J. Mark Wilson began his magical career as a teenage magic demonstrator at Douglas Magic Land in Dallas, TX during WWII. He majored in marketing and advertising at SMU and during his early years honed his craft of magic and corporate sponsorship with the Morton Foods Company. Along with his wife and professional partner Nani Darnell Wilson, he created "Time for Magic," a local television magic series that became a huge hit in Dallas and eventually expanded to several other cities. Ready to make the leap to a larger market in 1957, he first sold 3M on sponsoring a syndicated trial TV series, Magic Circus, and when that did not secure a network slot, began seeking a national sponsor for a new series. The contract for The Magic Land of Allakazam was issued just ten weeks before the show first went on the air on October 1, 1960.
NANI DARNELL WILSON
Born Nancy Louise, she took the name Nani Darnell while touring the country as a professional dancer in top shows, nightclubs and hotels, as a teen. She became a stewardess for American Airlines for a period before meeting Mark Wilson at a New Year's party in 1953. They were married shortly thereafter, but only after Mark had to give up magic as a career (just long enough to procure a marriage license). Nani has been Mark's principal partner and lead "Box-Jumper" from the beginning of their television careers, also designing and creating the Allakazam wardrobe for all of the cast and creating any of the magical effects using cloth materials. Her form-fitting tail-coat, revealing her delightful dancer's legs, and her sunny, inviting smile caused many a young male viewer to develop a fateful crush on her.
Born in 1954, Mike Wilson co-stared on Allakazam as the young magician with whom youthful audience members could identify; it wasn't until years later that he expressed his desires to explore other studies and types of work, frankly preferring a role with the production team behind the camera, and the aerospace industry. After traveling with his parents and younger brother, Greg, to China for their record-setting tour in 1980, Mike attended college in Beijing. He mastered the language and began working with his father importing Chinese acrobats and other entertainers to the U.S. and eventually making that business his own. Deciding on a change in careers later in life, Mike now works with the I.E.E.E. in the charitable division, promoting solar power installations in parts of the world without electricity.
It's rather remarkable that such an outgoing and effusive performer would make his national debut playing the role of the voiceless yet expressive Rebo the Clown, but Bev Bergeron did exactly that! Bev received his graduate degree in magic touring with the Willard the Wizard tent show. He worked with Mark and Nani Wilson from the late 50's into the early 70's.
As a solo performer, Bev has toured the country and abroad, and for over 15 years starred in the Golden Horseshoe Revue at Disney World in Orlando, not to mention thousands of corporate shows and appearances. His many achievements also include serving as President of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, and contributor to the Linking Ring magic publication for many years.
ROBERT HARLAND TOWNER
Robert Harland Towner, who, in his youth was known as “Torchy,” gained a depth of magical knowledge as a solo performer in California, toured with Willard the Wizard, and later joined The Great Virgil on a five-year world tour. A skilled craftsman, he was working with Carl Owen and John Daniel at Owen Magic when Mark and Nani Wilson originally visited seeking to build the Allakazam creative team. An accomplished actor and a clown, also performed with Chuck Burnes (see below), as they toured with Ringling Bros. Circus during their final season under the Big Top. Bob Towner frequently appeared on-camera in various guises on Allakazam, and was credited as magic coordinator. His creative genius was a great asset to the Magic Land of Allakazam.
He retired as "The Wizard Harland" up in Mt. Shasta California, where he shared his magical philosophy and beautiful performances with those that made the trek up to his mountain top retreat.
John Gaughan was Mark Wilson and Nani Darnell’s first assistant, starting with them when he was a mere lad of 14, and assisting in the packaging of the magic kits sent as premiums to viewers of the local TV shows in Texas. After graduating from college, John moved west just in time to join the staff of Allakazam at the end of the first season. He learned the craft of illusion building from master craftsman Carl Owen, and soon headed the Wilsons’ shop. He eventually formed John Gaughan and Associates, creating magic for top professional magicians, Broadway shows, trade shows, and more.
Leo Behnke was working at the Disneyland Magic Shop and with John Daniel at Owen Magic when the Wilsons called at the shop; he joined the staff of Allakazam in April of 1961. Leo’s responsibilities included the weekly Trick-in-the-Audience, Sleight of Hand and Table Top Magic sections, as well as handling fan mail, acting as librarian, and creating magic for the backs of Kellogg’s cereal boxes and the Allakazam comic book giveaway which was given to every child in the audience after each recording session. Later, Leo specialized in corporate and trade show presentations, as curator of David Copperfield’s magic museum, and author of numerous works on magic, including Party Magic from the Magic Castle and Impromptu Magic from the Magic Castle.
