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Topic: Billy Bishop The First Bish The Magish
Message: Posted by: bishthemagish (Aug 15, 2004 01:01PM)
Billy Bishop, Born December 26, 1921... And he had a lifetime in magic filled with adventure, and all of show businesses ups and downs. Billy’s father Carl Bishop who was a registered spit ball pitcher and base ball player was known by his baseball nick name “Bitty”.

After baseball he owned a car dealership and lost it to the great depression. He went on the road using his baseball contacts and being a salesman sold a health tonic. That moved the family and young Billy around the states.

Deciding to settle in the state of Oregon he left his growing family east and in a new car went west stopping off in Chicago. While in Chicago his new car was stolen with all his money and clothes - including his start up money for a new business.

This did not stop Bitty Bishop. One of the things for fun that Bitty used to do was put on a cork black face and sing songs like Eddie Canter. In local Vaudeville theaters on contest nights.

Luck was with him he looked in the paper and found several vaudeville in Chicago houses offering a cash prize for first place for the contest that night.

He went from vaudeville house to vaudeville house and when the evening was done had more than enough money for a meal, hotel and a bus trip to Oregon.

There must be a show business gene in the Bishop family because Billy got into magic early. His parents encouraged this because magic put the person in front of people talking. And moving around the country at a young age Billy developed a stutter…

Magic helped this and the stutter turned into a nervous laugh that later became Billy’s trademark.

Billy started off carrying the props of an older magician in the hood named Chandler Stevens. Later came a club called the Royal Order Of Scarlet Wands. He met Jimmy Stoppard and Rolland Hamblen two people that inspired and helped him. At a young age Billy Bishop was a student of Erdnase, could second and bottom deal using the Erdnase method and grip.

Jimmy Stoppard was the first winner of the Houdini award with his Phantom ray. And Billy Bishop was the last winner of the award with his rope tie.

He arranged to promote the Wizard of Oz toy promotion with a magic show in one of the Portland Department stores. And did many shows for the local clubs and organizations and developing the rope tie and his laugh that would become his trademark.

Billy went off to play the big one - WW2 . Flying dangerous missions in a P38 Lightning with only cameras he photographed before and after battles well into enemy lines as a photo Joe… Becoming a Major and commanding officer of his squadron at the young age of 24...

Retuning to the states he settled in Oregon and went back into show business.

From their went to the Reno PCAM convention and won the “Sweepstakes Trophy for showmanship and general excellence. He was also the President of the Portland SAM and booked Dai Vernon to lecture there.

Then after finding his life long partner "Ann Dawson who became Ann Bishop" Billy decided to take a chance at the show business big time - New York…

And what a Big Time it was. Landing with the best agent in New York “Mark Leddy”… From there it was the Ed Sullivan show, Billy Roses Diamond Horseshoe and tours up and down the east cost including the Catskills to the tip of Florida.

Billy Bishop entertained in show business with some of the top names. He knew Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, The Will Maston Trio, Sammy Davis Sr., Jack Benny, Billy Gillbert, Jay Marshall, Carl Ballentine.

And More… “If you were working in those days Billy said, your bound to run into people sooner or later“.

After several years of success in New York Billy came back to Oregon to work and perform in night clubs on the west cost.

Reuniting with old friends like Lee Grable, Virgil and Julie, Desmond, Stan Kramien, Stan Greer, Jimmy Stoppard and Rolland Hamblen. And made the cover of Genii Magazine September 1950.

I used to ask him about magicians he met while we played chess. I remember asking him the first time he met Charlie Miller or Frank Garcia. He would say Charlie Miller I met in a night club when he was younger. At that time he was going out visiting magicians and watching all the magic acts he could looking for ideas to put in his show.

And Frank Garcia was a young magician behind the magic counter at Tannan’s magic shop where a young Billy Bishop purchased a dove pan for a stunt that they did on the Ed Sullivan Show.

He moved to Wisconsin pioneered a children’s televisions show and got so much work from Chicago he decided to move there.

Chicago was very good from performing on Television and doing club dates and night clubs - according to Jay Marshall, “Billy Bishop was one of the most working acts in the city. I think he worked so much he wore out 3 lids to the canvas covered box - he had to - he had 6 kids to feed”.

