Marshall Brodien, ‘TV Magic’ pitchman, Wizzo the Wizard on ‘Bozo,’ dead at 84
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
Magician and TV “wizard’ Marshall Brodien has died.
The dapper Mr. Brodien wore a tuxedo to sell millions of TV Magic Cards and other magic sets on TV, and he also sported a funny hat and curled mustache to appear as Wizzo the Wizard on more than 3,000 episodes of “The Bozo Show.”
Mr. Brodien, 84, died early Friday at Arden Courts of Geneva, according to Glenn Chelius, a friend. He had Alzheimer’s disease, said his son, also named Marshall Brodien.
From the late 1960s to 1994, he appeared on TV on “The Bozo Show” as Wizzo, a clown who did magic using his “Stone of Zanzibar” pendant and incantations of “doody doody do.” The show, which ran on WGN-TV from 1960 to 2001, was so popular that some parents would get on the list for tickets even before their kids were born.
In the 1970s, long before anyone talked of late-night infomercials, Mr. Brodein was on television pitching “amazing” TV Magic Cards with the line, “6 or 60, you can work TV Magic Cards, the mechanical deck that works all by itself.”
“He was the first TV pitchman to pitch magic on television,” said Carl Zealer of Nowstalgic Toys in Canal Winchester, Ohio, which still carries TV Magic Cards. “One of our best customers is Hobby Lobby. We get an order every four or five weeks.”
Demonstrating the cards with the dexterity of a Las Vegas dealer, Mr. Brodien convinced many youthful customers they could master magic and be the life of the party. “Most magic tricks are easy once you know the secret,” he’d say.
He not only sold millions of decks of cards, he also became a supplier of customized boxed sets of tricks for famous magicians, including Siegfried & Roy, Lance Burton and David Copperfield. Mr. Brodien’s merchandise also was sold through Costco, Sam’s Club, the Home Shopping Network and QVC, according to his son.
His own TV Magic Set — with a magic wand and tricks called the “Chinese prayer vase” and “the Houdini chain escape” — is still sold online.
Growing up on Chicago’s North Side, he was entranced by a magic show at his grade school, according to the book “The Magical Life of Marshall Brodien.”
He didn’t finish high school, his son said, entering Chicago’s entertainment scene at 16, working as a carnival barker at the old Riverview Park. Half a century later, he could still do the practiced patter that attracted sideshow crowds: “Terra Sue, the Mystery Girl from India; the Hindu fakir; the Anatomical Wonder; the Man With the Disappearing Stomach! The Rubber-Skinned Man! Watch him stretch his skin 14 inches away from his body, let it snap back like an elastic rubber band, twist, turn his body into more shapes than a pretzel!”
Warm and generous, he would pick up checks and entertain people with his stories, said his son, who said he replicates his act to benefit charities.
In the 1950s, Mr. Brodien appeared at the Magic Lounge in Cicero, whose patrons included organized crime figures. One time, his “Vanishing Birdcage” act led to a showdown there, according to his biography. He made the birdcage disappear, and a mobster known as “Gumpy” demanded to know where it went. “I can’t tell you,” Mr. Brodien said. “It’s a magic secret.”
According to the book, “With that, Gumpy reached into his coat, slowly pulled out a large-caliber gun, clicked the hammer, and pointed it right between Brodien’s eyes. ‘Like I wuz sayin’….where’s dat friggin’ boidcage?’ ”
“I made that birdcage come out of my sleeve faster than it ever went up there,” Mr. Brodien told author John Moehring.
Mr. Brodien’s son said mobster Jackie “The Lackey” Cerone once gave the magician a bottle of Louis XIII brandy valued at more than $1,000, telling him: ‘Brodien, you only drink this with the woman you love.’ ”
He entertained troops in the Army and gained fame as a showbiz hypnotist. In 1962, fight trainer Cus D’Amato asked him to do a hypnosis demonstration for the Illinois boxing commission. Some called it a stunt, but D’Amato, the manager of heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson, said he was concerned that challenger Sonny Liston might use hypnosis to gain an unfair advantage over Patterson.
In 2012, he was inducted into the Chicago/Midwest Silver Circle of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Mr. Brodien drove a car with the license plate “WIZ.” And he enjoyed sailing in his boat, the “Wiz.” Moored next door, his son said, was the boat “Clowning Around,” piloted by his friend Roy Brown, Bozo’s “Cooky the Clown.”
Mr. Brodien is also survived by his second wife Mary Doyle Brodien, author of the book “Navigating Alzheimer’s,” daughter Anita Brazau, son John, his stepchildren Joey, Lisa and Erin and 14 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Another daughter, Christine Brodien, died before him.
Visitation for Mr. Brodien will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at St. Peter Catholic Church in Geneva, followed by a funeral Mass there at 1 p.m. Wednesday.