A veteran of WWII, Bob Fenton spent a period of time as a bodyguard attached to General George S. Patton before returning to civilian life. His expertise in magic was cultivated on tour with Mandrake the Magician, Harry Blackstone Sr., and The Great Virgil. Brought into the Allakazam team by Bob Towner from San Francisco, Fenton was filled with nervous energy, and used to spend time wasted at traffic signals by reading. His great gift was his uncanny ability to locate bizarre materials to use in building the special magic apparatus used on Allakazam. With Bob Towner, Bob Fenton received credit as magic coordinator. Bob Fenton continued to work with the Wilsons and with John Gaughan until his passing.
Born in 1889, Carl Owen started as an illusion builder with Floyed Thayer at Thayer’s Magic in Los Angeles, later purchasing the manufacturing side of the business and partnering with his brother H. Emmett Owen in the Owen Brothers Magic Company in 1933. Mark Wilson was familiar with Owen Magic as a manufacturer used by leading professionals around the world, and knew he would need a constant supplier for the many illusions planned for the Allakazam series. Today, Owen’s fine illusions are also treasured as fine works of art and displayed by proud collectors everywhere.
A renowned west-coast illusionist, John began his magical career performing Spook Shows with Bob Towner. In the 1960s, he became associated with Carl Owen at Owen Magic Supreme when the master illusion builder was considering his retirement. John met Mark and Nani Wilson on their first night in Hollywood, directing them to the hotel which became their first stop on the Sunset Strip. After Allakazam, he continued performing and creating illusions for magicians in Las Vegas and elsewhere. Together with Carl Owen, John received credit as Magic Production Advisor on Allakazam.
One of the last great clowns of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Chuck essayed the role of the kindly old toy-maker, Christopher Periwinkle, in 13 episodes of Allakazam. Following the series, he became the Entertainment Supervisor at Disneyland for seven years, and then Manager of Special Events at Knott’s Berry Farm for 17 years. Currently, he and wife Bambi’s Periwinkle Productions produce family-oriented magic and variety shows throughout Southern California.
Andy Sidaris was the director of the Wilson’s first television ventures in Texas, Time for Magic and Mark Wilson’s Magic Club. Andy moved to California in the late 50s, and immediately upon receiving his Kellogg’s contract, Mark Wilson engaged him as director of Allakazam over coffee on the Sunset Strip. Later, Andy became the Emmy-winning director of ABC’S Wide World of Sports and ABC Monday Night Football. He’s renowned in TV circles for his creation of the “honey shot,” in which a beautiful girl in the crowd or an enthusiastic cheerleader is the subject of a cutaway shot between plays on the field.
Lin Searles was an expert card mechanic and a student of professional gambling routines when the Wilsons came to California collecting the Allakazam creative team. At the time Lin was employed at Owen Magic, writing instructions for the smaller magic tricks. He became the writer and script supervisor for Allakazam, and later wrote a series of Western novels that were published under the Ace Paperback imprint. Following Allakazam, Lin opened his own magic shop in Pasadena called The Magic Wand.
Born in Canada, this well-known nightclub performer of the 1940s and 1950s gained great fame illustrating Rice's three-volume Encyclopedia of Silk Magic, and lettering the entire text by hand. He joined the Allakazam staff in its second season as the first foreman of the Wilson's shop. A gifted artist, his conceptual drawings for various projects at Mark Wilson Productions, those completed and those never realized, are exquisitely rendered and beautifully executed.
Dick was still serving in the U. S. Navy when he began corresponding with Mark Wilson and providing ideas for Allakazam's first season. An inventive magician recognized for his creative talents, he served as a consultant to many others, including David Copperfield. His signature innovations include the Linking Hula Hoops and the Dancing Ring on Rope. At one time an executive with the Mattel Toy Company, Dick was also one of the country's leading experts on Ragtime, and recorded the complete piano works of Scott Joplin on a long-playing album.
Jack was the original organist for the Wilson's Dallas TV series Time for Magic, and was called out west when Allakazam was preparing to go on the air. Jack did not compose the bouncy theme song for the series; that came from the Leo Burnett Agency. However, as Music Director, he led the three-piece combo (organ, drums, and occasional brass or woodwind instrument) that underscored the magical happenings from a separate, soundproof studio away from the Allakazam set. No score was ever composed; Jack and his musicians ad-libbed the musical accompaniment.
One of two attentive assistants featured on Allakazam personally hired by Nani Darnell, Jackie appeared in Roger Corman's cult classic Little Shop of Horrors with Dick Miller and Jack Nicholson. She had a wide-ranging career in television after finishing her stint on Allakazam, appearing frequently in guest star roles on such programs as The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gomer Pyle, USMC and others. She is a long-time columnist for the local Toluca Lake newspaper The Tolucan Times.
The other attentive assistant on Allakazam, who continued in television work briefly following her participation in the landmark series and then left show business. Both assistants, according to Nani Darnell, had to have a dance background and move well, had to learn quickly, fit a certain height requirement, and most importantly, they couldn't be blondes.