Entertainment & Arts

Paul Daniels: Debbie McGee says their lives were full of laughter

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Media caption"He never saw me cry" - Debbie McGee speaks to BBC Radio Berkshire's Andrew Peach

Debbie McGee has said she and husband Paul Daniels lived a "fairytale life" together.

The magician died on Thursday aged 77 at his Berkshire home, a month after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

McGee said her husband did not know he was dying in his final days.

"He was in, what the consultants said was, a happy, confused state. He knew who everybody was, but his brain wasn't processing new information [due to the tumour]," she told the BBC.

McGee, who married Daniels in 1988 after many years as his on-stage assistant, said they had the kind of marriage "most people dream of", saying: "We had a life that was full of laughter... we were so happy together."

Daniels was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour last month.

"I've cried my heart out some nights but it all happened so quickly," McGee said.

"On the day he was diagnosed, the tumour had already spread so far that they knew he only had a few weeks to live. Then, in two days he deteriorated from feeling lethargic to having other symptoms, so he actually didn't really know what was going on.

Image caption Daniels and McGee appearing on the Paul Daniels Magic Show in 1985

Daniels was born Newton Edward Daniels in Middlesbrough and developed his magic skills in working men's clubs, making his TV debut on talent series Opportunity Knocks.

He then took over the primetime Saturday night slot with his BBC show, which started in 1979.

Daniels was known for a string of catchphrases, including the line: "You'll like this... not a lot, but you'll like it."

BBC correspondent Nick Higham said: "Paul Daniels could be chippy and some thought him smug. He fell out with BBC managers who dropped his show in the 1990s.

"But there was no doubting his popularity - or his talent."

Image caption The magic show fronted by Daniels ran for 15 years
Image caption Daniels appeared on Strictly Come Dancing in 2010, with Ola Jordan as his dance partner

It was initially suspected Daniels had suffered a stroke after he fell at home, but it was then discovered he had an inoperable tumour.

His son, Martin Daniels, said at the time: "He has said before, 'When it's your time it's your time' and that's how he is trying to face up to things."

As well as McGee, Daniels leaves his three sons from a previous marriage - Martin, Paul and Gary.

Gary Daniels has tweeted a picture of a rabbit in a magician's hat with a tear in its eye, by friend and artist Helen Martin, and wrote: "It is with incredible sadness that I can confirm that Dad, Paul Daniels, passed away overnight."

Image copyright Gary Daniels/Twitter

In addition to his magic, Daniels presented game shows in the 1980s and '90s, including Wipeout, Every Second Counts and Odd One Out.

He also designed special effects for the stage productions of Cats and Phantom Of The Opera, and was commissioned by the English National Ballet to create magical effects for The Nutcracker.

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Media captionPaul Daniels' magic career on television

Daniels had continued touring with his magic show and was booked to perform at venues across the UK this year, according to his website, before news of his illness emerged.

He supported a number of charities during his life, taking part in fundraising events and entertaining children at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

'Outstanding showman'

The Magic Circle said Daniels had "been an inspiration to many magicians" and is of "legendary status" in the world of magic.

In a statement, it said: "At the height of his career The Paul Daniels Magic Show on BBC One pulled more than 20 million viewers - that was more than one third of the British population regularly tuning in on a Saturday night to watch a magician make them laugh and witness feats of wonder such as his famous Chop Cup routine.

"In this day and age of fragmented media platforms, no other magician is likely to be able to achieve such a TV ratings record."

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Media captionHe made every magician he came into contact with a better magician" - James Phelan, Paul Daniels' nephew

It added that "the magic world owes Paul a huge debt".

Illusionist Dynamo told the BBC: "Without Paul Daniels I don't think I'd be doing magic today, so it's really a testament to how important he is for the magic world, he was a true master and [his death] is just such sad news.

"He was a real personality, he didn't just perform a bunch of tricks, he knew how to take something and make it magical but humorous at the same time.

"He had his own style which I don't think anybody could ever emulate or recreate. Paul Daniels for me is probably the best magician Britain has ever had. He has such an amazing legacy in magic."

Image caption Daniels also presented a number of game shows, including Wipeout

Louis Theroux, who filmed a documentary with Daniels and McGee, wrote: "RIP Paul Daniels, a thoughtful skeptic, enemy of hucksterism and paranormal flimflam, and gifted magician."

Ola Jordan, who danced with Daniels when he appeared on Strictly Come Dancing, tweeted that it had been "a pleasure and honour" to work with her "amazing dance partner".

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