South Land Park magician traveled the world

Brenda Payne was Bob Brown’s longest term magic show assistant. Photo courtesy of Bob Brown

Brenda Payne was Bob Brown’s longest term magic show assistant. Photo courtesy of Bob Brown

Sacramento native Robert Forrester “Bob” Brown, Sr. is well versed in geography, having visited six continents of the world.

But he assures readers of this paper that his regular visits to many countries were not simply for leisure. Instead, Bob, 93, was a traveling, professional magician working in high-class venues in those countries.

In telling the story about how he became a magician, Bob, who resides in the vicinity of South Land Park, said, “My mother (Grace Elizabeth Brown, who was married to James A. Brown) gave me a Gilbert magic set for Christmas when I was 9 years old. I instantly became interested in magic and it sparked an inspiration in me.”

Because his mother recognized Bob’s love for magic, she gave him additional magic sets for the following two Christmases.

After continuing to learn more magic tricks and gaining further confidence, Bob began performing some of those tricks for his neighborhood friends when he was about 15 years old.

“I would have audiences of at least a dozen neighborhood kids,” Bob said. “The shows would be held at my house on 23rd Street.”

Bob’s other activities during his childhood included swimming at the YMCA at 505 J St., watching movies at the Alhambra and Tower theaters and participating in Boy Scout activities with Troop 1. He would eventually earn his Eagle Scout award, as well as one Eagle Palm.

Bob attended Fremont Elementary School, Sutter Junior High School and Sacramento High School. He graduated from the latter school in January 1939.

Although Bob became involved in many activities in life, he never abandoned one of his greatest loves of life – performing magic tricks.

In fact, during much of Bob’s life, he cherished learning new tricks and dedicated himself to perfecting his performances as a magician.

In addition to learning magic tricks on his own, Bob also learned tricks from the notable magicians, Dai Vernon (1894-1992), Channing Pollock (1926-2006) and Dr. Harlan Tarbell (1890-1960).

Bob reminisced about those men, saying, “Vernon was considered probably the greatest trainer in slight of hand. Channing, who was from Sacramento, was famous as a performer. And Tarbell, he wrote a course called the ‘Tarbell Course in Magic.’”

When Bob was about 30 years old, he became a professional magician.

Bob mentioned a few places where he performed locally, including at the aforementioned Alhambra and Tower theaters.

He also performed magic tricks at the Clunie Clubhouse on Aug. 19, 1940 during a celebration of his then-future wife’s 18th birthday.

Bob was married to Norma at the Fremont Presbyterian Church at 3600 J St. on Dec. 13, 1942, and has four sons, Robert, Jr. (“Rob”), Steven, David and Garrett.

Bob said that he was not married long before he joined the U.S. Army Air Forces.

“I went into the military in 1943.” Bob said. “I went back to Florida to basic training, and in about May of 1943, I went to Yale (University) and studied aircraft engineering, repair and so forth. At that point, I was an Air Force cadet. Then I graduated from there as a second lieutenant. I was in (the Army Air Forces) from 1943 to 1946.

“The funny thing was we all graduated in 1943 and I’ll never forget there were about 10 of us standing in line and the guy said, ‘Now, all those that want to go overseas right away, take one step forward.’ Nobody moved. Nobody wanted to be cannon fodder. He said, ‘Well, OK, we’re all going to go over there.’ So, all 10 of us had to go.

In 1946, I went back to work at Mather Field for two or three months and realized afterward that wasn’t what I wanted as a career.”

Bob said that he instead chose a career as an insurance salesman, spending most of his years with the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, and retiring in about 1985.

During his interview for this article, Bob mainly spoke about his work as a magician outside of his native country.

In recalling his decision to become an international, traveling magician, Bob said, “I wanted to be able to book myself as a magician as part of my lifestyle. I still wanted to be a financial planner, which I was with Mutual of New York.

In addition to being a financial planner, I would like to be able to take time off and travel around the world performing. And with my background training in sales, I was able to do that.”

Bob, whose first magic show outside the U.S. was in Madrid, Spain, later commented, “If you can sell insurance, you can sell anything.”

During his days of performing magic shows in foreign countries, Bob continuously contacted newspapers in each city he traveled to around the world in order to build his portfolio with newspaper clippings. He would then use many of those clippings to better promote himself in attempts to obtain additional shows.

As part of his professional acts, Bob would always have a female assistant.

Bob’s longest term assistant was Brenda Payne, and he was also accompanied at times by Linda Jonason and Kathy Theire.

While traveling with Linda during one trip to Europe, Bob performed a magic show for Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace (Kelly) of Monaco.

Bob said that he continued to travel the world as a magician until 2000, when he performed his last professional show at a Hilton Hotel in Germany.

Bob’s skill and success as a magician inspired his now 68-year-old son, Rob, and his now 38-year-old grandson, Russell, to also spend time performing as magicians.

Like Bob, both Rob and Russell have performed magic shows in and outside of America.

In reminiscing about his years traveling the world as a magician, Bob said, “It was a great time staying in the finest hotels in the world, meeting unusual people, entertaining the public of the world. It was a great experience.”

2 Responses to South Land Park magician traveled the world

  1. Christy Rucci says:

    I would love to see if I can get tickets to the Magic Castle 365 Muirfield Dr. Palm Desert Ca 92311 949-838-7777. Hope you are doing well please text or call Christy Rucci. Massage Therapist Laguna Beach

  2. Christy Rucci says:

    Hi Robert its Christy Rucci the massage therapist from Laguna Bch. Hope all is well your phone number is unavailable Are you still doing magic? If you come to Laguna please call me 949-838-7777

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