How to recover from a bungled magic trick

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How to Make Balloon Heart Fairy Wings

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Sign Up or Log In or Log In via | Help HomeArticlesCommunityMy Profile Edit Home / Categories / Arts and Entertainment / Costumes / Fairy Princess and Doll CostumesHow to Make Balloon Heart Fairy Wings originated by:CaliforniaclownschoolOnepeacefulman, Cyberlord8, Teresa, Flickety (see all)

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Fairy wings are very popular with the girls at a party. The adults like them and some of the boys as well. Here’s how to make them from balloons.

edit Steps1 Using a balloon pump, inflate a balloon. Leave about 4 inches (10cm) un-inflated at the end. Remove the balloon from the pump carefully while pinching the end so no air escapes.2 Tie off the balloon. Use your other hand to pinch and then pull on the end to stretch it. Release the first hand and re-pinch the balloon a short distance away from the end. This action will give you enough room to tie off the balloon by making a loop and pushing the end through the loop and pulling it tight.3 Put this balloon around the waist of the child and twist the ends together to hold it in place. Make sure the twisted ends are at the back of the child.4 Inflate two balloons of the same color and tie off the ends. Tie the ends of each balloon together to form a rough circle. You now have two balloon circles of the same color.5 Tie them together tightly to form a figure eight.6 Form each balloon into a heart shape. To do this, take the middle of the side opposite the tie and form a fold that just fits into your hand. Squeeze your hand into a fist and hold it briefly. When you release your hand, the circle will now be heart shaped. Do the same to the other balloon.7 Take the completed wings and attach them to the balloon that is already tied around the waist of the child. Do this by twisting the free ends of the waist balloon around the center of the wings.Now that you’re done, tell them to fly away!

edit WarningsDo not let children put balloons in their mouth. If it pops, they could choke on it.

edit Things You’ll Need3 “260” type balloons (balloons made for twisting)Balloon pump to inflate balloons

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November 3, 2015 by David O’Connor

How to recover from a bungled magic trickAny magician wishing to add comedy to their show should watch and study the antics of the late Tommy Cooper, known in the history of magic as someone who mixed his comedy with magic tricks that always went wrong. Born in Glamorgan Wales in 1921, he and family soon moved to Devon in the UK. His aunt gave him a magic set at age 8 that he spent hours perfecting. His brother David opened a magic shop in 1930 that was to further influence Tommy’s career. With the advent of the Second World War he signed up and served under General Montgomery in Egypt. He joined the NAAFI, entertaining the troops, revolving around a comedy act that involved bungled magic. Performing one night in Cairo he reached out and stole a passing waiter’s red, fez hat that got huge laughs and became synonymous with his act. He went on to become one of the funniest variety concert performers of all time and would perform as many as 50 shows a week. On Christmas Eve 1947 he began his professional career as a music hall entertainer in the United Kingdom.

The Magic of Cooper’s Comedy:

From his early magic tricks his show led to his tricks not working and funny, often silly lines of patter that were hilarious. However his conjuring tricks and jokes were all meticulously choreographed. To keep his audiences alert he would often perform a magic trick that did actually work. Once at an audition where his magic failed, the panel booked him because he was so funny. He even became a member of the prestigious London Magic Circle. His career included major television series with different English networks that were highly successful. He also did some pantomime and a tour of Europe and featured a long season at the famous London Windmill Theatre.

The lesson here is that more magicians should do pantomime or drama work for the theatrical experience and to learn as much as they can about stagecraft.

For over forty years he entertained millions of television viewers with his distinctive act and became one of the funniest comedians of all time and was a great admirer of Bob Hope, Laurel and Hardy, Max Miler and Robert Orben, (famous for his comedy patter books). Some of his great lines went like this, “I painted my wife in oils – she now looks like a sardine”. My wife said to me, “Take me in your arms and whisper something soft and sweet – So I whispered, ‘chocolate fudge’. “I went window shopping today – I bought four windows”. He eventually had a data base of thousands of gags, skits and jokes to work from.

The Dark Side of Tommy Cooper:

How to recover from a bungled magic trickSadly Tommy Cooper’s life did have a low side, as he had a problem with alcohol throughout his career. He was also known to be reluctant to put his hand in his pocket and was said to be quite mean and never tipped. In fact he was known to pay taxi drivers the exact fare and would leave the cab handing the taxi driver an envelope saying, “Have a drink on me”. The envelope contained a ‘Tea bag“. Once while appearing on the Michael Parkinson Show and slightly inebriated he forgot to set the safety catch on the Guillotine Illusion, and only by the last minute intervention by the floor manager saved Parkinson from serious injury or worse! The lesson here is to always check your props and illusions before performing and never be in a state where you are not in full control of your actions.

