Showman's journey from school hall to Las Vegas

Magician Johnny Hart went from entertaining classmates at school in Preston to performing on the primetime Ed Sullivan television in America. Author Steve Short is researching his extraordinary career for a new biography of the Las Vegas showman

Wednesday, 14th September 2016, 12:24 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th September 2016, 4:32 pm
Johnny Hart on stage in Las Vegas

He was the first British magician to star on the legendary Ed Sullivan Show in America, making six appearances in all.But Johnny Hart remains largely unknown in his hometown of Preston where he first set foot on a journey which would take him to the showbiz capital of the world, Las VegasHe started life as John Bernard Hart on August 29, 1943 at the war memorial hospital, Lytham St Annes.He was bought up in Preston and went to St Josephs Boys RC school and then Harris Secondary Technical and Commercial School.Johnny lived in Robinson Street, in Preston, with his mother Rosaline (known as June) who worked at Littlewoods and on the buses, his stepfather Robert Wright, a bus driver, and Johnny’s brother Peter.Although he worked hard at school and was working towards being a research chemist, he was always practising his card tricks during and after school and would use his talents to entertain classmates.Johnny was a member of the Preston Magic Society, Blackpool Magicians Club and The Modern Mystic League in Blackburn. He was also a member of The Ramblers Concert Party.By the age of 17 he was on the bill at the English Electric Co Ltd children’s party at the old Public Hall in Preston.Johnny was famous for producing budgerigars from thin air, and bought the birds from a local pet shop and breeder. His magic act also consisted of producing endless fans of cards from his empty hands as well as a live dove, cockatoo and a cat. At the end of the act the cat and cockatoo would vanish from a large box. All of these animals were his pets and were lovingly looked after during his career.Johnny won the very first ‘Young Magician of The Year’ competition in 1961, organised by The Magic Circle. Soon after, he went on to feature on Sunday Night at The London Palladium. Johnny then went on a whirlwind career working with all the top stars of the time in summer seasons, including Dick Emery, Sir Bruce Forsyth, Mike Yarwood, Max Bygraves and many more. Johnny worked all over the world and had many seasons in the USA, including two years at the MGM Grand Hotel in Reno.Johnny is retired now and lives in a home in Preston but his life and times are to be the subject of a new book and author Steve Short is appealing for anyone who knew Johnny during his school and college days, saw any of his local shows, sold him his animals or knew him to get in touch, especially if you have any photos. Write to 6 Briarbank Row, Fulwood, Preston, PR2 9PF or email [email protected]

Johnny Hart with one of his trademark tricks
Johnny Hart with his beloved budgies

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A teenage Johnny Hart
Johnny Hart with one of his trademark tricks
Johnny Hart with his beloved budgies
A teenage Johnny Hart