8 magicians who dazzled us on TV as children

These amazing illusionists brought magic to the television in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

Top image: The Everett Collection

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While there is no shortage of magician characters, actual working stage magicians are not as common as they used to be. Prior to the television age, illusionists were the ones delivering awe-inspiring visuals to audiences in theaters. They were the perfect subjects for the small screen, too, where master mystics could trick the camera and dazzle us as we sat in our living room in our pajamas.

Dozens of magicians appeared on talk and variety shows, and some of them earned their own series. Here are some notable magicians from the golden age of TV.

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1. Doug Henning


With his bedazzled overalls and beaming smile, Henning was the perfect man to introduce children to the world of magic, a lovable character akin to Gallagher or Slim Goodbody. The Canadian first broke in this country on Broadway, earning a Tony nom for his 1974 production, The Magic Show. A year after that opening, 50 million viewers tuned in for the TV special Doug Henning's World of Magic. The escape artist and lover of Houdini went on to create stage tricks for Earth, Wind and Fire and Michael Jackson tours.

Image: AP Photo

2. Mark Wilson


Wilson has the honor of being considered the first "television magician," as he hosted the popular series The Magic Land of Allakazam in the early 1960s. The Saturday morning show also featured his wife, Nani Darnell, and Rebo the Clown. He would be an influential magician behind the camera as well, serving as the official magic consultant on the Bill Bixby series The Magician.

Image: alchetron.com

3. Harry Blackstone


Blackstone was one of the greats of the early 20th century, but he made his mark on the Boomer generation. The wise old magician gave away tricks to children in boxes of Post Toasties and Sugar Crisp cereal, and appeared in commercials for the breakfast treats. He died in 1965, and his son, Harry Blackstone, Jr., carried the torch, appearing on television throughout the '70s and '80s.

Image: Post / YouTube

4. The Amazing Randi


James Randi is as well known for his skepticism as his illusions. The performer famously offered $1,000 (then $10,000, then $1,000,000) to anyone who could prove the existence of the supernatural. Randi, seen here on the cover of Dynamite magazine, had a mission to expose charlatans posing as naturally gifted psychics. He would especially work to debunk the following man, his nemesis…

Image: Dynamite Magazine No. 90, courtesy Jason Liebig / Flickr

5. Uri Geller


Though the Israeli phenomenon posed as a mystic, telepath and practitioner of psychokinesis, and though many people believed his spoon-bending abilities in the 1970s, Geller was essentially a magician performing well-known tricks. Johnny Carson, with the aide of the Amazing Randi, famously exposed his lack of supernatural skills on a 1973 episode of The Tonight Show.

Image: AP Photo

6. Fantasio


Though Fantasio may not have the renown of these other names, the Argentinian performer has a fascinating footnote on his career. He was a guest on The Ed Sullivan Show the evening the Beatles made their debut, meaning millions witnessed his routine with a newspaper.

Image: The Ed Sullivan Show / CBS

7. Richiardi


Speaking of Sullivan, no magician appeared on the variety show more often than Aldo Richiardi, Jr. The Peruvian was a third generation magician, and he would appear on NBC's Magic of the Stars, as well as land his own special, Richiardi's Chamber of Horrors, hosted by Vincent Price.

Image: The Ed Sullivan Show / CBS

8. Kuda Bux


"The Man with X-Ray Eyes," born Khudah Bukhsh, walked on fire for Ripley's Believe It or Not. His magical seeing powers inspired a Roald Dahl story ("The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar") and eventually landed a largely forgotten CBS show way back in 1950 called Kuda Bux, Hindu Mystic.

