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Obituary: Johnny Hart – ‘Magician who worked with the Beatles, Ken Dodd and Bruce Forsyth’

Johnny Hart in 1966

Johnny Hart, who has died aged 75, learned magic from a library book and went on to become the Magic Circle’s first Young Magician of the Year and enjoy a hugely popular international career.

Born in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, the first son of a professional trombone player father and ambulance driver mother, Hart’s interest in magic was spurred by an encounter with
Will Dexter’s Everybody’s Book of Magic in his primary school library.

He found an early mentor in Murray the Escapologist, whose magic shop Hart regularly visited. Inspired by the likes of Channing Pollock, he began performing locally and won the Blackpool Magicians’ Club’s Teenage Magician Competition. Aged 15 (younger than rules permitted) he was accepted as a member of the Blackburn-based Modern Mystic League.

With a routine that included a vanishing cane, silks and doves, card productions and budgerigars – later a signature feature of his act – he secured the Magic Circle accolade in 1961.

He made his professional debut the same year as The Magic Man in summer season at the Jolly Roger Theatre on Clacton Pier before appearing at the Magic Circle Festival at London’s Scala Theatre.

Over the next two decades, he worked with the biggest stars of the day including Danny La Rue, Max Bygraves, Ken Dodd, Dick Emery, Bruce Forsyth and Mike Yarwood and appeared at the London Palladium on numerous occasions.

In Europe, he played Copenhagen’s Cirkus Benneweis, the Lido de Paris, Casino Du Liban in Lebanon, the Dunes in Las Vegas and venues throughout the US, where he made several appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show. He also worked with the Beatles, spent a season in the Bahamas and was in demand at international magic conventions.

He married his then stage partner, Lorna, in 1963 and they had four children together. After their divorce in 1984, he met Vinnie Barning who became his stage assistant and later his offstage partner.

Johnny Hart was born on August 29, 1943 and died on December 11, 2018.

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