Pete Wentworth

Remembered by Bob Gill

One of his friends John Fisher, said of him: "Pete always provided that spark of energy when you were with him", and he was certainly a larger-than-life character: a ball of zest with an infectious enthusiasm for performing magic, comedy or song. As such he made a lot of friends in the magic and showbusiness worlds, and his address book was stuffed with the contacts he made. He first came to the attention off the fraternity through the pages of Abracadabra: Goodliffe was an avid fan of Pete’s roustabout style, and he was befriended by Roy Johnson who dedicated one of his Abra series to Pete. His standout piece was his opener, the Dancing Cane, into which he injected much theatricality; he learned the Cane at the feet of Ken Brooke.

At the time he worked for the RAF as a steward and greeter for VIP flights, often serving royalty, ambassadors, senior politicians and military figures, as well as celebrities. The RAF recognised his value as an entertainer, and in between serving them Pete would perform close-up magic for them with official approval! His job took him to Washington DC regularly, where he got to know Al Cohen, Art Emerson, Scotty York and many others. His proudest possession was a photo of him performing a paddle trick for The Professor at the Magic Castle, a photo he’d whip out at the merest hint of an opportunity. Despite this moment of glory, he persisted in rejecting that he had anything to offer magicians - he was at heart an entertainer of the old school.

He was something of an entrepreneur, and a winning salesman, and he had many sidelines over the years, chief of which was as a seller of Svengali decks at public fairs. He recruited his long-suffering family into forming a conveyor belt to manufacture thousands of Svens from the cheap decks he would pick up for pence during his flying work to India or China! Walt Lees, himself no slouch as a Sven demonstrator, regarded Pete as one of the great pitchers.

He was entranced by show business in general, and a member of the British Music Hall Society, where he became friendly with Ken Dodd and Roy Hudd, and the Max Miller Appreciation Society, for whom he dressed up as the great comic and appeared at the Society’s public events in Brighton. In the sunset of his performing life he would continue to find an audience, and for a decade did a thoroughly entertaining performance/talk to Women’s Institutes and PROBIS meetings.

He passed away on 7 January, age 82, following a lengthy fight with the twin demons of dementia and cancer. His wife Sue was with him when he passed.

Bob Gill, January 2023