Fake Chinese Magicians

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby mai-ling » 12/23/10 03:19 PM

When I was doing the lecture on my father, we watched
a part of video footage that got me thinking because of
something my father said.

He joked, and I'm paraphrasing...
"People think I'm a Jewish magician pretending to be Chinese..."

It occurred to me that I don't think there's a list of
the many magicians who are Lofan pretending to be Chinese.

With the exception of Okito, Fu Manchu, Cantu, Ching Ling Soo
what other's were there?
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Postby Bill Mullins » 12/23/10 05:48 PM

I think a number of people have performed under the name of "Foo Ling Yu".

Sunetaro was western, but was a fake Japanese magician.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 12/23/10 06:06 PM

mai-ling wrote: With the exception of Okito, Fu Manchu, Cantu, Ching Ling Soo what other's were there?


Ching Ling Foo was Chinese. Chung Ling Soo was western. Never heard of Ching Ling Soo.

Al Wheatley performed as "Chop Chop" and "Tung Pin Soo"
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Postby Bill Mullins » 12/23/10 06:53 PM

Fake Chinese:

Orson Welles appeared in the play Around The World in Eighty Days as The Great Foo San

Dai Vernon appeared at a convention once as Dai Yan

[from Magicpedia]
Fred LaBelle performed as Ahn Tu Lohng
Al Wheatley performed as Tung Pin Soo, and Chop Chop
Edouard Cassel (b. Paris, France) performed as Li King Si
George P. Reuschling performed as The Great LaFollette and Rush Ting Loy
Tobias Theo Leendert Bamberg performed as Okito
David Theodore Bamberg performed as Fu Manchu
Jean Hugard performed as Chin Sun Loo
Jack Chanin performed as Cha-Nin
Johnny Platt performed as Ki Ming
Tampa (Raymond Sugden) performed as the Chinese "Sugden the Magician"
Juan Jose Pablo Jesorum performed as Li Ho Chang, and then just Chang
George Little performed as Ah Foon
Harry Usher performed as Ah Foon
Samuel Lewis Whittington-Wickes performed as Chang Ko Lao, the Amazing Chang
Alfred George Fern performed as Ah Foo
Charles Joseph Jones performed as Colta the Merry Magician and as Prince Ko-Ko, the Oriental Conjurer
Richard Carter Ritson performed as Wu Ling
Herbert J. Collings performed as Col Ling Soo
Alfred J Banks performed as Ching Wu
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Postby mai-ling » 12/23/10 08:02 PM

i meant Chung Ling Soo, I get Ching and Chung mixed up all the time!
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Postby Bob Cunningham » 12/23/10 08:24 PM

My teacher, Bernie Whitman, performed most of professional life as "Fu Ling" a Chinese magician. Although Bernie received most of his acclaim and awards for his recreation of Howard Thurston, he made his living as Fu Ling.

His show was a two act full evening theater show and all of the backdrops and stage drapery were genuine Chinese tapestries.

Before he passed, Bernie sold his show to David Brisbios who performs under the name, David the Mystifier. Although David does not perform as a Chinese magician, he still uses some of Bernie's sets (sans the back drops) which you can look at here: http://www.davidthemystifier.com/photos.html
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Postby Pete McCabe » 12/24/10 01:58 AM

Bob,

I saw a recreation of Thurston at the SAM convention in Boston, mid 70s. Any chance it was Bernie? It was wonderfulthe floating ball was spellbinding.
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Postby Pete Biro » 12/24/10 02:09 AM

Joe Berg worked at least one time in Chinese wardrobe on roller skates. Don't know the name he used.

