On this day 100 years ago in Sydney, Australia was born the performer known as Fakir Magician Aly (Sometimes “Ali”) Kabah (Gerald Holmes (1922-2009). Aly Kabah’s act combined elements of magic and sideshow, and incorporated such skills as sword swallowing (up to 24 inches), blockhead and piercings, fire eating, and glass eating, all done with a skein of “mysticism”. He began to teach himself these skills as early as the 1930s, and had crisscrossed Australia as a performer many times by the ’50s. In time, his tours took him all over the world, including two performances at magic festivals in the U.S. in the 1970s. Towards the end of his career he was popular in, of all places, Bahrain. (It’s interesting to me that this faux Arabian would find an audience among genuine Arab, but, hey, ours not to reason why.) Holmes retired from performing in the late 1980s. Learn more about him at the Sword Swallowers Hall of Fame.
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For more on variety arts history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous;