better at making these kind of decisions than leaving it with the Commons. It's like an animal instinct. The aristocracy may act foolish, but in times of war and riots they have the knowledge and a belief and strength of leadership and instinct that coal miners just haven't got...".
On pornography - "Porn is fine when it's between consenting adults. The stuff with kids is wrong, but between consenting adults it's fine. There's a lot I like, although nothing weird".
Daniels married his second wife, long-time assistant Debbie McGee on 2 April 1988. The couple first met in London in May 1979 during rehearsals for Daniels' summer season show in Great Yarmouth that year. At that time he was 40 and she was 20. McGee went on to work with Daniels in his 1980 summer show in Bournemouth and then his London stage show It's Magic before being offered the role of assistant in his long-running television series. Their relationship gradually became more established until he proposed in 1987. Early in their marriage they lived in a house in Denham, Buckinghamshire, that once belonged to Roger Moore. In 1998 they moved to a smaller house on the banks of the River Thames at Wargrave in Berkshire.
Daniels' autobiography, Under No Illusions, includes descriptions of his and McGee's sex life:
"Once I got upstairs, Debbie was lying stark naked on the bed - eat your heart out fellas! She was wearing the sort of sleeping blindfold you get on long-haul flights. Printed on it was Do Not Disturb. But further down her body she had a sign that said Disturb!"
Daniels also claims in the book to have had, as of the year 2000, sexual relations with more than 300 people. This figure includes a Chinese girl he met on a Hong Kong ferry during his National Service, whom he recalls as being "rather throaty".
Daniels maintains a website that includes personal information, a detailed blog and records podcasts. The blog incorporates Daniels' diary entries and day-to-day musings and observations on a range of topics, such as "Do you think that somewhere along the way the word 'whether' got changed to 'weather'? "I wonder what it is going to be like tomorrow and whether we can go out...", as recorded on 29 July 2008.