I saw Bernie do the floating ball at that convention. It was awesome.
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Postby Bob Cunningham » 12/24/10 05:57 AM

Hi Pete,

Yes it was. I believe that was the SAM convention in 1975. I was at the same convention (as a stage hand for Bernie) - in fact that is the ONLY convention I have ever been able to get to ;-(

Bernie had been officially retired from magic about 15 years at that point. But he resurrected the Thurston impersonation for the convention and it was very well received (although I suspect that had we been able to see him in the 1950's it would have been even better.
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Postby Max Maven » 12/24/10 10:28 AM

It was 1974.
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Postby mai-ling » 12/24/10 10:47 AM

Something I found also, that at the first IBM/SAM
combined convention in Chicago there was a
History of Magic program they did and my father
was Loouie Yip as Ching Ling Foo .

Now was he a real Chinese magician or a fake one.

Others on the show included:
Johnny Platt as the Hindu Magician
George Johnstone as Robert-Houdin
Clark Crandall as Hermann the Great
Paul Le Paul as Thurston
Bert Allerton as Blackstone
and ???? as Matt Shulien
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Postby Bob Cunningham » 12/24/10 12:07 PM

Thanks Max for the correction.

I was relying on that addled instrument I sometimes call my brain :)
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/24/10 12:22 PM

There was a head shot type publicity photo on the wall outside of Tannen's magic shop of Lou Lancaster as "chinese" - not sure what his character's name was.

What is Lofan?
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/24/10 01:02 PM

There was a series of big hand-colored photos hanging inside Tannen's Magic shop, now in the collection of David Copperfield. One pictured a "fake" Chinese magician: Chop Chop and Charlene.
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Postby mai-ling » 12/24/10 04:08 PM

Jonathan Townsend wrote:
What is Lofan?


Lofan is Chinese for non-Chinese...
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 12/24/10 04:11 PM

Or white people, from the urban dictionary.
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Postby Kenn Fong » 08/18/11 02:43 AM

"Fan" is also the Cantonese word for "rice" so you can see the association between white rice and White people.

The Southern Chinese, being subject to floods and famines (which drove my family on both sides to emigrate in the 1860s) say "Sik fan?" (or "Hek fan?") as a greeting, the way we now say, "How are you?" Literally translated it means "Eat rice (today)?" It's both a greeting and a good wish, the way in the Middle Ages "Bless you" became the response when someone sneezed, because sneezing was a symptom of the Plague.

This thread (and reading Jim Steinmeyer's wonderful book on the greatest fake Chinese magician) reminds me of a shopping trip when I was very young. In the late Fifties or early Sixties, in either Macy's or Gimbel's in Manhattan, a pitchman in the toy department handed me a set of the Linking Rings, and used me as a stooge. "This young man should be a natural at the Linking Rings, because he's an Oriental." I replied, "What? I was born in Forest Hills!"
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 08/18/11 09:31 AM

Huk gwi or bak gwi (phonetic) if you want to be crude, their term for soy sauce gets more to the urban point. But why the fuss with a different language over some of its street talk?

Yet we're still calling them the "Chinese linking rings"? Calling love tokens and commemoratives of the new emperor "Chinese coins"?

One of the things I've been waiting for is someone to notice those nice red envelopes they (our Chinese neighbors) use to give gifts to children and use that for the bill or card to wallet type trick. Please remember not to include a fortune cookie type paper slip unless you really can pull off comedy.

Racism is easy - cross cultural comedy takes some work.
Last edited by Jonathan Townsend on 08/18/11 09:44 AM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: I'm all for comedy. Just not at the expense of the audience.
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Postby erdnasephile » 08/18/11 10:42 AM

mai-ling wrote:Something I found also, that at the first IBM/SAM
combined convention in Chicago there was a
History of Magic program they did and my father
was Loouie Yip as Ching Ling Foo .

Now was he a real Chinese magician or a fake one.


