Ali Bongo (1929-2009)
Ali Bongo's Real Name
William Oliver Wallace
Shriek of Araby, Alistair
Magician, Lecturer, Author,
Inventor, Magic consultant, Illustrator
Place of Birth
Ali Bongo possessed the ability of innovative thinking in the magical arts. Bongo was a savant at devising tricks, illusions and solving magical problems.
Bongo is a direct descendant of the 13th century Scottish leader portrayed by Mel Gibson in Braveheart.
Ali Bongo was born William Oliver Wallace in Bangalore, India, December 8, 1929.
His father, William Sr., was served as a Sergeant Major with the 1st Battalion of the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment.
Bongo grew up on a British station in Trimulgherry, Secunderabad, and would go to Britain with his mother Lillian.
After his father ended his army service, the family relocated to Sutton Valence in Kent where Bongo won a scholarship to Sutton Valence School. At age 16, he set his sights on a career as a magician.
After serving for the Royal Army Pay Corps, he worked at a number of London magic shops, including Harry Stanley's Unique Magic Studio and was manager of the magic department on Hamleys toy shop in London's Regent Street.
He developed a character called the Shriek of Araby, who dressed in oriental garb with a golden curly-toed slippers, horn-rimmed spectacles and a headgear that incorporated a fez and a turban.
He took the name Ali Bongo from a character he had created for a youth club pantomime he had co-written and appeared in while in his teens.
One of Bongo's many show incantations were "Uju Buju Suck Another Juju", "Aldy Bority Phostico Formio", "Hocus Pocus Fishbones Chokus".
In 1965, Bongo made his British television debut on "The Good Old Days."
He also wrote many books on magic, publishing many original magic effects. Bongo also illustrated them in his unique trademarked style.
Bongo later acted as magic consultant for many magical venues and TV specials for famed magicians, including David Nixon, David Copperfield and Paul Daniels.
In October 23, 1971, Bongo was the presenter of his UK TV special "Ali Bongo’s Cartoon Carnival," which featured himself and his assistant Oscar. His show ran for nine episodes.
Bongo was featured in numerous TV programs, including "Rainbow," "The Tomorrow People," the serial "Revenge of Jedikiah" and in "Zokko."
He also acted as the magical advisor on the popular science fiction TV show "Doctor Who" and the 70s cult series, "Ace of Wands."
Bongo's innovative approach to magic inspired TV writer David Renwick to create a character who was a magician's assistant and amateur sleuth in the series "Jonathan Creek." Bongo served as magical adviser to the show.
In 1960, he joined the prestigious The Magic Circle and two years later was inaugurated a Member of The Inner Magic Circle. He was awarded The Magic Circle Magician of the Year in 1972, the Carlton Comedy Award in 1983 and the David Berglas Award in 1991.
He served twice as vice-president of The Magic Circle before being elected president on 8 September 2008.
In February 2009, Bongo collapsed while giving a lecture in Paris. He was rushed to hospital where he suffered a stroke.
Bongo, in ailing health, returned to the UK's Thomas's Hospital, London, where he was cared for. He later died from complications from pneumonia on March 8.
Ali Bongo's Broken wand ceremony took place on 27 March 2009 at Randalls Park Crematorium, Leatherhead.
Photo, courtesy of H. Rick Bamman
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