A Death the World Witnessed:

Tommy Cooper’s career sadly came to an end actually doing what he did best. He was performing live at Her Majesty’s Theatre London on April 15 th 1984. His act as usual had the theatre audience crying with laughter as his tricks went wrong and his straight faced gags brought chuckles. He had put on a cloak with host Jimmy Tarbuck hiding behind the curtains ready to pass him different props that Cooper would magically pull from inside his cloak, when he collapsed on stage. He had suffered a massive heart attack and passed away while on stage. In his death throws, the audience roared with laughter thinking it was all part of his act. The curtain was lowered and the next variety act hastily went on in the true tradition of ‘The show must go on’. The show was being filmed live and sadly the last stages showing Tommy Cooper collapsing went out on television for the whole world to see. There was some adverse criticism from some sources of YouTube then airing this footage. Then in 2011 this segment was again aired on a U K television documentary titled, The Untold Tommy Cooper. He had become a real time legend in his own lifetime. Just walking out on stage brought instant laughter.

Tommy Cooper with his distinctive British accent, humour and calamitous magic tricks still continues to entertain us via the many video clips of him performing live and his comedy is as funny today, as it was during his lifetime. A statue of Cooper was erected in the town of Caerphilly in Wales that pays tribute to this giant of an entertaining icon. His name and talent lives on with other performers staging plays about him. The British Heart Foundation ran a series of ads about Tommy Cooper to bring awareness of heart disease. Songs have been written about the man and he has influenced many comedians who revere his memory. He was loved by us all and will be long remembered in the history of magic. “Just like that” was his favourite saying.

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M y father tells an intriguing story. Early in 1947, when as “Frankie Lyons” he was a young comedian entertaining the troops throughout the Middle East, he was travelling north through the Sinai Desert in the back of a props truck when the vehicle came off the road and overturned.

He sustained injuries to his legs and face and was sent to hospital in Jerusalem to recuperate. While he was there he wrote to my grandmother back in Norbiton to tell her what had happened and he received in reply a letter full of worry.

She had read reports in British newspapers that illegal drugs had been found on a Combined Services Entertainment props truck that had overturned on a road in Palestine. The reports said that a CSE sergeant had been arrested, along with others. My dad was a sergeant, and my poor grandmother must have put two and two together and made five. In fact, the truck with drugs on board had come to grief some way north of where my father had his accident, overturning on a road between Jerusalem and Gaza.

But it was little wonder my grandmother was having kittens. The drugs operation was no tinpot smuggling caper reminiscent of an Ealing comedy. It was an attempt to shift a large consignment of narcotics.

On March 7, 1947 The Times printed a dispatch from Jerusalem filed the previous day. It said: “A large quantity of opium and hashish has been discovered by military police among stage equipment in a lorry used by a Combined Services Entertainment company that has been touring Palestine for the last two months. The players left Jerusalem for Gaza in an omnibus followed by the lorry carrying the ‘props’. Later the lorry parted company with the bus and took a minor road, where it overturned. When the military police arrived on the scene they found 195 pieces of opium and 941 slabs of hashish, the total value of which is £40,000. A British driver and a British sergeant have been arrested here, and two arrests have been made in Egypt.”

Half a ton of drugs was allegedly seized, worth millions of pounds at today’s street prices. There was a high incidence of drug trafficking among British military personnel in the region during this period, but even so, the military police must have seen this as a major coup.

Meanwhile, my dad recovered from his injuries and spent several weeks touring with a show in Palestine. It was only when he returned to the CSE headquarters in Cairo that he heard rumours that the arrested sergeant was a fellow comic and ex-Horse Guard called Thomas Cooper – Cooper the Trooper.

The young Cooper was not universally popular in Cairo, remarkable as that may seem to us now. He was certainly all too familiar to my father. Only a few months before, the two of them had been detailed to work together as a double act by the local CSE management, who were trying to put together a new variety show. Before that, both men had independently made names for themselves as comics in Cairo and on military bases all the way from Tobruk to Tel Aviv. They worked on the same bill in For Your Approval, an occasional cabaret performed at the Cairo YMCA. But, after a brief honeymoon period, the double act became one of the British Army’s least fine hours and was terminated by the management before it ever reached the stage.

