Article 12: Knights of the Round Table
BENJAMIN BARNES - ROUND TABLE MEMBER SINCE 2018
In this series of articles, I will shine the proverbial spotlight on members of the Chicago Magic Round Table both past and present. This installment’s subject is Jack Kodell.
Determined to “Do Something Different in Magic,” he traveled the world with his beloved parakeets, performing in five-star venues such as the Moulin Rouge and the Lido in Paris, the London Hippodrome, The Savoy Hotel, and the London Palladium in the United Kingdom, and the Ed Sullivan Show, New York’s Copacabana, and The Latin Quarter in the United States. He was also the first magician to perform in Las Vegas.
This is his story.
Jack Kodell, was born John Koudelka in Minnesota on November 4, 1927.
At the age of 13, Kodell was diagnosed with rheumatic fever and had to spend a year in bed. To help him pass the time, his father gave him books on magic and decks of cards. By the time of his recovery, he was obsessed with magic.
After moving to Chicago in 1941, Kodell met the famed magician’s assistant/consultant George Boston. Boston would soon become his mentor in magic. After seeing a magician produce a multitude of billiard balls between his fingers, Kodell decided to do something different and replaced the balls with birds.
For two full years, Jack worked on this act to the exclusion of all else. Every Sunday, George and Janet Boston rehearsed Jack in this act; George focusing on the technique, Janet the stagecraft.
It was Boston who arranged a meeting for Kodell with the Great Cantu, himself a perfectionist with doves. Cantu’s contributions were invaluable, and his suggestions were followed without question. With Cantu and Boston, Kodell developed his A Fantasy in Birds act. Kodell was the first magician to introduce parakeets into his act.
His initial performance was given at the Masonic Temple in Aurora in June 1945.
At the International Magic Convention in Chicago in 1947, Kodell won an award for the most original act. The Great Blackstone himself presented him with the trophy. As a result of this win, Jack received his historic Las Vegas contract. It was the first engagement for any magician in Sin City.
He retired from show business at the age of 33 in 1960.
Jack Kodell died in Florida on May 17, aged 84.