After raising 6 kids Billy Bishop later owned two magic shops that were a hobby retirement activity. And pioneered the video magic age with two video magic sets one was produces by SS Adams and was marketed all over the world.

He had a major stroke in 1993 that pushed him into semi retirement and about 6 years later he passed on while in his sleep on the mourning of his birthday December 26, 1999.

He was a great family man - I know this because I am his son. He was a great showman of the old school and I have seen him do shows under the worst show business conditions including outside in the wind, rain, sun, and snow. He treated everyone with respect in kindness no mater where they were in magic or place in life. And from his list of friends that reads like a who’s who in magic and all of show business - all of them talk about what a fine fellow he was.

As Don Alan once said to me… “Your Mom and Dad were one Heck of a great act”…

Billy Bishop An' Ann - Standing Ovation!
Message: Posted by: Werner G. Seitz (Aug 15, 2004 02:46PM)

Thanx Glenn for letting have us a background re your fathers/mothers work..apart from they are responsible for your birth :)
Actually, on several occations (but unfortunately seldom) I have heared his name mentioned, so I'm glad to had a chance to read more about him..

Message: Posted by: Pete Biro (Aug 17, 2004 12:21PM)
Great bio, really enjoyed reading it... your dad was "the greatest"... :)
Message: Posted by: Kevin Ram (Aug 17, 2004 01:42PM)
I really enjoyed reading it too.

I love reading about magicians from the past and think that this new section of the Café is a great idea.

Thanks Glenn :)
Message: Posted by: Julie (Aug 19, 2004 12:35AM)

I remember going to the Magic Shop in the Old Chicago Amusement Park and a very young boy behind the counter.

Methinks that must have been you! :)
Message: Posted by: bishthemagish (Aug 19, 2004 09:46AM)
Julie it most likely was...

Thank you everyone for posting and taking an interest in this thread.
Message: Posted by: foolsnobody (Aug 24, 2004 11:09PM)
Glenn, I wrote an appreciation of your father's rope tie in the All Tied Up! forum. I downloaded it from your web site and had to say something in praise of it, and him.
Message: Posted by: bishthemagish (Aug 25, 2004 09:08AM)
Thank you very much foolsnobody...

Message: Posted by: andre combrinck (Aug 29, 2004 10:32AM)
The stuttering bit reminds me of Michael Ammar-See Early Ammar series to see what I mean.This is just an incredible story.The legend continues.
Can anyone say Banburg?
Message: Posted by: bishthemagish (Sep 13, 2004 10:34PM)
One of the realy great stories about my parents performing life is the amount of shows they did. During the Christmas season they would load the magic in the back of my Fathers station wagon. Drive downtown Chicago. Park at the grant park parking.

Dad was in his tux and Mom was in here costume under her long coat.

Dad would put the canvas covered box together and they would put all the props in it. Put the box on a four wheeled trolly. Then they would spend the day and most of the night pushing the canvas covered box up and down Michigan Ave from hotel to hotel.

They did this all day and most of the night going from one Banquet show to the next

I laugh when I think about my Father pushing this large wooden box up and down the busy cold streets of Chicago during the Christmas season. He did this every day for the month of December up until Christmas.

The other story is one time he had three shows in different parts of the city. He got to the last show just before showtime. The client was in a panick that my Father would arrive late.

My Dad loaded in but did not have time to put the canvas covered box together. He walked in and took off his coat and walked right out on the stage. Then he tossed the rope out to an audience member and did the rope tie.

Mom unpacked and took the props out to my Dad as always.

When it came to the big finish the canvas covered box it wasn't together. So he invited the audience up to look over all the parts and had them put it together...

Then they did the effect and walked off stage like they did it that way all the time...

I just think about these stories and I smile...
Message: Posted by: Vincent (Sep 14, 2004 06:24AM)
For Glenn Bishop:

These are wonderful stories about your parents and their lives in show business.

It is obvious that they are told with a lot of love.

All The Best,

Vincent :die: :magicrabbit: :die:
Message: Posted by: bishthemagish (Sep 17, 2004 01:10PM)
Thanks Vincent...

My father could realy keep the family secrets. Most of the magic in his act I had no idea how it was done until I hit my 30's...