This isn’t so surprising. The marvellously original comic that Cooper was to become had already begun to develop his highly individual style – the bungled magic tricks and the outrageously corny one-liners – and was bound to find it hard working alongside a more traditional, less confident entertainer.

But, like many geniuses, Cooper had a gigantic ego to match his talent. Other Cairo artists from the time confirm my father’s impression of the 24-year-old Cooper as a driven obsessive, desperate to find fame and unable to switch off his act even when away from the stage. He was jealous and selfish, prone to violent rages and not averse to running off with a show’s earnings without paying the rest of the cast.

This all came as a shock to me when I started research for my play Frankie and Tommy, a dramatic account of the mismatched double-act that has just received its London premiere. I knew there had been some bad feeling between the pair, but I was unaware that the relationship had been quite so acrimonious. The picture of Cooper that emerged from interviews I did during my research was at great variance to the image of the genial, bumbling clown and devoted family man the British public adored.

I have no doubt that age and success mellowed Cooper, and that he could be warm-hearted and charming as well as hilarious. But, for some, he remained a monster to work with throughout his career. He could be mean as well as generous, had a history of alcohol abuse and suffered a great deal of emotional turmoil in his private life.

Even now, 16 years after his death on live television, Cooper devotees refuse to accept that there was pain or anger lurking beneath the fez. (The famous story of Cooper getting the idea of the fez when he snatched one from the head of a Egyptian waiter is an example of showbiz mythologising – the fez was the traditional headgear of the conjurer-clown in English music hall.) I find this reluctance to peek behind the curtain of Cooper’s humour strange, particularly when we have scrutinised other comics of his generation, such as Tony Hancock, Benny Hill and Sid James. I recall a woman walking out when Frankie and Tommy was performed at the Edinburgh festival, muttering “Sacrilege!”.

She is not the only fan I have come across who regards Cooper as an entertainment saint or deity, whose image should not be desecrated or abused. But, as a playwright, I’m fascinated by what motivates a compulsive comic like Cooper. It doesn’t destroy the legend to understand that his humour stemmed from deep-seated social inadequacy. On the contrary, I believe it enriches it.

Social inadequacy is one thing. Drug-running is quite another. Was Cooper the sergeant arrested on the Gaza road? There is no evidence that this was anything other than malicious gossip. In any case, the driver concerned does not appear to have been charged.

However, according to a number of sources, the show Cooper fronted at the time was called Juke Box. On August 27, 1947 The Times reported that a lieutenant, described as the manager of the Juke Box road show, had been acquitted in Jerusalem of a charge of conspiring to smuggle the drugs that were seized.

Of course, this far from implicates Cooper. The fact that he may have been in the same show is purely circumstantial, but it is an interesting point nonetheless. The full truth may lurk in military police records in the Public Records Office, in Colonial Office papers that will stay shut for another 22 years.

• Frankie and Tommy is at the Lyric Studio, Hammersmith, London W6, until December 9. Box office: 020-8741 2311.

“THE other day my mother-in-law fell down a wishing well. I was amazed. I never knew they worked.”

How to recover from a bungled magic trick

A Tommy Cooper exhibition will be held at London’s V&A this autumn

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Tommy Cooper’s joke collection is among his personal effects acquired by Victoria & Albert Museum in London where a Cooper exhibition will be held in the autumn. There is more than 100 boxes of stuff but sadly not his Egyptian fez.

What is so surprising for such a seemingly chaotic performer is that his jokes are so meticulously filed.

Handwritten subject headings include everything from music (“I took saxophone lessons for six months. Until I dislocated my jaw. How did I know I was supposed to blow in the small end?”) to the countryside (“Every day I go for a tramp in the woods. It keeps me fit but the tramp’s getting sick of it”).

At the museum the archivists must be having a lovely time swapping jokes and doing Cooper impressions. There is a sound theory that it is never the performer and always the audience who decides who is going to be a comedian.

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How to recover from a bungled magic trick

How to recover from a bungled magic trick

Tommy Cooper, born in 1921, the son of an army recruiting sergeant, found this out early on. He served in the Royal Horse Guards in Egypt from 1940 to 1947. Trooper Cooper was six foot four, had huge feet and a wardrobe-sized face.

