Saturday, March 18, 2017

Topper Martyn – Citizen of the World

When Victor “Topper” Martyn died May 24, 2004, the magic and juggling world lost one of its more charming clowns. He left much in his legacy including many wonderful and antic performances captured on video as well as several scaling cards. Given his act, it’s not likely he scaled them into the audience but rather they probably dropped out of his tuxedo by the hundreds.

Martyn was born into a family of entertainers. His mother’s side of the family goes back 400 years as circus performers and she was trained by the master Cinquevalli around 1900. His father also worked in a circus at the age of 16, originally as an acrobat, but his real love was magic. He also longed to learn juggling. While with the circus, Martyn’s father met a strongman juggler named Campbell who juggled cannon balls. The two hit it off and Campbell taught Martyn’s father juggling and he taught Campbell magic. The two basically switched professions, Campbell doing magic under the name “Carmo.” Martyn’s father went on to became a famous juggler.
His mother did a number of different acts including dancing on ice skates. There not being a lot of ice rinks in theaters, she did her act 30 feet up on top of a marble column. It must have been modified because the dance featured sparks flashing out of her skates as they scraped across the column top. Martyn’s mother went into labor during a performance of the famous clown Grock at the London Coliseum.

Eventually Martyn learned to skate (first on roller skates) and then when the big ice shows came into popularity, he moved his act on to the ice. He had along run with Holiday on Ice. On one of these shows he fell in love with a lovely young girl portraying one of the “penguins” and they were married in 1950. They continued on tour, she skating and he doing magic and juggling on skates.

Although he was born in England, eventually Martyn and his wife and child moved to Sweden. He had tired of touring and opened an antique shop in Uppsala. He still performed though and adapted to the times. During the popularity of Uri Geller he did a series of public séances at a museum in Stockholm. The crowds were tremendous. 

Later in life he served as a consultant on Luis de Matos’ TV show. He won more than 25 awards for his originality and performances from the U.S.A., Holland, Monte Carlo, Japan and elsewhere. He also won first place in Comedy at the 1970 FISM.

A book fully describing the magic and juggling effects he perfected called “Topper Martyn’s Mad, Mad, Magic” was written by Gene Anderson and published by Magic Inc. One of the characters he portrayed was “The Viking Magician.” He was a member of The Magic Circle for thirty years and was a noted collector and historian. The last line of his obituary in The Linking Ring said it best – “A citizen of the world and class act, his sense of fun and ability to connect with audiences will be sorely missed.”


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