The canvas coverd box for instance. I had no idea how it was done until it was retired from the act. I still have the lid but the box is so old and used I tossed it.

I just can't throw the lid away...

I learned this effect in our living room at my Dads house. We were taping the Magic Of Magic Video magic set. The magic set had a 30 minute show and then explained the tricks in the set - not the show.

The night before the taping my Dad and mom were working out the timming in the living room.

So they did it over and over again. This is where I learned how to do it because I was the off stage assistant for the shoot. And I did the linking rings and cups and balls on the show for the tape set.

Mom was not happy about doing it becaue the box effect had been retired and Dad wanted to do it and get it on tape so we have a copy of his way of doing it.

So they went through it over and over again in the living room as I watched and asked questions at the proper time. What I say when I say the proper time is that my Mom was giving my Dad a hard time of it because she realy didn't want to do this effect.

My Dad kept making my Mom do it over and over again. it was an interesting time... But when they got it the way my Dad wanted it all was fine.

And it looked good on the tape too!

I was 25 at the time and we shot the footage and the box was retired and ended up in my show for a short time...
Message: Posted by: Vincent (Sep 17, 2004 03:24PM)

Another great story. Thanks!!

All The Best,

Vincent :die: :magicrabbit: :die:
Message: Posted by: bishthemagish (Oct 24, 2004 09:13AM)
Here is a link that many might find interesting...

Message: Posted by: Tim Hannig (Oct 31, 2004 11:29PM)
Years ago, I would go into Bishop's Magic Shop and see Billy Bishop. So, so friendly. I remember visiting him in the hospital with my friend Eddie Raymond, before Billy moved out west.

As a young person in the magic shop, I should have picked Billy's brain more...and listened to more stories...rather than just picking up tricks!

I have only good things to say about him.

Isn't there a book out about your dad? I'd love the info on it.

Tim Hannig
Message: Posted by: bishthemagish (Nov 1, 2004 08:02AM)
Yes there is it is called the life and magic of Billy Bishop Bish the Magish...

It is available from David Charvet...
Message: Posted by: The Donster (Nov 1, 2004 11:08PM)
Bish how did your Dad present the canvas covered box I have one but would like some more info on it.
Message: Posted by: bishthemagish (Nov 4, 2004 09:14AM)
My Father used to call the canvas covered box "The tripple Challange escape? That included the box a bag and the red canvas cover.

My Father learned this routine from Lee Grable when he subed for him on a tour of school shows for one season when lee was sick.

He was thinking about a new feature effect and decided to have his own box made. he did it for a while and it just wasn't getting the impact he wanted.

John Schirley suggested to try a red canvas cover. he had it made and it dressed up the effect. And it became a feature trademark effect of my father for the rest of his life.

He also used a tent held by the two helpers that he got up to help cary the box. My father was a master at situation comedy using the audience members.

He had a lot of gags he said and did when these audience members would help him with this box.
Message: Posted by: The Donster (Nov 4, 2004 12:19PM)
Bish Thank You for Sharing that With us. Don,
Message: Posted by: fredpaulbailey (Jul 24, 2008 06:35PM)

Some of the best times of my life were spent working at Bishop's Magic Shop in North Riverside! I loved listening to your Mom and dad's stories. There were both Magical treasures! PM me for my personal e-mail address if you want to talk! I'd love to catch-up...

Fred Paul Bailey
Message: Posted by: jcards01 (Aug 5, 2008 09:37PM)
I too well remember Old Chicago and the other Bishop Magic Shops. Like a lot of things, an era long gone by.

Billy, and friends used to come into Mr. C's way back in the day and he always had a good time. Of course, Glenn wasn't quite old enough yet for the Magic Lounge scene but it didn't take long.

Great stories!
Message: Posted by: Leo Reynolds Jr (Aug 7, 2008 07:01PM)
A friend of mine recently gave me a video tape called Magic of Magic Billy Bishop & Buddy Farner show you their secrets Free Magic Trick Included in Box made in 1987 Shows a appearance of a young Glenn Bishop as Buddy's assistance.
Hard to believe how much magic and the world has changed. However some of the tricks still work and play quite well today.