To entertain the troops he did magic shows. In Cairo one night he once forgot his best prop – a pith helmet. So he snatched a fez off a passing waiter and got a huge laugh. An act was born. Just like that.

He noticed the tricks were much better if they went wrong. Cooper’s other talent was boxing: he was an army heavy weight champion and could have gone professional although he later told audiences he was rubbish.

“I spent so much time on the canvas they called me Rembrandt.”

How to recover from a bungled magic trick

The comic’s genius is explored in the V&A exhibition

In Egypt he met Gwen Henty, a pianist. Tommy wooed her with his china-blue eyes and a battery of terrible jokes and they soon married. He nicknamed her Dove but to the public he confided: “I always call my wife dear. She’s got antlers growing out the sides of her head.”

Gwen saw that he was a star in the making but said that if he ever did blue jokes she’d divorce him. It was a threat that served him well.

For the next four decades he honed his act of bungled magic, done with a daft running commentary – “cup ball, ball cup” – interspersed with gags and idiot props, like the arrow through his head.

He self-lubricated backstage with vast amounts of booze, a habit that in later years got totally out of hand. Gwen once said “the only trick he did really well was to make a drink disappear.”

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After four decades of relentless performing Tommy Cooper died in 1984 and was instantly beatified. Ten years later there was a curious stage play, Frankie And Tommy, written by the son of Frankie Lyons, an amateur vaudevillian who was briefly in a double act with Cooper in Egypt.

The play’s revelation was that Tommy nicked his father’s jokes, hogged the limelight and was vile and egotistical. It was shocking because it was the first time anyone had shown Tommy Cooper in a less than worshipful light.

Throughout his career Gwen put up with a lot – there were stories that he belted her when drunk in front of their children Vicky and Thomas junior – but she remained fiercely loyal during his long absences on tour.

She was once sent a bra in the post with an unsigned note saying it was found in Tommy’s hotel room. Shaking with anger, she picked up the item and laughed uproariously when she realised it had three cups. It came from a joke shop. Guess who had sent it.

How to recover from a bungled magic trick

A prop for Cooper’s head-twister illusion

Shortly after his death a woman called Mary Kay, Tommy’s former stage manager, claimed to have had an affair with him for 17 years. The story hit the news and was a blow to the family-man image of the comedian who millions thought they knew personally.

Whatever the truth about Mary, Gwen gave Tommy as good as she got. She knew she was married to an obsessive, flawed but loveable maniac. He was always best as a stage act but the grind of live performing got the better of him in the end. Tommy was both alcoholic and workaholic.

He would film Life With Cooper while doing a 23-week solid run at the London Palladium and relentless seasons at sundry seaside towns. He died from a heart attack: he fell wearing his fez on a televised broadcast at Her Majesty’s theatre. He was 63.

It was ghastly for his family, the more so as his death got laughs from an audience who thought it was part of the act.

How to recover from a bungled magic trick

Part of the exhibition that explores Cooper’s genius

Jimmy Tarbuck carried on compering the show with Tommy’s size 13 feet protruding from beneath the curtain. Like Eric Morecambe, Tommy Cooper was adored.

No one now gives a fig about his private life or his “darker side”. His warmth, awkwardness and chuckling lunacy live on. Comedy was in his bones. He didn’t even need material. All he had to do was walk on stage and blink and the audience would explode into helpless laughter.

Once they had calmed down he would do that mad, baffled look and say, “I haven’t said anything yet” and the laughter would erupt again.

No one has ever quite put a finger on what made him so glorious. He once said all he wanted was for people to remember him as “a right scream”. That might make a good title for the forthcoming exhibition about the funniest man of the last century.

If you were like most children, you grew up watchingSesame Street. If, however, for some reason you did not maintain your loyalty to the program well into adulthood, you would notice if you tuned in now that many of the characters you knew and loved are no longer on the show. We decided to pay a visit to PBS and find out why. However, we were severely beaten shortly after knocking on the door. Luckily, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, we got the information we were looking for.

The Sesame Street files:

Name: Forgetful Jones

Known for: Constant bouts with short term and long term memory loss.How to recover from a bungled magic trick

Why he is no longer on Sesame Street: Was banned after an episode where he “forgot” where babies come from and kept interrupting segments to ask, much to the discomfort of other Muppets.

Name: Guy Smiley

Known for: Name: Game show host, “The Remembering Game,” “The Triangle is Right”

Why he is no longer on Sesame Street: Mysteriously disappeared after ignoring several threatening requests from Pat Sajak to cease unsubstantiated claims of being “America’s favorite game show host.”

