Couldn't just read this thread without adding a few comments.
Alan Alan - wow what can you say about this man.......and his shop. First and foremost, as a magical demonstrator, I'd actually put him on par with Ken Brooke.
I must have got on his good side pretty early on - as he was always polite and exceptionally helpful even when I was young. He'd be willing to discuss magic for hours and, as pointed out above, any non-magicians/tourists were abruptly told "look in the window, everything's in there" if he was engrossed in magic-related conversation.
His demo's put a lot of other dealers to shame. His handling of small items such as various routines with a shell 2p and the 'Dual Control' gimmick and an Okito Box were truly magical. Two other items I remember him demming so well were the 'Baffler Box' and 'Coin Thru Glass'(Ching Ling Coin Box?). The coin pull as mentioned above was called the 'Go Come Pull' if memory serves me correctly - and was much better (and silent!) than the current plastic Universal Pull by Vernet. He also made the Cigarette Pull look so convincing - his timing was immaculate and the lit cig just appeared to melt away.
Of course Alan had learnt to dem magic correctly over many years; I believe that he once worked in a magic shop owned by Dick Chavel; before opening his own shop. prior to that of course, Alan was an escapologist as seen in this old British Pathe footage:
http://www.britishpathe.com/video/burni ... capologist
Getting back to Alan Alan's shop. Being located in London's West End he was quite near theatre land. Sometimes, he'd be visited by a theatre's prop buyer that wanted to buy magic tricks - such as a set of Chinese Linking Rings. Do you think he ever sold these (despite being offered more money than they were on sale for)? Not a chance. Alan was from the old school that believed in protecting the secrets of our art form. If only the same could be said for magic today - with the plethora of internet 'magic shops' that sell props to anyone; coupled with dire exposures on YouTube.
Alan was always immaculately dressed - usually in a three piece suit. In complete contrast, he'd usually have a punk-rock safety pin through his nose and theatrical fake blood over the back of his hand. Then when he next turned around, he'd have fake snot dripping from his nostril and a knife through his head. Then he'd sit on his stool; throwing a never-ending stream of those little paper exploding bangs at people as they walked in. It was worth being in the shop just to witness the unbelievable looks he'd get from customers that just couldn't make out exactly what they'd walked into; and how this guy that looked just like a bank manager, had not been certified.
The shop itself - never seen anywhere like it. I don't think that there was a single space left untapped in his shop window; all sorts of items from fake body-parts, masks, jokes and in the side window next to the door, magic tricks (many of which were Tenyo items). Upon entering the shop, there were massive wall cabinets on the left absolutely crammed with all types of magical props. Straight ahead was a display of books and booklets and a long counter on the right. On the counter itself, it personified the expression 'utter chaos' - complete with a rubber bell (actually a rubber female breast) with the sign 'Tush Pit For Service'. Could you get away with this in today's politically correct World without complaint? I would guess not.
Alan was the guy that got me hooked on Harry Lorayne and Harry's material. And here is the reason why I put him on par with Brookie. Alan Alan was the ONLY magical demonstrator that wouldn't only recommend a book, he would actually show you material from it. How refreshing that was. Other London magic shops at the time (two of which are still operating) would hype a particular title without having the first idea of it's true content. Alan was different. I remember him going into great detail about Harry Lorayne's Ultra Move; and spending ages showing me the technique once I'd purchased 'Afterthoughts' from him. I adore magic books even to this day yet, as previously mentioned, have never known any magic dealer to possess such an in-depth knowledge of each title's content. Alan was also an admirer of the author Lewis Ganson, and I bought a copy of every title on Alan's bookshelf over the years. I also remember, I must have been about 17 at the time, asking for a copy of Corinda's 13 Steps. Alan (possibly correctly) stated that not only was I too young but also that I didn't look like a mentalist. However, he recommended the book for some of the techniques and methods within. 30 years down the line and I still don't look like a mentalist but do you know what? The Centre Tear and a Swami have both come in useful on more than one occasion. Sound advice from a guy that truly knew this business inside out.
I think I first went into Alan's shop around 1979 when I was 15 and then throughout the early to mid 1980's. I can honestly say, hand on heart, that nowhere since has had the same appeal. A counter in such a mess with jokes, novelties and magic scattered all over the place; a magical demmer using a square carpet tile instead of a close-up mat; a magic demmer constantly chain smoking Dunhill Internationals as he showed you the latest miracles (as well as miracles from years gone by).
No magic shop that I've visited since has ever held a light to Alan Alan's - and do you know what? I don't think that any EVER will.