Image: The Man with X-Ray Eyes (1938) / British Pathé

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BorisK 1 month ago
Uri Geller was exposed as a complete and utter fake several times, but most notably by Johnny Carson on the Carson show -- Johnny, himself a magician who couldn't stand fakes, very quietly yet passive-aggressively dismantled Geller on-air and that was the end of him.
MBGun 25 months ago
The way he dressed and wore his hair made Doug Henning look more like a Muppet than a man. He should have made those horse teeth disappear.
BorisK Matte8L4CK 1 month ago
No doubt, Doug had some major bunny teeth. But he was very entertaining.
RichLorn 25 months ago
They didn't mention the Happy Days shark. It made the whole series disappear.
BorisK RichLorn 1 month ago
lol ...
MichaelFields 26 months ago
Aw Bring back memories, Wilson and Henning were the ones who got me into magic, (I had Wilson book of magic and still have it to this day) I preformed magic for years growing up, (And I tell you guys there is no better ice breaker to meet a woman back in the 70's and 80's then doing something amazing for her) I still do some (I am 60) for my nieces and Nephews who love it and even bug me to preform for them when they come and visit. Which of course is fun. Magic will bring such fun into your life
The_Great_Gazoo 26 months ago
Johnny Carson started out as an amateur magician, and kept up an interest in it even after he became successful as a talk show host. Geller would only appear on the Tonight Show when guest hosts were there, not Johnny as Geller knew he might be exposed. The Tonight Show staff booked Geller and told him Johnny was off but it was a ruse; Carson set a trap for him and had Randi waiting to reveal him as a fraud.
The_Great_Gazoo 25 months ago
This comment has been removed.
BorisK The_Great_Gazoo 1 month ago
You are exactly right. Carson dismantled Geller on-air and it was beautiful. They still show the episode from time to time on cable. Geller was such a FAKE.
gockionni 26 months ago
I only remember Doug Henning and Uri Geller.
MalachiCrunch 26 months ago
Doug Henning is cemented into my brain from the '70s. I often repeat his phrase "It's an illusion" !
JHP 26 months ago
seeing a pic of Doug henning - NOW that's the 80's
Kenner 26 months ago
Don’t forget Marshall Brodien. Did card tricks on Bozos circus back in the day. Chicago guy.
Pegs Kenner 26 months ago
aka Wizzo. :-) Famous for hawking "TV Magic Cards".
Kenner Pegs 26 months ago
That’s right! 👍
Rick Pegs 26 months ago
Magic is easy once you know the secret!
BorisK Kenner 1 month ago
Oh man, those classic TV commercials of his ... TV Magic Cards.
JDnHuntsvilleAL 26 months ago
"James Randi is as well known for his skepticism as his illusions. The performer famously offered $1,000 (then $10,000, then $1,000,000) to anyone who could prove the existence of the supernatural."

Didn't somebody else do that before him? Somebody named Harry, Harry, Harry something or other. ;-0
BorisK JDnHuntsvilleAL 1 month ago
You mean Tony Curtis?
Dwight 26 months ago
There was a radio program in the late 40s-early 50s named “Blackstone the Magic Detective. It was based off a comic book that portrayed the fictional adventures of #3.

At the end of the program, that could perform themselves. Interestingly, Blackstone was portrayed by an actor, not the real Blackstone. One of the advantages of the medium of radio.
JDnHuntsvilleAL Dwight 26 months ago
"At the end of the program, that could perform themselves."

Nala92129 26 months ago
Why was Johnny Carson so hostile toward Doug Henning? I've never forgotten that.
MBGun Nala92129 25 months ago
Carson was an angry prick to a lot of people.
Jeffrey 26 months ago
I know and heard of 1-5, but not 6, 7 and 8.
WordsmithWorks 26 months ago
Doug Henning was great. And he ROCKED that 70's 'stache.
walligans 26 months ago
I only know and remember 1 and 2.
Andybandit 26 months ago
I never heard of any of these magicians. In picture #2 I am probably the only who think the boy looks like Ron Howard when he played Opie.
TeresaDraper 26 months ago
The Amazing Kreskin popular in 70s though he was a mentalist not a magician
MichaelSkaggs TeresaDraper 26 months ago
Johnny had a comedy bit where he did the answering machines of famous people. The Amazing Kreskin's was, "Hello. This is the Amazing Kreskin. I'm not in right now. Thank you for calling, Gloria, and I hope your cold gets better." I've always remembered that one.
Sway 26 months ago
Magic Shows are fun, especially live, in person.

On another note: RIP Robert Morse, Emmy and Tony winner actor.
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