Dell O'Dell No. 3: Fresh Fish

Dell is performing “Fresh Fish” in the early Forties. Invented by magician Arnold Furst, the torn-and-restored paper effect starts with a sign that reads “Fresh Fish Sold Here Today.” Getting rid of redundant words, the performer progressively tears off one at a time. Finally, only the word “Fish” remains before the full sign is restored. 

Here is Dell's rhyming patter for the effect:

A friend of mine just opened up a fish store down the way

He needed a sign, so he had this one, “Fresh Fish Sold Here Today.”

I told him that he didn't need that extra word “Today.”

So I tore it off and that just left “Fresh Fish Sold Here” and, say,

You shouldn't have a word like “Here”—“Fresh Fish Sold" is enough.

Let's tear “Here" off “Fresh Fish Sold.” No, it's still a little rough.

Why not get rid of the word “Sold” and then I said to him,

“Fresh Fish” is really all you need to drag the customers in.

On second thought you don't need a word like “Fish” for everybody knows

The exact location of your store every time the darn wind blows.

Well, what'll I do with a word like “Fresh,” he suddenly yelled at me.

Give me back my sign the way it was, if you don't want a calamity.

So I took the sign and rolled it up, and I was on my way,

But before I left, I gave him back his sign “Fresh Fish Sold Here Today.”


—Michael Claxton


playlist 5 videos

Dell O'Dell

Starting her training early as a circus juggler and acrobat, Dell O’Dell eventually found success as a glamorous and entertaining magicienne, launching her magic career in 1929. Working with her husband, Charlie Carrer, a professional juggler from Switzerland, the couple often worked together, and Charlie did double duty by serving as Dell’s assistant on stage, too. During the Fifties, Dell and Charlie moved to the West Coast. While maintaining a touring show, Dell also made time to film her own television show, aptly called The Dell O’Dell Show. Her live, half-hour, magic show aired weekly in Los Angeles for two years, and in 1953, she became the first female magician nominated for an Emmy.


Dell and Charlie made hours’ worth of home movies, filming themselves and with magician friends; and there are also short clips of Dell and Charlie performing. These scenes form a lively archive of the couple in their prime. We are pleased to present a few of these treasured moment of history in this playlist. Clips here were originally housed in the McIlhany Collection and are now a part of Magicana’s archive.

By Michael Claxton
Author of the biography Don’t Fool Yourself: The Magical Life of Dell O’Dell