Centenarian still works his magic

Darlene De Campi, Paul De Campi, Fred De Campi, Sylvia Saville and Clive De Campi.
Darlene De Campi, Paul De Campi, Fred De Campi, Sylvia Saville and Clive De Campi.

Recently celebrating his 103rd birthday, he is the oldest member of the WA Society of Magicians, one of the world’s oldest, operating magic clubs.

‘I became interested in magic when my brother and I saw an advertisement in an American magazine for the Tarbell Course in Magic, a home-study correspondence course,’ Fred said.

‘The first trick I learnt was ‘The Vanishing Candle’.’

At 19, during the Great Depression, Fred along with his younger brother and three assistants travelled across the State to perform magic tricks in rural farming settlements.

Their first stop was Menzies followed by Gwalia, Wiluna and various Wheatbelt towns.

He said one of the tricks the troupe performed on its two-month stint was the ‘Substitute Trunk’.

‘My female assistant would be locked up in a trunk tied up with rope, chains and padlocked and the trick would finish with me mysteriously appearing in the locked box with the assistant appearing on the stage,’ he said.

‘Performing for the ‘cockies’ in some of the Wheatbelt towns was hard because the farmers were doing it tough so sometimes our troupe did not earn any money so went hungry for a couple of days.’

After the tour, Fred continued learning magic, with many noteworthy performances across the State and a few appearances on television talent shows.

He eventually joined the WA Society of Magicians when he was about 30 and became one of the main children’s performers, wowing the audience with his charm and skills.

‘I enjoyed going to the meetings and talking with fellow magicians, meeting new members and performing tricks,’ he said.

With special interests in stage illusions, vanishing acts, levitation and escapology, Fred invented many tricks and as a result, the society chose to name its annual creativity award after him.

‘The ‘Razor Blade’ trick and the ‘Smoke Act’ are two of my most memorable tricks,’ he said.

Still with a keen interest in magic, the society life member no longer attended monthly meetings as he was unable to travel.

To mark his birthday milestone, Fred celebrated with his family at son Clive and daughter-in-law Maryanne’s home, where he is now cared for.