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Jack Kodell

Blue Collar Rat


Rats Register No. 557.

Initiated on 20th August 1958

Proposer: Peter Colville. Seconder: Serge Ganjou

Jack Kodell, known as 'The Original Bird Manipulator', was born in Mankato, Minnesota, USA. From a very early age his father's advice was always 'Do something different'. By the age of nine he had learned to fly a Taylor Cub Airplane and at thirteen he became the Soap Box Derby Champion (Kids un-powered car races). During 1941 Jack spent most of that year bedridden due to rheumatic fever. His father gave him books about card magic and a few decks of cards to pass away the time. With each passing day Jack became more intrigued with card magic. By the end of that summer he had become quite good with a deck of cards. By the time he had recovered he was hooked on magic and went around the various magic shops in Chicago, to where his family had moved. One day Jack saw Bill Baird, the famous billiard ball manipulator and was inspired to follow his father's dictum and 'do something different' he replaced the billiard balls with birds.

Throughout his teenage years he broke-in his parakeet act and changed his name. In 1947 at the International Magic Convention, in Chicago, he won the prestigious award for being the most original magician. He was presented his award by the great Harry Blackstone, Snr., who proudly announced that "This young boy has revolutionised magic. Kodell has created 'A Fantasy of Birds' an act in which he manipulates birds from bare hands, as others handle cards and billiard balls". That summer. Kodell was offered $1,500 a week at the El Rancho Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas. Over fifty years later Jack was still impressed when he recalled that it was a huge amount of money then and also that it gave him the honour of being the first Magician to be featured in Las Vegas.

Over the next few decades Jack worked in most of the great venues around the world and regularly appeared on major TV shows. His magic took him around the world many times, performing to the Royal families and Heads of State. In England he met and performed for Queen Elizabeth and other members of the royal family, including private parties for the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who referred to him as one of America's goodwill Ambassadors.

Whilst in London in 1950 he met the popular singer and actress Mary Naylor but, because of their separate work schedules, it was not until March 1953 that they were married at Caxton Hall in London. The headlines read 'Mary Naylor Marries Ice Magician' at the time Jack was appearing with his birds in an Ice show at London's Empress Hall. A magician on ice! another first. They were married at 10am and by 1.30pm Jack had to leave his wife and their guest to fulfil his contract at the Empress Hall. These career separations carried on throughout their careers. Happily, they did not affect the devotion and love for each other for nearly 60 years of happy marriage.

David Copperfield, a close friend since his own childhood, stated "Kodell was a trail-blazer of magic and a true inspiration for others to follow".

Since his retirement in 1962 Jack and Mary have spent their time in their Orlando home. They often visit Las Vegas spending time with their dear friend?s Lance Burton & David Copperfield.

Jack's last visit to London was in 2011 when he was honoured in a special tribute show as 'A living Legend of Magic', at the London Palladium.
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