Widely respected among his peers, magician Alan Shaxon cruised the world presenting his act on luxury liners. In Britain, he was invited four times to stage shows at Buckingham Palace and was president of the Magic Circle from 2003 to 2008.
Born Alan Howson, he learned magic as a boy when he was confined to his home for a fortnight after contracting measles. A neighbour loaned him some books, one of which was a 1902 volume, The Modern Conjurer, written by author and publisher Charles Lang Neil, the husband of a woman magician known as Mademoiselle Patrice.
Shaxon soaked it up and, by the time he was 11, he was performing tricks and astounding fellow pupils at his school. When he was 18, he was called up for his national service and joined the Royal Air Force. He was posted to the Suez Canal, where he spent much of his time performing shows for the army.
So began a career in magic that lasted for more than 50 years. One of his favourite cabaret illusions was a reworking of an old trick performed by Chung Ling Soo, who was killed onstage at the Wood Green Empire when a stunt involving a gun went wrong. It involved Shaxon casting a fishing rod over the heads of his audience. The end of the line then dropped into a diner’s glass revealing a wriggling live goldfish.
After the death of one of the profession’s cleverest magicians, Robert Harbin, in 1978, Shaxon inherited most of his big illusions, many of which he rebuilt and performed around the world.
In 1991, he played a cabaret entertainer, Eddie Spangle, in Rowan Atkinson’s television show, Mr Bean. Five years later, he taught Tom Cruise some sleight of hand for the first of the Mission Impossible series of movies.
Shaxon wrote two books, My Kind of Magic (1970) and Practical Sorcery (1976). The Magic Circle bestowed on him its highest award, the Maskelyne, for services to British magic.
Magician John Wade remarked: “Alan was the consummate pro magician. Always immaculately dressed, with impressive magic be it close-up, cabaret or big illusions, Alan always delivered. In his standard act, he featured unusual magic such as taking a fishing rod and fishing live goldfish from people’s drinks, or blowing down a rubber tube and igniting a gas mantle at the other end. He earned the respect not only of his audiences worldwide, but also of his peers, and he was one of the last of what I would call traditional magicians.”
Alan Shaxon, who was born on December 28, 1933, died on October 27, aged 78.