Since your Dad is Chinese and Ching Ling Foo was a real Chinese magician, I'd say the answer to your question is "real"! :)

With regards to "Lofan", I'd say that's one of the more polite terms for white folks that Chinese use; however, context is everything when it comes to terms like these.
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Postby Dave Klaiber » 08/21/11 12:36 PM

Another:
Alberto Sitta performed as Chung Chin Foo
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 08/21/11 03:57 PM

Mike Bornstein did a Chinese Act--can't remember the name he used, but his mask (made by Jean Verner) and costume are on display in Fantasma in New York City.
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Postby Joe Pecore » 08/21/11 05:36 PM

Richard Kaufman wrote:Mike Bornstein did a Chinese Act--can't remember the name he used, but his mask (made by Jean Verner) and costume are on display in Fantasma in New York City.

MagicPedia says he presented a manipulative act using the stage name "Kolma": http://geniimagazine.com/magicpedia/Mike_Bornstein
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Postby Joe Pecore » 08/21/11 05:39 PM

Bill Mullins wrote:I think a number of people have performed under the name of "Foo Ling Yu"...


William (Bill) Arenholz was one (http://geniimagazine.com/magicpedia/William_Arenholz). Being hearing impaired, he decided to do a pantomime oriental act using a Chinese mask made by Dai Vernon's wife Jean.
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Postby Andrew Pinard » 08/21/11 08:23 PM

One of the characters in my original musical, Fantasmagoria Cabaret, is named Fu Ling Hu...

ajp
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Postby mountebanc » 04/19/12 09:35 PM

Hi Frances Mei Ling! The 1950 IBM/SAM convention is where I first saw your dad. I could be wrong but I think he was called Louie De Yip. I long ago sold the souvenir program and at 80, my memory now and then can miss a detail. I'm writing up some memories of De Yip Loo, especially his hilarious rice bowl presentation, and very funny egg bag. In the middle or late '70s,Jay and I stood backstage in Chicago watching your dad do the KUMA TUBES. Jay had a tear in his eye. He said, "No one else should be allowed to do the KUMA TUBES! Loo is the master!" Dick Oslund
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Postby Jeff Pierce Magic » 04/20/12 05:55 PM

Here's a private video of my friend Sam Song, the best Chinese magician you have never heard of.
Password is Genii
http://vimeo.com/40537683

Jeff Pierce
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Postby Allen Tipton » 04/22/12 09:39 AM

Chin Wu's son (UK) Claude Banks performed on the British Variety Theatres for many years as Cingalee. Claude's daughter Paula followed him and the grandchildren--girls worked as The Cingalees.
From Birmingham, UK,the BMS, came Naughton Stewart who worked as Mr. Chan--he made Chefalo's huge heavy Linking Rings.
I have worked as Chung Ling & Co. several times.

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Postby Allen Tipton » 04/22/12 10:28 AM

I have just remembered: Samuel Whittington-Wickes. Born in 1893 and performed under various names till he came up with 'The Amazing Chang'. With his Chinese Fantasy he toured the UK & worked in the USA as well. He had a couple of mild 'run ins' with Goodliffe in Abra Magazine, I remember his daughter wrote a book about him, published either late 90's or early 2000's. For details of this amazing performer see the IBM page. Roy Davenport talks about him and there is a potted life story. Allen Tipton
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Postby mai-ling » 04/22/12 11:22 PM

mountebanc wrote:Hi Frances Mei Ling! The 1950 IBM/SAM convention is where I first saw your dad. I could be wrong but I think he was called Louie De Yip. I long ago sold the souvenir program and at 80, my memory now and then can miss a detail. I'm writing up some memories of De Yip Loo, especially his hilarious rice bowl presentation, and very funny egg bag. In the middle or late '70s,Jay and I stood backstage in Chicago watching your dad do the KUMA TUBES. Jay had a tear in his eye. He said, "No one else should be allowed to do the KUMA TUBES! Loo is the master!" Dick Oslund


Thanks Dick for a preview. I know Uncle Jay loved dad doing the Kuma Tubes and he loved his modern levitation, and used it several times. I have heard how my father does the best Kuma's, better than Kuma himself. I don't know what it is about his presentation but it is spot on. Dad did perform at the very first combined convention in 1950 in Chciago and also in 1970 in Milwaukee at the Eagle's Ballroom with the first Light Bulb Cabinet that he ended up selling to Peter Reveen.

