Over fifty years ago a new program made its debut on the CBS Television Network. It was special to magicians, fans of magic and children everywhere, because it was the first regular weekly magic series ever seen on a national broadcast network: The Magic Land of Allakazam.
Mark Wilson and Nani Darnell Wilson were the stars of the show – a young couple from Texas who influenced an entire generation of children, illustrating for them the delights and wonders of magic, from sleight of hand to grand illusion. Their young son Mike Wilson was also featured on the show, as was an invaluable on-camera and off-camera contributor, fellow Texan Bev Bergeron, as Rebo the Clown. Together they taught millions of youngsters every week the magic word was "Kellogg's!"
Allakazam went on the air just as Milt and Bill Larsen were making plans to revive their father's dream organization, the Academy of Magical Arts, and shortly before the grand opening of Hollywood's Magic Castle, since considered the "Mecca of Magic" by prestidigitators around the globe. The Allakazam creative group were some of the earliest members of the newly-formed AMA: Mark and Nani Wilson, Bev Bergeron, Leo Behnke, John Daniel, Bob Towner, Bob Fenton, John Gaughan, Francis Martineau, Lin Searle and dozens more formed the team that not only brought the show to children across America week after week, but spent many months annually touring from city to city, bringing live magic once again to families everywhere, following in the grand tradition of the touring illusion shows of Dante, Blackstone, Thurston, Keller, and other famous names in magic. One of the earliest publicity photos from the Magic Castle – which appeared in Newsweek in 1963 – shows Mark Wilson levitating Nani above Invisible Irma's piano.
Allakazam had a significant impact on the world of magic. Its five-year run on the CBS and ABC networks proved beyond any doubt that, in spite of the naysayers in the broadcast industry, Mark Wilson was correct in his belief that magic would work on television. It brought a group of some of the west coast's most prominent and creative magical thinkers together to develop magic and illusions on a weekly basis. It received numerous awards and honors from broadcasters and family television organizations. Most of all, it inspired many young people to pursue magic as a hobby and, eventually, a career – magicians like Doug Henning, David Copperfield, Lance Burton, and hundreds of others.
But Allakazam brought far more to the world than a top-rated Saturday morning kids’ show and an initial flux of members into the Magic Castle. Mark and Nani Wilson and the brilliant creative minds that gathered to bring America’s first network magic show to delighted fans from coast to coast became a magical tsunami, and soon, thanks to their innovations and Mark’s considerable marketing skills, magic was breaking out all over. Allakazam begat the Hall of Magic Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair, which begat new touring magic shows, which begat new theme park magic shows, which begat commercial and trade show presentations, which begat Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic. An astounding number of magicians, past and future, worked at one time or another on a Wilson show or production. The staff grew, the responsibilities grew, but the feel of a team effort remained the same. Alan Wakeling, Earl Nelson, Max Maven, Dick Zimmerman, Chuck Burnes, U.F. Grant, Walter Gibson, Larry Anderson, David Roth, James Randi, Don Lawton, Don Wayne, Ray Pierce, Steve Dick, Stan Allan, Mark Nelson, Pam Hayes (&Co.), and Mark and Nani’s younger son Greg Wilson are only a few of the names contributing to the tremendous success of Allakazam and the productions that followed.