Derris was born in London, and first performed magic at the age of
fourteen in a scout show, continuing with performances in concert parties
and RAF revues during his National Service. Later on he mixed with a group
called the "DG's" (Jack Avis, Bobby Bernard, Alex Elmsley, Ted Danson, Roy
Walton and Al Koran) and became interested in what were then called "pocket
tricks." His work was widely published in Abra, The Pentagram, Tops,
Phoenix and other magic publications. John created a number of effects
including "Trilogy" which sold extensively in Europe and the U.S. also a
trick called "Pen-i-Pin" - the penetration of an examined coin with three
John had a career in advertising and started his own international
advertising agency which prevented any involvement in magic. He says that
for a period of 25 years he never wore a thumb tip and never read Abra!
He married Jack Avis's sister, claiming it was the only way that he could
get Jack to show him the mechanics of the second deal!
On retirement he became a born-again magician and was introduced to the
new world of corporate and restaurant magic by close friend Bob Read.
Since that time John has worked extensively in Britain, Europe and Japan
for many leading corporate organisations and at many venues including The
Dorchester, Grosvenor House, Castle Howard, NEC, The Belfry, The House of
Lords and on The Orient Express. Recently he was invited to appear in a TV
spectacular celebration in Istanbul with Whitney Houston.
He is the author of Come a Little Closer, a book of close-up magic
that celebrates the friendship of his early group who are still close
friends after 50 years. He also co-authored Vis a Vis with Jack
"Difficult to say but any effect that is simple and visual and
creates a real impact on the spectator. I was greatly impressed by Nick
Einhorn's 'Spooked' which is a stunning version of the haunted deck" John
has achieved a lot of impact with his own production of a bowl of goldfish
as well, which must be a personal favourite.
"The Professional Touch by Billy McComb, a publication about
the real secret of performing magic that is in my view worth a dozen books
"Firstly Channing Pollock who when as an unknown stepped onto the
stage of the London Palladium with his good looks, a fabulously tailored
evening suit, and an arrogant half smile on his face. You instinctively
knew he was great, even before he produced the first dove. He had -
something. It was surely the same feeling experienced by magicians who
witnessed the live performances of Cardini. There have been thousands of
imitators of Pollock since that time but on viewing films of his first
appearances in London there is in my opinion no one who came close to his
superb and unique presentation of sheer magic.
Secondly another top performer who also played The London Palladium, Jay
Marshall. Appearing front-cloth with just a few props secreted about his
person (including a full set of linking rings) he mixed excellent magic
with good comedy in equal proportions resulting in sheer entertainment
(not forgetting Lefty - the most famous character in ventriloquism). In
the style of Roy Benson, one of the first stand up comedy magicians I ever
saw live. There are few around today who can present this entertaining
style of magic but currently I have great admiration for John Archer who
is both magical and genuinely funny."
Top Magic Quote?
"Magic is not about secrets, it's about acting" Some of the best
magic performances he's ever seen have been presented not by magicians but
by actors. People like Vincent Price and Tyrone Power (playing a mind
reader in "Nightmare Alley"), David Niven and Tony Curtis. John has long
believed that presentation is more important than a secret. Witness Chan
Canasta of magic past - all style and a few simple tricks. Currently
Derren Brown owes much of his current success to his presentation rather
than his methods. Also the theatrical presentations of Richiardi and
unquestionably David Copperfield, who exudes a style without which his
magic would just be demonstration."
Top Magic Moment?
"The first time I saw the illusion show of Dante and similarly the
first time I saw Channing Pollock. The magic of those experiences stay
with you for life and become the benchmark for all future performances."