Thursday, March 7, 2013

Notable Illusionists of History [No. 6]

Enjoy this final installment of our award-winning series.

Dell O'Dell aka Nell Odella Newton
(Oct 2, 1897 - Feb 5, 1962)
Birthplace:  Lemonweir, Wisconsin
Profession-changing contribution:  Dell O'Dell was one of the first female stage magicians. She was certainly the first to reach her level of fame. At the height of her career, during the 1940s, she travelled North America in an RV and caravan of various animals, playing as many as 300 shows a year. Her stage show was a crowd-pleasing combination of illusions, animal tricks and comedy.
Fun fact: O'Dell had the first televised magic show, when Los Angeles station KTLA broadcast "The Dell O'Dell Show" in 1951, beating Mark Wilson's TV debut by four years.
Bonus fun fact:  It's alleged that O'Dell could work a nightclub full of horny sailors as easily as she could play to a room full of kids at a children's hospital. Her gift? The woman could swear like a demon, and wasn't afraid to work blue.

Editor's note:  O'Dell's story really is incredible -- one of those "does it all" tales of early 20th century entertainment. The website that bears her name has a two-page, exhaustive (and kind of exhausting, design-wise, but that's a trifle) history of O'Dell's inspiring career. And if you make it to the end of her story, halfway down page two is a great gallery of other women of magic.