Channing Pollock in Conversation with John Fisher

19th November 2000

Reported by Duncan Trillo, MagicWeek



On Sunday 19th November 2000, following the special presentation of the Magic Circle's David Devant International Award to Channing Pollock at the Magic Circle Awards Banquet, The Magic Circle hosted "Channing Pollock in Conversation with John Fisher - Your chance to meet a true living legend of magic." This was a wonderful afternoon, that offered a vivid insight into the life of a man who changed the course of magic, and became the quintessential magician.


John Fisher and Channing Pollock


Born in 1926, it was on seeing a demonstration of a svengali deck 21 years later that Channing thought to himself "there was something here" and decided to delve deeper into the world of magic. An advertisement in Genii advertised a "College of Manual Dexterity" (The Chavez School of Magic) and Channing applied. Neil Foster, famed for his presentation of the zombie ball, was his instructor and we were shown a rare clip of Channing performing the zombie ball. Noticing an advertisement in a local paper for "rabbits and pigeons" Channing decided to take a look and returned home that night with a pigeon "about four times the size of a dove and totally unsuitable." The pigeon had to go and in its place he acquired two doves. And so the act that was to take him to the top of his field started to take shape.


An early TV appearance


Nightclub engagements started to happen and when asked how he developed his stage image said "fear made me look sophisticated!" (Take note those who over-theorize!) "I like what I saw kid - you got the Sullivan Show" agent Mark Leddy told Channing after making a long journey to see him. In those days an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show served in two ways. It said that you’d "arrived," but also that you were going somewhere. In 1955 he performed at the London Palladium, and during that period played London on many occasions.


The Channing Pollock "Twin-Sawing" 1965


In 1961 Channing was playing at the Latin Quarter in New York when in walked a pair of young magicians who were performing on a cruise ship, their names... Siegfried and Roy. They were very excited about their magic and invited him on board for a meal. "They told me 'we have a cheetah' and I thought 'good luck!'" We saw a video clip of Channing presenting the first twin-sawing illusion on television in 1965. He had started to develop an illusion act but at that time the Vegas Casinos weren't ready for a full-blown illusion show. The whole talk was interlaced with rare video clips selected by John Fisher, of both Channing's movie and television appearances.


Channing Pollock with Liberace


Channing's act was filmed in London for the movie European Nights which was shown all over the world. Enjoying film work, he went on to Rome and starred in Les 3 Flibustiers (below), which in turn lead to more movie appearances. But then in 1969 Channing Pollock, at the peak of his career, decided to retire from magic. He had fallen in love and together with his wife had decided to set about creating an "ideal" organic farm. For the next year he did everything from sowing seed to ploughing the land before deciding that "a farmer has a hard life!" and employing others to help.


Channing Pollock in Les 3 Flibustiers


What does the future hold for magic? Channing has a very positive outlook and stressed that it all comes down to the character and personality of the magician. He cited Tommy Cooper as an example and commented what a great comedy magician Basil Fawlty would have made! Asked what were the true secrets of magic he replied that they lay in the Heart, Mind, Body and Soul, and then elaborated. John Fisher's unobtrusive interviewing technique throughout was just perfect, offering everyone present a real insight into Channing Pollock's fascinating life.


Channing Pollock and Guy Hollingworth


After the talk Channing chatted informally with magicians in the Devant room. Photos were taken and autographs signed. People had travelled from all over the country, and indeed, all over the world, to be there. On a personal note I'd never met him before and knowing that he had retired from magic at the end of the sixties, thought I never would. I'm sure that I wasn't alone. I think that made the occasion all the more special. A magical afternoon - Channing Pollock was a true delight and inspiration.


© Duncan Trillo, November 2000


Videos: John Fisher

Photos: Duncan Trillo