Billy Bishop, Born December 26, 1921. And he had a lifetime in magic filled with adventure, and all of show businesses ups and downs. Billy's father Carl Bishop who was a registered spit ball pitcher and base ball player was known by his baseball nick name "Bitty". After baseball he owned a car dealership and lost it to the great depression. He went on the road using his baseball contacts and being a salesman sold a health tonic. That moved the family and young Billy around the states.
Billy Bishop An' Ann
Deciding to settle in the state of Oregon he left his growing family east and in a new car went west stopping off in Chicago. While in Chicago his new car was stolen with all his money and clothes - including his start up money for a new business. This did not stop Bitty Bishop. One of the things for fun that Bitty used to do was put on a cork black face and sing songs like Eddie Canter. In local Vaudeville theaters on contest nights.
Luck was with him he looked in the paper and found several vaudeville in Chicago houses offering a cash prize for first place for the contest that night. He went from vaudeville house to vaudeville house and when the evening was done had more than enough money for a meal, hotel and a bus trip to Oregon.
Billy Bishop on the stage of Broadway's famed Palace Theater.
"If you had an act- you would dream about working the Palace"!
There must be a show business gene in the Bishop family because Billy got into magic early. His parents encouraged this because magic put the person in front of people talking. And moving around the country at a young age Billy developed a stutter!
The Newspaper Billing For The RKO Palace Theater. Note Billy Bishop "Bish The Magish" Is The Second Act On The Bill. The Date Is Thursday Feb. 16, 1950!
Magic helped this and the stutter turned into a nervous laugh that later became young Billys trademark. Billy started off carrying the props of an older magician in the hood named Chandler Stevens. Later came a club called the Royal Order Of Scarlet Wands. He met Jimmy Stoppard and Rolland Hamblen two people that inspired and helped him. At a young age Billy Bishop was a student of Erdnase, could second and bottom deal using the Erdnase method and grip.
Jimmy Stoppard was the first winner of the Houdini award with his Phantom ray. And Billy Bishop was the last winner of the award with his rope tie. He arranged to promote the Wizard of Oz toy promotion with a magic show in one of the Portland Department stores. And did many shows for the local clubs and organizations and developing the rope tie and his laugh that would become his trademark.
Harry Blackstone came to watch a young Billy Bishop perform as
the "Wizard Of Oz" for Lipman and Wolfe Department Stores!
Billy went off to play the big one - WW2 . Flying dangerous missions in a P38 Lightning with only cameras he photographed before and after battles well into enemy lines as a "photo Joe" Becoming a Major and commanding officer of his squadron at the young age of 24.
Retuning to the states he settled in Oregon and went back into show business. From their went to the Reno PCAM convention and won the Sweepstakes Trophy for showmanship and general excellence. He was also the President of the Portland SAM and booked Dai Vernon to lecture there.
The Billing Outside The RKO Palace Theater. Billy Bishop is second on the Bill and Note the movie Mark Of The Gorilla a Jungle Jim - Johnny Weissmuller Movie!
Then after finding his life long partner "Ann Dawson who became Ann Bishop" Billy decided to take a chance at the show business big time - New York. And what a Big Time it was. Landing with the best agent in New York Mark Leddy - From there it was the Ed Sullivan show, Billy Roses Diamond Horseshoe and tours up and down the east cost including the Catskills to the tip of Florida.
Billy Bishop An' Ann On The Stage Of Billy Roses Diamond Horseshoe... A New York booking that lasted over 6 months.
Billy Bishop entertained in show business with some of the top names. He knew Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, The Will Maston Trio, Sammy Davis Sr., Jack Benny, Billy Gillbert, Jay Marshall, Carl Ballentine.
And More! "If you were working in those days Billy said, your bound to run into people sooner or later". After several years of success in New York Billy came back to Oregon to work and perform in night clubs on the west cost.
Reuniting with old friends like Lee Grable, Virgil and Julie, Desmond, Stan Kramien, Stan Greer, Jimmy Stoppard and Rolland Hamblen. And made the cover of Genii Magazine September 1950.
I used to ask him about magicians he met while we played chess. I remember asking him the first time he met Charlie Miller or Frank Garcia. He would say Charlie Miller I met in a night club when he was younger. At that time he was going out visiting magicians and watching all the magic acts he could looking for ideas to put in his show.
And Frank Garcia was a young magician behind the magic counter at Tannan's magic shop where a young Billy Bishop purchased a dove pan for a stunt that they did on the Ed Sullivan Show.
He moved to Wisconsin pioneered a children's televisions show and got so much work from Chicago he decided to move there.
Chicago was very good from performing on Television and doing club dates and night clubs - according to Jay Marshall, "Billy Bishop was one of the most working acts in the city. I think he worked so much he wore out 3 lids to the canvas covered box - he had to - he had 6 kids to feed."
After raising 6 kids Billy Bishop later owned two magic shops that were a hobby retirement activity. And pioneered the video magic age with two video magic sets one was produces by SS Adams and was marketed all over the world.
He had a major stroke in 1993 that pushed him into semi retirement and about 6 years later he passed on while in his sleep on the mourning of his birthday December 26, 1999.
He was a great family man - I know this because I am his son. He was a great showman of the old school and I have seen him do shows under the worst show business conditions including outside in the wind, rain, sun, and snow. He treated everyone with respect in kindness no mater where they were in magic or place in life. And from his list of friends that reads like a who's who in magic and all of show business - all of them talk about what a fine fellow he was.
As Don Alan once said to me! Your Mom and Dad were one Heck of a great act!!
Billy Bishop An' Ann - Standing Ovation!
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