Frank Brooker sadly passed away last month. He was a lovely man with an amazing story. A magician and a taxi driver, when international magicians came to work in England, Frank was their go to chauffeur! He met all the greats of the time, but the one who had the biggest impact on him was Channing Pollock, a man Frank described as "the best magic act to come to this country". Channing recreated dove magic, and his flawless style paved the way for the greats who I was inspired by as a young magician. Watch his act, then any other magician performing with doves today, and his influence is clear.
When Channing retired from performing in 1971, he gave the act to Frank, teaching him every little detail. After a year of practice, Frank went on to perform the act under the name 'Franklin' with Channing's blessing.
I first met Frank three years ago when he was 91! He had a great sense of humour and he loved sharing his stories of performing and his time with Channing.
One of my favourite's was when Channing performed in the 1955 Royal Command Performance at London's Victoria Palace Theatre. Frank was backstage with him and after the show, the Princess Royal was praising Channing and asking how he made the doves appear. As Frank recalled, Channing casually replied "you just do this", at which point a dove instantly materialised at his fingertips!
Frank performed the dove act all over the country. He once starred in a circus and came offstage to find three monkeys and an elephant waiting to meet the doves! He even performed at Buckingham Palace in a show for injured cadets.
Magicians often came to watch Frank night after night to try and work out some of Channing's signature moves. Frank was warned but he wasn't worried and would say, "They'll never work it out from there!"... and he was right!
Despite watching Channing's act on video hundreds of times, I learnt so much more from Frank. We'd be talking about a prop from the act, and then the next time I saw him, he'd be waiting with the original prop Channing actually used, excited to show me! I used to love the way he would tell me a nugget of gold, followed by "I shouldn't have told you that!". Looking back I realise that was his sense of humour. He knew exactly what he was sharing with me and I still can't believe his generosity.
Even though Channing taught him everything, I remember Frank fondly saying, "There was only one Channing Pollock." I never met Channing, but there was only one Frank Brooker and I feel incredibly lucky to have known him.