Welcome to the fifth instalment of this series of interviews that originally appeared in Rubber Chicken magazine. Editor and publisher Peter Aubery has made them available for the Kids Entertainer Hub audience.
In this series, Peter picks the minds of kids entertainers Charlie Frye, Jimmy Carlo, John Kimmons, Bill Abbott, Paul Daniels, and Sylvester the Jester. In this episode, Peter, with Sam Brooks, talks with magician, illusionist and spooky kids show performer Michael Diamond.
Did you love horror magic when you were a child and, like myself, play with knives and use ketchup as blood? Also, were your folks a bit worried about you?
My children’s shows are not really inspired by horror films, but I do draw inspiration from stuff like The Munsters. And I do use a lot of horror movie music and references. For my adult shows, I DO draw a lot from horror movies. I have always particularly liked Italian horror movies like the work of Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and Umberto Lenzi. I quite like obscure movies and I do have a routine based on Alexandro Jordorowski’s circus horror movie Santa Sangre. I also love the old BBC ghost stories at Christmas like Whistle and I’ll Come to You.
When I was a kid doing magic, I always did horror and gore stuff. I had all the Charles Cameron books on weird magic from Supreme and I loved stuff like ‘knife through arm’ and ‘head chopper.’ Near my parents’ house was an awesome joke and magic shop that sold Don Post horror masks and professional magic. I spent nearly every Saturday there and spent all my pocket money there and at the famous Wizards Den in Liverpool. My parents pretty much let me do what I wanted and I even had a horror museum in my bedroom!
Who inspires you magically?
That’s a tough one. In the early days, David Nixon, Paul Daniels and Ali Bongo. Then later, the Americans like Doug Henning and Copperfield. I also loved Simon Drake’s Secret Cabaret which was a massive influence, and people like Tony Andruzzi and Phil (Max Maven) Goldstein. Kevin James is great in almost everything he does, too! I also love magic history and I am into Chung Ling Soo, Murray and loads of other obscure performers like Walford Bodie and Val Walker.
If you are trapped on a desert island with 30 kids and a magic cupboard, what would you pull out of the cupboard to entertain the kids (aged 4 to 12) until rescue arrives?
Breakaway wand, die box, change bag, bag of 260s, silver sceptre, magic painting, pack of cards. It’s all about the classics!
You turn up for a gig but some ghosties have stolen all your props. The only thing left in the back of your car is this (a jar). What would you do with it?
I would cover it with a cloth and tell the audience some sort of urban legend about a couple whose car breaks down in the woods. The man goes off to get fuel, but morning comes and he’s never seen again. Years later (it’s taken that long for the woman to get over it with lots of therapy), the woman is back driving through the area again and stops for a coffee at a roadside attraction museum. A weird old guy runs the place and after her drink, he insists that she looks around his exhibit. It’s all stuffed animals, freaks and torture implements.
“There’s one more must-see exhibit in that room in front of you,” he tells her. “Have a look while I get your bill for the coffee.”
Gingerly the woman goes in, sees a jar and uncovers it. And there in the jar is her husband’s head! She turns to run and the old guy is standing there in a rubber apron, holding a saw and an empty jar.
That doesn’t sound too magical but it’s awesome.
You didn’t say it had to be a trick. Storytelling can be magical—it’s all about the feeling that you’re left with. If it was for a kids’ show, I would probably tell a similar toned-down story. Then after the reveal, I would take the head out of the jar and play ‘pass the head’ with it.
Have you ever had problems with your kids show being too scary? And if so, what did you do at that moment in time?
Not my kids show! I always play the kids show as Kooky, a bit odd but ultimately funny. If I’m doing a family show, I sometimes play it a bit scarier. The only problem I’ve really had is when I have a lady from the audience in my guillotine or arm chopper and her kid gets upset. If that happens, I speed through the routine and make a big thing of showing that she’s alright at the end.
In the mornings, what sock do you put on first?
Putting left sock on first makes you cool, huh?
In Sammy’s world, yes. Thank you for your time, Michael.
Okay, I’m off to buy rats and locusts for my daughter’s snake and tarantula!