Name: Lefty The SalesmanHow to recover from a bungled magic trick

Known for: Trying to sell other characters letters of the alphabet. Song sung to Ernie “would you like to buy an O?”

Why he is no longer on Sesame Street: After no one wanted to buy an “O”, turned to selling “X”

Name: Two-headed Monster

Known for: Monster with two heads, one body, opposite interests.

Why they are no longer on Sesame Street: Left show after undergoing rare 24 hour surgical separation procedure at theUniversity ofCalifornia.

Name: Pat Playjacks

Known for: Host of “Squeal of Fortune”

Why he is no longer on Sesame Street: Mysteriously disappeared after ignoring repeated threats to How to recover from a bungled magic trick“stop imitatingAmerica’s favorite game show host Pat Sajak.”

Name: Mumford the Magician, AKA “The Amazing Mumford”

Known for: Bungled magic tricks. Magic phrase “A-la-peanut-butter-sandwiches.”

Why he is no longer on Sesame Street: Banned after episode where, in a fit of rage, banished Ernie and Bert to an alternate dimension (see episode “Bert, where are we Bert?”)

Name: Don Music

Known for: Musician, extreme self-criticism, depression, slamming head against piano when angry at self.How to recover from a bungled magic trick

Why he is no longer on Sesame Street: Left in early 1990’s, changed name and became front man for a band called “Nirvana.” Unknown what happened after that.

Name: Sherlock Hemlock

Known for: Self appointed “World’s Greatest Detective.” Overlooking obvious clues.

Why he is no longer on Sesame Street: Appointed by Bush Administration in 2001 to lead the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Name: Yip Yips

Known for: Aliens from outer space. Repeatedly saying “yip yip yip, uh huh, uh huh.”

Why they are no longer on Sesame Street: “Excessive probing”

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How to recover from a bungled magic trick

Two cannibals eating a clown
One says to the other, ‘Does this taste funny to you?’

Tommy Cooper was born in Caerphilly, Wales on 9 March, 1922. When he was three years old, his parents moved to Exeter in the south-west of England, where he spent the rest of his childhood and acquired the west-country accent that was an important part of his comedy persona.

I Said To The Waiter.

. I said, ‘This chicken I’ve got is cold.’
He said ‘I should think so. It’s been dead for two weeks’.
‘Not only that’, I said, ‘It’s got one leg shorter than the other.’
He said ‘What do you want to do, eat it or dance with it?’

After school, he initially became an apprentice shipwright but, with the outbreak of World War II, Tommy joined the army. It was while performing in a NAAFI 1 entertainment show in Cairo, Egypt, so the story goes, that Tommy added the most recognisable trademark to his routine. During a sketch in which he was supposed to be in costume, he realised that he had forgotten his pith helmet. Rather than nipping off stage to fetch it, or carrying on without it, Tommy reached out and grabbed a fez from a passing waiter. This got a huge laugh from the audience, and Tommy stuck with the fez from then on.

Now, Most Dentist’s Chairs.

. go up and down, don’t they? The one I was in went back and forwards. I thought, ‘This is unusual.’
And the dentist said to me, ‘Mr Cooper, get out of the filing cabinet.’

On being demobbed from the army, Tommy worked in variety theatres around the country, particularly the Windmill Theatre in London, where for a time he performed 52 shows per week. It was while committed to this gruelling schedule that he honed his act, with its combination of groan-worthy, but brilliantly-delivered, one-liners and bungled magic tricks. He also came up with his much-imitated catchphrase – ‘Just like that’ – accompanied by a shake of the hands as if desperately trying to cast a magic spell.

Stories vary as to how Tommy hit upon the idea of his ‘failed magician’ persona, but in reality he was a skilled magician and member of the Magic Circle 2 . Some accounts suggest that, as a young man, he was performing to some of his shipbuilding colleagues when everything went wrong. Tommy was devastated, but still noted that the failed tricks got laughs. An alternative version of the story is that Tommy went to an audition at which all his tricks went wrong, but which the panel thoroughly enjoyed. Another alternative suggests that the disaster happened during his army days. Whatever the true story, Tommy converted magical failure into comic genius, working as hard on his disasters as other magicians worked on real magic. And, to keep the audience on their toes, Tommy wasn’t averse to throwing in the occasional trick that worked, just when it was least expected.

