Joan Brandon (1914-1979)
America's First Lady of Magic,
World's Greatest Hypnotist
Magician, Hypnotist, Author, Lecturer
Place of Birth
Joan Brandon possessed the ability of mass hypnotism. A specialist in the art of stage hypnosis, Brandon, billed the "World's Greatest Hypnotist," has demonstrated hypnotic inductions to crowds of 30 volunteers at the same time.
She was also an accomplished magician with superior showmanship and stage magic skills. Her signature effects are the "Think-a-Drink" cocktail bar act and her egg trick.
Brandon was also a talented clarinetist, and at one time formed an orchestra to compliment her magic show, called "Joan Brandon And Her Orchestra."
Joan Brandon was born into the show business world. She was a third-generation stage magician/hypnotist who grew up in her father, Al Brandon's footsteps who performed under the name "The Great Brandoni."
Brandoni, a magician/hypnotist, was the son of Dr. Allen Brandon who gave up his medical practice to concentrate on his hobby of hypnosis.
Growing up in New York City, Brandon studied singing, dancing and music, but her passion for magic took center stage in her life and she began to study the art and develop a magic act.
At the tender age of fourteen years old, Brandon headlined in a theater with her magic act; as a result, she continued to get bookings in and around New York.
In 1936, at the age of 19, she joined a variety stage troupe featuring 30 top acts. The company created a show, entitled "Sirens in Silk," which toured nationally, and Brandon would star as the mistress of ceremonies, showcasing her singing, dancing and magic skills.
Brandon was influenced by Harry Houdini which inspired her to study the art of escapology. Having ambitions to become known as the "female Houdini," she began practicing and performing escape acts.
when she was 22, she set out to perform a dangerous escape act in the neighborhood of Stapleton, in Staten Island.
Joan Brandon was to be handcuffed, sewed into a mailbag, nailed and chained into a six foot packing crate and then lowered into 100 feet of water from which she would have less than three minutes to escape and rise to the surface.
Brandon's magician friends objected to the act, deeming the stunt too dangerous to perform. They felt despite her confident insistence in performing the stunt, that no legerdemain, no magic would enable her under those conditions to come to the surface alive.
They felt in the matter of sensational escapes there was only one Houdini, and he left no heir. On August 1939, Brandon cancelled the stunt.
She redirected her focus back to stage magic and in the early 1940s, Brandon banned together with a group of talented performers and created an all female variety show, called "Ladies First."
The act toured overseas, performing in Australia in 1941, and Brandon would perform her signature magic cocktail bar act, "Think-a-Drink."
Brandon went on to perform a successful solo career, billing herself as the "Blonde Deceiver," and breaking many attendance records, working the cocktail circuit, theaters and auditoriums across the country.
Her show incorporated a black light and floating magic wand act, following with her version of Hoffman's "Think-a-Drink," also getting eggs into water glasses act, which later got national publicity.
In 1943, magician Charles Hoffman was threatening on suing Brandon's employers for allegedly stealing his famous cocktail bar act if she performed it at a one-week booking at the Bowery Cafe in Detroit on May 12.
He would sue if Brandon played the date. Hoffman recently won a decision in a Florida court, restraining another magician from doing a magic bar act.
Joan Brandon's attorney, Irving Schreckinger wrote Hoffman just before Brandon opened, stating that the serve-drink or "Any Drink Called For" concept was not Hoffman's creation and that Miss Brandon would hold him responsible for any loss of bookings she might incur. Brandon played out the week and did not hear from Hoffman.
Incidentally, the attempt of performing the "Think-a-Drink" Hoffman routine and to prevent alleged imitators from working had developed into a four-way fight between Joan and three other magicians. All of them declaring that the routine is not Hoffman's original effect.
Brandon continued to tour coast to coast with her magic cocktail act and was contracted to perform at some of the finest hotels in the world, including the Savoy Hotel in London, England.
Joan Brandon was dubbed "Americas First Lady of Magic" and had a successful career as a stage magician spanning the 1940s and early 1950s.
In 1950, Brandon began incorporating the debunking of fraudulent mediums and spiritualists, as well as the art of hypnosis into her magic show.
By 1952 she built a show focused primarily on stage hypnosis. The show would consist of Brandon inviting 15-30 volunteers onstage, hypnotizing them, and having them act out in silly behavior.
At one time, there was speculation as to whether Joan used accomplices in her hypnosis act.
In response to those accusations, Miss Brandon offered a ten-thousand dollar reward to anyone who can prove she used confederates during any of her hypnosis show. No one ever claimed the money.
She hired on manager Jack Brandon, whom she met when she was in her teens in New York City, and eventually married. He began promoting her stage hypnosis act. She billed herself the "World's Greatest Lady Hypnotist," and for the next two decades, she toured extensively, nationally and internationally in Europe, Australia, South America, canada, Cuba and Mexico.
Brandon presented demonstrations of hypnotism before royalty, and many medical groups and has explained how hypnosis can be used therapeutically. She also gave lectures and demonstrations at universities to further educate students on the art of hypnosis.
On February 5, 1967, Miss Brandon appeared on "Long John" Nebble's radio program, entitled "Hypnosis" .
Miss brandon's longtime attorney and later Judge of the Bronx Criminal City Court, Irving Schreckinger, were planning on getting married. However, Irving fell prey to throat cancer and died in 1970. He was 63.
Joan Brandon died August 1, 1979. She was 65.
Miss brandon has been featured in numerous magazines and newspaper publications. She was also a successful author and published many books on the subject of hypnosis.
Among her writings, were "The Art of Hypnotism" (1956), "Help Yourself Thru Hypnotism and Self Hypnosis," (undated), "Successful Hypnotism" (1956) and "The Science of Self-Hypnosis (1959).
Photos courtesy of: State Library of Victoria
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