Yesterday I attended the funeral of Harold Webster. For the last 40 years or so, Harold was a well known magician in Melbourne, though his health failed him and he rarely got out in recent years.
The funeral was well attended with representatives from many different areas of Harold's life. Not only was Harold a magician, but he was a butcher, a bouncer, a ballroom dancer, a bonsai grower, a leatherworker, a spruiker, a boater, a magic dealer, a salesman and the face of Slurpex. He packed a lot into his life.
Magicians present included John and Caryl Bowen, Paul and Leanne Bowen (Paul produced a dove during the service that was later set free by Harold's wife), Loris Purcell (who I haven't seen in 20 years!), Alan Sloggett (President of the Magic Circle of Victoria), and a group called 'Webster's Wizards'. Because Harold was too sick to get out to any magic clubs, Geoff, Rex, John, Tom and Richard got together with Harold every month since the year 2000 to session and share secrets. (I don't think there was a dry eye in the house when Geoff Conrau said that they would continue their monthly meetings in Harld's memory, setting out six chairs each month, one for each of them and one for Harold).
Geoff Conrau was one of the many people who spoke about Harold during the service, and he told some wonderful stories before performing the 'Broken Wand Ceremony'.
What struck me is how sad it was that Harold wasn't there to hear people say how much he meant to them, and to share in the memories with us all. Why can't we do this kind of tribute to people while they are still with us? Wouldn't it be wonderful to start up a series of "roasts", where we can do just that and celebrate our fellow performers while they are still with us? They get to know how much they are loved and we get to learn about their life outside of magic. Something to consider...
The most unique part of yesterday was the music. The service began with 'March of the Gladiators' and 'There's No People Like Show People'. Later we heard 'We must believe in Magic' and 'It's Magic', and the coffin left the building to 'Liberty Bell' (the theme song from Monty Python's Flying Circus'). I must admit I had to restrain myself from clapping at the end... I just felt the urge to give him one final round of applause.