Tommy’s act was not limited to his magic routines. He also appeared in sketches, and perfected routines in which he would proceed to tell a story, taking the roles of two or more characters. Sometimes he would dress so that half of his body was one character (often female) while the other half was a second character. For other routines he would have a large collection of hats, moustaches, wigs and assorted paraphernalia that he would swap rapidly as he changed character. Of course, these routines would end in hilarious farce as he mixed up his characters, voices and props.

So I Got Home.

. and the phone was ringing. I picked it up, and said, ‘Who’s speaking please?’
And a voice said, ‘You are.’

Tommy’s first attempts to get into television were far from successful. After a BBC audition he was referred to as ‘an unattractive young man with indistinct speaking voice and extremely unfortunate appearance’. He eventually made his first television appearance in the 1947 edition of The Leslie Henson Christmas Show.

Success in television didn’t happen overnight, and Tommy returned to theatre performances for a few years. In 1952 he appeared at the London Palladium and started appearing in one-off television specials, before being given his own television series – Cooper (1957) – on the ITV network.

I Had A Dream Last Night.

. I was eating a ten-pound marshmallow. I woke up this morning and the pillow was gone.

Even before Cooper had finished its 12-episode run, Tommy was offered a second series, Cooper’s Capers (1958), and throughout the 1960s and 1970s he was rarely off the screen. He also ventured briefly into films, his most notable role being that of ‘Larger Workman’ in the classic short comedy The Plank.

By the early 1980s, alternative comedy was on the rise and Tommy’s brand of music-hall variety was becoming unfashionable. His last appearance was in 1984, when he was asked by fellow comedian Jimmy Tarbuck to make a guest appearance at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. During the act, Tommy collapsed on stage. The audience, used to such shenanigans, assumed it was part of the act. In reality, Tommy had just had a massive and fatal heart attack 3 . Tommy died on 15 April, 1984 at the age of 62.

I Was Cleaning Out the Attic.

. the other day with the wife. Filthy, dirty and covered with cobwebs. but she’s good with the kids.

Little is widely known about Tommy’s private life. He and his wife Gwen had two children and were married until the end of his life. However, Tommy drank heavily and reportedly had several affairs. He was also a workaholic, which undoubtedly contributed to his early death.

In recent years, a play by John Fisher about the life of Tommy Cooper – Cooper! – has toured the UK. The play has generally been well-received, particularly by Tommy’s fans. The main criticism, however, is that it concentrates too heavily on his stage act, with little detail about his life away from performing.

Tommy Cooper was one of a generation of British comedians who were not only admired as performers, but were held in genuine affection by their audiences. So, for as long as the fez exists as an item of headwear, someone, somewhere, will be putting one on, holding their hands out as if doing a magic trick, and mumbling, ‘Just like that’.

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He whipped off a waiter’s fez instead; the troops loved it and the headgear has been associated ever since with bungled magic tricks and legendary gags. Remember the one about the two aerials who meet on a roof, fall in love and get married (the ceremony was brilliant but the reception was rubbish)? Or the one about what you give a cannibal who’s late for dinner (the cold shoulder)?

Tommy Cooper once described the fez as his favourite hat and came to be fiercely protective of those he used in his shows. So there was a certain poignancy to lot 114 at the Kendal Auction Rooms in Cumbria yesterday. Under the hammer was one of Cooper’s own fez hats, given to a Blackpool gentlemen’s outfitters, Ernest Flowers, in the 1950s or 1960s.

The fez was a gift in return for him measuring Cooper for a suit. Flowers, whose premises were near the Blackpool Hippodrome where Cooper appeared, left it for his widow who has decided to sell up. The hat made a surreal appearance amid pewter candlesticks, fishing rods and a signed Manchester United shirt worn by Ryan Giggs (reserve price £120 to £180).

It was not expected to reap a fortune for Mrs Flowers, coming in at a modest reserve price of £100 to £120. But, said David Brookes, a fine arts valuer, “with such an unusual item the price realised could indeed be much higher”. In fact, the fez sold for £620 – five times the reserve price – to an undisclosed buyer. An auction house spokeswoman said: “We were really surprised by the interest that the fez generated. That’s reflected in the sale price.”

When Cooper suffered a fatal heart attack on stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London on 15 April 1984, most of the audience thought it was another of his gags. Their confusion said everything about Cooper’s brilliant line in apparent incompetence – kidding his audience that he really hadn’t a clue what was coming next. He died on the way to hospital, 10 minutes later. Despite his apparent ineptitude, he was also a member of the Magic Circle’s inner circle and worked endlessly to perfect the tricks that he used in his shows.

