A TV Baptism by Fire.

NickUsually when people ask me what was my first television appearance in America I tell them it was the Merv Griffin Show back in 1979. This isn’t actually true but I have only recently come to my own ease with the real answer. Like many frightening experiences it has seemed to find a way to hide itself away in a dusty, hidden corner of my brain.

The very first television show that I ever appeared on was ‘Wonderama,’ the highly revered children’s show filmed in New York. The show was hosted by Bob McAllister and produced by Dennis Marks and it was a New York legend.Just like attending the ‘Bozo the Clown’ show in Chicago (I believe!) kids had to apply for their free tickets so far in advance that they could sometimes become teenagers before receiving them!

I arrived in New York and stayed at the Mayflower Hotel. I stayed there for two reasons; because it had a vaguely ‘Englishy’ title and because it was incredibly inexpensive.When I saw it I understood the incredibly inexpensive thing, It looked like a cross between a grimy ‘Film Noir’ from the 30’s and an episode from the ‘Twilight Zone.’ I’m not actually saying that there were little twin girls prowling the corridors saying; “Play with us FOREVER” but there certainly could have been.

Even more alarming was the pre-show meeting at the studio the next day when we discussed what effects I would perform on the taping that afternoon. I had packed a massive amount of material and was sure that we could find something suitable. After a brief consultation with Dennis, I discovered that every trick that I had brought with me; had already been performed by someone before. Someone, I may add who had a lot more ‘street creds’ than me in the TV

World. Eventually Dennis steered me towards two tricks that I had recently received from Ken Brooke and were basically unseen in the general magic world. I had wonderamaheadercertainly never performed them in public before! The tricks we chose for my two short segments were ‘The Kornwinder Car’ and a curiously bastardized version of Maurice Fogel’s ‘Second Spot,’ which involved the 5 kids choosing a plastic toy and then getting to keep it, if my ‘psychometric powers’ proved correct.

I found a quiet spot in the studio and feverishly began working on that damn little red car that Dick Kornwinder had created. If you did everything correctly with it, then it stopped its movement on a previously selected card. For me, at this point, it sometimes did and sometimes didn’t, which was a rather worrying state of affairs two hours before taping a television set.

Then came the scariest moment of all, they let the kids into the studio! They were the loudest, roughest, toughest and most frightening bunch of youngsters I had ever seen.  It looked like middle school production of ‘West Side Story’ that had got seriously out of hand. The ‘Wonderama’ crowd knew exactly how to deal with this overexcited bunch of kids though. While they didn’t actually (to my knowledge) use cattle prods, they got them into place and the filming began.

I would like to give you some more details as to how the event played out, however my memories of the occasion are as blank as the business side of a ‘Mental Photography’ deck. I am told it went very well and my tricks were well received. The kids got their selected toys and that little red card stopped on the right card. I however have absolutely no memory of a single thing that happened

……..and that is why I generally refer to the ‘Merv Griffin Show’ as my first television show!


~ by Nick Lewin on March 30, 2013.

One Response to “A TV Baptism by Fire.”

  1. As Bob would say; “Wack-a-do, wack-a-do”! Mr. McAllister was a gentleman and a good friend of Ken Brooke. His show was fun and great entertainment for children. Too bad they don’t have anything enen close to it today.
    Sorry they don’t have clips of Nicky from this show!

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