Magicol 191: Correction
July 29, 2016
Reader Peter Rodgers offered this correction regarding the provenance of the “Birth of a Pearl” illusion presented by Mike Caveney at the Los Angeles Conference on Magic History:
My main interest was your revue of Mike Caveney’s presentation and performance of the Birth of a Pearl using an actual illusion built by Phil Davies and used by the Australian Illusionist Maurice Rooklyn in his tours of New Zealand and Australia from the mid 1940’s through to 1954. The illusion had been stored in the Sydney home of Steve Walker for about 6 years, when Steve died in December 2014. It was me that contacted Mike Caveney and arranged for the illusion to be shipped to him for his performance at the LA Conference.Phil Davies came to Australia with the Chung Ling Soo show in 1909 but stayed in Australia as an illusion builder until his death in the early 1940’s ( Chung Ling Soo’s Mechanists, they Stayed Behind by Brian McCullagh 1998). He manufactured a Birth of a Pearl for the Australian Illusionist Jean Hugard (John Gerard Rodney Boyce) who performed it for the rest of his career.(Jean Hugard by James B. Alfredson 1997). Unfortunately Hugard left Australia, (and his family) for Fiji and then the USA in 1916 never to return. He took the Birth of a Pearl with him and performed it in the USA at I believe Coney Island in New York until 1929. Hugard’s Birth of a Pearl had an “inner shell of dainty pink” (A Lifetime in Magic by Percy Abbott). Hugard’s Birth of a Pearl could not have been the same equipment later used by Maurice Rooklyn as reported in your article because Hugards illusion never came back to Australia. (It would be interesting to know what happened to it.) The lining of Rooklyn’s, now Mike Caveney’s illusion is green not pink.But Rooklyn’s illusion was also made by Phil Davies, this time for Australian magician Wong Toy Sunn (Claude Guest) who started performing a Chinese act in 2011 soon after the departure of Chung Ling Soo from Australia. Rooklyn acquired the illusion and toured with it for about ten years after World War Two. In the mid 1970’s he either gave or sold it to Sydney Magician John Bodnar. Who put it into storage. When John went into an aged home in 2008 his son, Stephen Bodnar contacted me and I got Steve Walker to come with me to check it out. It was in a sorry state, the timber packing case was rotting and rats had built nests throughout the illusion. We cleaned it up and shifted it to Steve Walkers garage until early 2015 when we gave it to Mike Caveney for him to perform at the LA Magic History Conference. The article in the January 2016 Genii magazine is basicly correct except that Mike did not buy the illusion. He paid for it to be shipped to Los Angeles but we gave it to him.
Michael Claxton’s review of the Fourteenth Los Angeles Conference on Magic History appeared in Magicol No. 191.
Photo: Mike Caveney & Tina Lenert, courtesy of Bill Taylor, ASC.