Perched atop the unforgettable Cooper features – the wild uncomprehending eyes and mobile jaw – the fez was as integral to his act as his catchphrase, “Just like that”.

Cooper often told of how, on returning to Egypt later in his career, he tried a fez on discreetly in a shop. The proprietor marched up to him and shouted: “Just like that.” It was hardly what the Turkish Sultan Mahmud Khan II expected in the 17th century when he ordered his subjects to start wearing the item as formal attire.

The appearance of the fez was the source of considerable excitement yesterday in Caerphilly, south Wales, Cooper’s birthplace, where the Tommy Cooper Society is based. “We’re aware that a member of his family has a fez that he used but I’m not aware of any others coming on the market,” said the society’s secretary, Tudor Jones. “You don’t see much of Tommy’s stuff appearing like this, though there was a suit he once wore which came up for auction a few years ago. We’re more in the business of raising money than spending it so we won’t be bidding.”

The society’s current preoccupation is the creation of a 9ft bronze statue of the great man near the town’s castle.

A golfing event this week to help the fundraising effort will prompt the appearance of possibly more fez hats than the town has ever seen in one place. Every player will wear one while posing for photographs with a full-size cardboard cut-out of Cooper and the winner will take home a green fez. If he were alive to see them, Cooper would probably have the last laugh. At a Variety Club event to celebrate 30 years in showbusiness, he was about to address 400 guests when they each donned a fez. Right on cue, he pulled a battered fisherman’s hat from his pocket and plonked it on his head. It brought the house down.

Comics’ props

* Eric Morecambe’s glasses: As much a part of his act as the blank looks to camera and the unorthodox dancing. Thick-rimmed and frequently hauled above eye-level for dramatic effect. Unfortunately, when researchers tried to borrow them for an exhibition celebrating the North-west’s rich comic heritage a few years ago, it was found they were missing. Other glasses that deserve an honourable mention: Groucho Marx’s.

* Ken Dodd’s tickling stick: Dodd says his famous tickling stick is a direct descendant of the jester’s phallic prop and he also highlights similarities between his Diddy Men and Shakespeare’s clowns.

* David Brent’s tie: Fiddled with in the wake of failed punchlines, or tightened to pompous effect, it’s impossible to imagine Brent without it.

* Dave Allen’s glass of whiskey: Allen was often to be found swigging from a glass of whiskey while telling risqué jokes about the Pope. The stool also added to the barroom bonhomie effect. Honourable mentions for drinking on stage: Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

* Les Dawson’s handbag: Tightly clutched to the waist in a manner suggesting infinite disapproval, the handbag was a key part of the wardrobe of Dawson’s Ada character and was the basis of his career in pantomime. Ada first appeared with Cissie (aka Roy Barraclough) in 1974.

* Carrot Top (aka Scott Thompson): The American star has developed much of his material from his red hair. (“Some people even think I wear a wig. Do they think I went into a salon one day and said: ‘Can you please screw this up really bad?'”)

FINAL SHOW of the CIRCUS SPECTACULAR series!

BUY TICKETS

Join us for our last week of circus fun at Puppet Showplace! Our friends Tuckers’ Tales are here from Philadelphia, PA with a circus variety show full of silly clowns and zany characters. See you at the theatre!

About the show: Have you ever dreamed of being in the circus? Join Tuckers’ Tales on a journey of the imagination in two original Big Top tales. First, Jeffrey the Bear has wanted to be a circus clown for as long as he could remember. Will this little bear get his wish to become a big star? Then, a zany ringmaster and his clown “assistants” are determined to see the show go on, despite bungled magic tricks and escaping animals. The result is a lively variety show featuring lovable characters, constant surprises, and fun!

About the performer: Tuckers’ Tales is a puppet company based outside of Philadelphia. Co-directors and husband and wife team Marianne and Tom Tucker performed together as folk musicians for over a decade when they decided form their own puppet company in 1981. The Tuckers now have over two dozen original puppet productions in their repertoire, ranging from folk tales and legends to hilarious children’s variety shows. Every year Tuckers’ Tales appears at puppet, folk, ethnic and street festivals; and at craft fairs, shopping centers, theaters and schools around the country.

Puppet Showplace Theater is supported by.