John Derris


John Derris was born in London, and first performed magic at the age of fourteen in a scout show, continuing with performances in concert parties and RAF revues during his National Service. Later on he mixed with a group called the "DG's" (Jack Avis, Bobby Bernard, Alex Elmsley, Ted Danson, Roy Walton and Al Koran) and became interested in what were then called "pocket tricks." His work was widely published in Abra, The Pentagram, Tops, Phoenix and other magic publications. John created a number of effects including "Trilogy" which sold extensively in Europe and the U.S. also a trick called "Pen-i-Pin" - the penetration of an examined coin with three hat pins.

John had a career in advertising and started his own international advertising agency which prevented any involvement in magic. He says that for a period of 25 years he never wore a thumb tip and never read Abra! He married Jack Avis's sister, claiming it was the only way that he could get Jack to show him the mechanics of the second deal!

On retirement he became a born-again magician and was introduced to the new world of corporate and restaurant magic by close friend Bob Read. Since that time John has worked extensively in Britain, Europe and Japan for many leading corporate organisations and at many venues including The Dorchester, Grosvenor House, Castle Howard, NEC, The Belfry, The House of Lords and on The Orient Express. Recently he was invited to appear in a TV spectacular celebration in Istanbul with Whitney Houston.

He is the author of Come a Little Closer, a book of close-up magic that celebrates the friendship of his early group who are still close friends after 50 years. He also co-authored Vis a Vis with Jack Avis.

Top Trick?
"Difficult to say but any effect that is simple and visual and creates a real impact on the spectator. I was greatly impressed by Nick Einhorn's 'Spooked' which is a stunning version of the haunted deck" John has achieved a lot of impact with his own production of a bowl of goldfish as well, which must be a personal favourite.

Top Book?
"The Professional Touch by Billy McComb, a publication about the real secret of performing magic that is in my view worth a dozen books on technique."

Top Magician?
"Firstly Channing Pollock who when as an unknown stepped onto the stage of the London Palladium with his good looks, a fabulously tailored evening suit, and an arrogant half smile on his face. You instinctively knew he was great, even before he produced the first dove. He had - something. It was surely the same feeling experienced by magicians who witnessed the live performances of Cardini. There have been thousands of imitators of Pollock since that time but on viewing films of his first appearances in London there is in my opinion no one who came close to his superb and unique presentation of sheer magic.

Secondly another top performer who also played The London Palladium, Jay Marshall. Appearing front-cloth with just a few props secreted about his person (including a full set of linking rings) he mixed excellent magic with good comedy in equal proportions resulting in sheer entertainment (not forgetting Lefty - the most famous character in ventriloquism). In the style of Roy Benson, one of the first stand up comedy magicians I ever saw live. There are few around today who can present this entertaining style of magic but currently I have great admiration for John Archer who is both magical and genuinely funny."

Top Magic Quote?
"Magic is not about secrets, it's about acting" Some of the best magic performances he's ever seen have been presented not by magicians but by actors. People like Vincent Price and Tyrone Power (playing a mind reader in "Nightmare Alley"), David Niven and Tony Curtis. John has long believed that presentation is more important than a secret. Witness Chan Canasta of magic past - all style and a few simple tricks. Currently Derren Brown owes much of his current success to his presentation rather than his methods. Also the theatrical presentations of Richiardi and unquestionably David Copperfield, who exudes a style without which his magic would just be demonstration."

Top Magic Moment?
"The first time I saw the illusion show of Dante and similarly the first time I saw Channing Pollock. The magic of those experiences stay with you for life and become the benchmark for all future performances."


MagicWeek 2003