Magician doesn't miss a trick

By Nigel Benson

Dunedin magician David Taylor has a spell at home. Photo / Stephen Jaquiery
Dunedin magician David Taylor has a spell at home. Photo / Stephen Jaquiery

The wall of Dunedin magician David Taylor's basement is lined with boxes featuring titles such as Devil's toothpicks, ghost cards, exploding toilet seat, secret agent ink, whoopee cushions, magic soot and Houdini's escape trick.

The 65-year-old was recently presented with a life achievement award by Magic New Zealand for his contribution to the magic arts.

"He has been involved in magic for nearly 60 years and, during that time, he has invented hundreds of tricks which he's sold around the world, and mentored a lot of young magicians," MNZ director Alan Watson said yesterday.

Mr Taylor still recalls the moment he fell for magic.

"I was 8-years-old when I was taken to a magic shop in Christchurch and it was filled with magic tricks and jokes. Something just clicked in me. That's where it all started," he said.

After several years as a ventriloquist, he was mentored by former Dunedin mayor and magician the late Richard Walls, who drew him into the Otago Magic Circle.

"Magic is based on being inquisitive. It's natural to want to know how something is done. It used to be very popular and we would do a lot of in-store work during school holidays. Every kid who had a party used to have a magician there."

In the 1990s, Mr Taylor was contracted for five years to invent tricks for United States company Mak-Magic and estimates he has sold more than 300 tricks to overseas companies.

"It's like writing music. All magicians are using the same notes, but there are variations of themes," he said.

"All tricks follow certain principles of magic. Although it's changed over the years. A lot of tricks used to be based on torture instruments, swords and guns. But, people don't like that sort of thing so much anymore.

"Some of the best tricks are the oldest ones. I'm still using gags I was using when I was 8. And I'm still looking for an audience to laugh at them," he joked.

"I think it's also important to put time into the theatre and performing part of magic. A magician is really an actor who is playing a magician. The secret is to practice, practice and practice in front of a mirror," he said.

"It's a great hobby, magic and it's still very popular with children. My grandkids think it's great. Although my wife, Shirley, thinks I'm crazy."

- Otago Daily Times

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