Jeff Pierce Magic wrote:Here's a private video of my friend Sam Song, the best Chinese magician you have never heard of.
Password is Genii
http://vimeo.com/40537683

Jeff Pierce


Thanks for sharing the video Jeff, besides my father, I've only seen one other rendition of the Kuma Tubes. Everyone does it a bit different. If you've never seen my father do it, you can find a video of it online. It will be on myspace.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 04/23/12 12:52 AM

mai-ling wrote:It occurred to me that I don't think there's a list of
the many magicians who are Lofan pretending to be Chinese.

With the exception of Okito, Fu Manchu, Cantu, Ching Ling Soo
what other's were there?


Did Cantu do a Chinese act? I've only seen photos of doing a Mexican themed act, which included his famous dover production.
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Postby Max Maven » 04/23/12 04:28 AM

Agreed, Richard; I've never seen any indication that Cantu did a Chinese act. Possibly the name was a holdover from an earlier act, but that's purely speculative.

In looking over this thread, I note that Chang (Juan Jose Pablo Jesorum) is listed as a caucasian masquerading as Chinese. But, in fact, he was Chinese-Peruvian.
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Postby mrgoat » 04/23/12 08:40 AM

Andrew Pinard wrote:One of the characters in my original musical, Fantasmagoria Cabaret, is named Fu Ling Hu...

ajp


The music may be original but Fu Ling Hu is a very old joke indeed!
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Postby mai-ling » 04/23/12 09:16 AM

Yes Cantu did a Chinese act and he was Mexican.

Chang may or may not be part Chinese.
His name was Juan Jose Pablo Jesorum.
Grew up in Panama.
Not sure what the back story is.
I read he was born in Panama and born in China.
His parents could have been missionaries living
in China before coming over. It's hard to say.
According to my father, he's not even 1/2 Chinese.

He mainly worked Spanish speaking countries.

A few years ago while we were going through some
of my father stuff, we found a Christmas card
that sent to Joe Berg from Chang that he gave to him.
It was a beautiful huge folded card with a dragon.
We framed it. Both my mom and I wanted to learn a
bit more about him. There's isn't a lot of information
available.
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Postby Max Maven » 04/23/12 10:05 AM

Regarding Chang, he was Chinese-Panamanian (not Peruvian as I mis-typed previously). According to several sources, including one from Panama, he really was part Chinese.

As for Abraham J. Cantu, that was his actual family name. "Cantu" may sound sort of Chinese, but it's not. It is a fairly common Spanish surname. I have done research, and have yet to find any account of him working as a Chinese in grooming, costuming or style (unless you have surprising information regarding the cultural origins of the serape and sombrero). In 1935 he did a small part in a movie (title as yet unfound) as a Hindu fakir. That would seem to be as close as he ever got to doing an Asian impersonation.
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Postby Allen Tipton » 04/23/12 11:21 AM

I see there is a 'Hop To' at the bottom of this page Mei. English 'corny' humour.

MEI What a pity you did not head this most interesting Post--'Fake Oriental Magicians'.
Then we could post the impersonators of Indian, Egyptian, Japanese etc magicians as well.

There was n English magician called 'William Peppercorn'who claimed to be the first Japanese magician in the USA. 'D'Alvini. the Jap of Japs'.

Wm 'Doc' Nixon ( real name Wm.J Nixon)traded with Okito to take on the Okito Act, as Nixon-Okito. Theo's 2 brothers coached him.
He also appeared as Neck Seun, Ling Chang Yuen, Willie Foo Lee, Yuen Chan Foo, Chan Omar & Chang Foo Yuen amongst other names.
His is a fascinating story--READ 'The Nixon Manuscript' in Book Form by Frederic Rickard, Glendale California--1987 and the CD Rom issued by Todd Karr on Nixon. Fascinating & a Big Mystery.

