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Kids’ TV Master Magician Mark Wilson : ‘The Magic Land Of Alakazam'

 

 

Mark Wilson and The Magic Land of Alakazam!

Remembering Kids’ TV Master Magician Mark Wilson
PART TWO / PART ONE HERE

by Kevin S. Butler

On Saturday morning October 1, 1960 the CBS TV network opened the gates to ‘The Magic Land Of Alakazam.’ Audiences enjoyed the magic performed by Mark and Nani Wilson and by Rebo the Mixed Up Magic Clown (played by the late Bev Bergeron).

 

Rebo the ClownThe Wilsons were not interested in the intrusions involved in playing cartoons so, within time, the cartoons were dropped from the program and a storyline was added where Mark would use his “powers of sorcery” to either aide The King Of Alakazam (played by Bob Tower) when he needed help with a problem or to foil the evil deeds of the Wilson's arch foes, Evilio the Wicked Magician and Witch Hazel.

With the addition of this fantasy format the series became a success but the show soon fell prey to creative interference from CBS TV exec Jim Aubrey.

Bev’s Rebo needed a new set for a skit in a certain episode but Aubrey refused to provide the funds or the manpower to build a Magic House backdrop for the show’s resident buffoon. Luckily for Bev he had become friends with another popular CBS clown, Red Skelton, who allowed him to borrow his Freddie The Freeloader backdrop.

 

This kind gesture didn’t go unnoticed by Mr. Aubrey (famously known as 'The Smiling Cobra') who became enraged by Red allowing Bev to use one of his sets for 'The Magic Land Of Alakazam' episode. Aubrey continued to disrupt the show until the Wilsons and their cast and crew had had enough of this creative sabotage.

The series left CBS and moved to ABC TV on September 29, 1962. mWhere it was seen in reruns on Saturday afternoons until the Enchanted Portal of The Magic Land of Alakazam closed for good following the Saturday December 12, 1964 broadcast.

 

Mark Wilson and his troop didn’t stay out of work for too long. He was hired to create, produce and present a magic show for ‘The Hall Of Magic’ at the 1964 and 1965 NYC World’s Fair. And Mark and his cast developed magic for AT&T’s ‘Magic of the Telephone’ exhibit at the 1968 Hemisfair in San Antonio, Texas. Both Stage productions were a hit with the crowds.

In 1970, The Master Magician became a magic ringmaster when ‘Mark Wilson’s Magic Circus’ debuted in national syndication sponsored by the Pillsbury Company.

 

Magic CircusMark, his wife Nani, and Rebo performed their magic before a live audience again. This time the shows were taped in color and it included a new regular to the series, their second son Greg. (Mike Wilson had left performing for a new career behind the camera as a producer)

Six shows were taped and were also popular with the viewers. ‘Mark Wilson’s Magic Circus’ was seen first on WNEW TV Ch.5 in NYC and later on WPIX Ch.11 in NYC)

Mark also began to branch out into other fields of endeavor...

He created and produced industrial shows, hired talented magicians for TV commercials as The Magic Burger King and served as a technical consultant for primetime shows like ‘The Magician’ with Bill Bixby and ‘Blacke’s Magic’ with Hal Linden and Harry Morgan.

 

In the late 1970’s Mark Wilson hosted his four and last regular kids’ magic TV show ‘The Magic Of Mark Wilson.’ Seen in national syndication and on WABC Ch.7 in NYC Saturday mornings beginning on October 2, 1977. The Wilsons performed magic for their audiences but the series only lasted for a brief period of time on the air.

Following the cancellation of his last series Mark Wilson’s TV appearances were limited to appearing on specials, talk shows and children’s series like Bob McAllister version of ‘Wonderama.’ On one show he talked about fire safety with his son Gregg and a talking fire truck, a computer controlled puppet, and on the WOR TV version of ‘Romper Room’ where, on a filmed show, the program’s resident teacher Ms. Molly McClosky and her puppet pal ‘Kimball’ watched one of Mark’s stage shows.

Wilson went on to write his own instructional book on magic ‘The Mark Wilson Complete Course In Magic’ and a video on illusion he was also one of the founders of The Magic Castle club in Hollywood, California. He also served as one of the club’s Board of Directors.

In 1989, Mark performed at the Minnesota State Fair to capacity crowds and he even performed in a spectacular show in China in 1980. His tour of China evolved into three TV specials one of which was nominated for an Emmy.

He created “The Cinilliusion" attraction for “Legoland” and he received many awards.

Mark Wilson is gone but his pioneering TV magic shows paved the way for Doug Henning’s specials, for Marc Summers’ kids’ magic series and for ‘The Masters Of Illusion’ programs.


RARE clip from 1975 - Saturday Night Live (not SNL) on ABC primetime hosted by Howard Cossell.

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