Okito also appeared as Lung Tchan Yuen, & as Houang Yuen & Co. with his wife Lily as Soy Toy. He couldn't, at one time, use 'Okito' as he had sold the rights to Nixon but later resumed the name.

Strangely I was looking for a telephone number in our Nottingham Directory yesterday --the N's--glanced back a page--dand there under the 'O's' was an --Okito!
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Postby Allen Tipton » 04/25/12 02:32 PM

In the UK we had San Yen-the stage name of Colin Hughes. A real gentleman, much respected and a great magician, who won several magic Competitions He wrote quite a long series in Abra magazine with a simple but ingenious box to hold a Zombie then floated it up from the box. And you could not see the 'you know what'. Then like Lenz's Indian Moon (Max Andrews' Vampire Magic) it floated without a cloth
I still have his T & R card from the series. And from him learned the use of 'Melrose', instead of Roughing Fluid.

In the Staffs Magic Society, when I was a teenager, we had Lawrence who always appeared in Chinese costume & makeup as Magico & Beatrice (his assistant) Probably a bit slow by today's standards but he always went over--well
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Postby Diego » 04/25/12 04:45 PM

"Fascinating & a Big Mystery."

If that refers to the mystery of what happened to Doc Nixon, I found much of the answer and revealed that research in 2009.

William J. Nixon, (aka Doc Nixon & others) died in New York City on December 13, 1945, at Goldwater Hospital in Manhattan. He was later buried, (in an unmarked grave) in Brooklyn, his birthplace and early home.

His income records show no employment from 1937-1039, and just sporatic, occasional earnings around Manhattan, until his death in 1945, where he was living in a building next to a Catholic Church and School, in Manhattan's Upper East Side.
While there is the (unproven) possiblity he may have been involved with a Church group or Order in St. Louis or elsewhere, there is no evidence (yet) of him taking any vows or having a religious vocation of any kind.
There is no proof that Nixon ever left the country after 1937, (no passport or ship records) and if he did, certainly did not stay there.
As I noted in 2009, if anyone back then had actually tried LOOKING for Mr. Nixon, they could have found him in the Manhattan telephone directory with his fellow New Yorkers.
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Postby Allen Tipton » 04/26/12 06:45 AM

So Diego--does this mean that, in spite of 'Nixon writing to Bill Larsen Senior, at Thayers, sometime between 1943-46, announcing his intention to enter a monastery & after that,nothing is heard or known of him' the intention was never carried out?
This info from the Nixon manuscript book by Frederic Rickard

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Postby Allen Tipton » 04/26/12 06:53 AM

In the Rickard book there is a photo of Doc Nixon, Mrs. Nixon & a baby son (who looks about 1 year old) taken around 1917-1918.
Has anyone ever traced if much later, of course, that son had any other children?
Intriguing!!
The Rickard book goes off tomorrow to my son in Portugal, so today is the last day I can refer to it.

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Postby Diego » 04/26/12 11:40 AM

I can't recall that letter, or if it was in the Todd Karr CD-Rom.
I would like to see that letter. As I said, his Social Security earnings records show occasional employment between 1940-1945. No earnings, (did those in or belonging to Orders get paychecks back then?)are from any religious organization.
His death certificate lists the, "Stage" as his profession, rather than any religious activity. So what he may or not have done, or tried for a while and dropped out later, is still to be verified.

Yes, tracing his children and hopefully their childred could lead to more information, but I haven't pursued it yet.

Again, the Monk in Tibet rumor seems highly unlikely.

The research I have done suggests much of the RUMORS that persisted about Doc Nixon, were the kind of jackpot stories show people like to cut up and tell, when the entertainment value of the STORY, is more important than it's veracity.
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