Bev Bergeron (1930-2020)
By Phil Schwartz, Ring 170 Historian. Author of The Ultimate Thayer.
Bev Bergeron was a true believer in magic. Not as much in its effects as in its affects. His objective was to engage and charm his audiences. And for eighty of his ninety years, he did.
“The man embodied the joys of show business.” - Teller He defined success as entertainment rather than clever moves and sleights. As a result, he constructed, wrote, choreographed and produced to achieve audience delight. Magic was his vehicle.
Bevely Joseph Bergeron was born in Baytown, Texas on December 29, 1930.
Beginning with tricks that came inside cereal boxes and fed family dinner performances, he “turned pro” at 16 and began a magic journey that took him to every setting and every stage imaginable.
He toured with Willard the Wizard and Dr. Silkini’s Spook Shows throughout the American Southwest at 19. At the University of Texas where he earned a Bachelors degree in advertising and in the United States Air Force in Special Services, he produced and performed.
After the service he developed three themed variety show acts — a golf act, cigarette manipulation act and drunk / multiplying bottles act.
A recommendation from Walter Blaney in 1957, resulted in a job with Mark Wilson doing state fairs and tents shows. Bev’s character, Rebo the Clown was developed for those shows and when Wilson secured a television contract with CBS and Kelloggs in Los Angeles, Mark, his wife, Nani Darnell, and Bev as Rebo became the stars of the Magic Land of Allakazam on Saturday morning television in 1960.
When Milt and Bill Larsen were building the Magic Castle, Bev and his wife, Alouise, helped with painting and other chores. Bev joined the new group as Magic Castle member #10.
In a brief furlough from Rebo, he played Ronald McDonald (1966-1968) replacing Willard Scott. As Ronald, he developed simple performance routines which were used by subsequent actors.
In 1971, Bev became a regular on the Red Skelton Show following its move from CBS to NBC. The show was canceled just as Bev was offered the starring role (alternating with Wally Boag) in the premiere year of the Diamond Horseshoe Review at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Two years later, he became its sole star and director with five shows a day for 14 additional years. For the next five years, he entertained at neighboring Sea World theme park.
Bev lighted upon stages from Atlantic City to Radio City, Las Vegas to London, Osaka to Sydney. He worked with Harry Blackstone, Jr., José Frakson and Lucille Ball. And he did three USO Tours to Viet Nam during the war.
During his time off in both California and Florida, he worked conventions, special events, children’s and veteran’s hospital benefits and many local gigs. In LA he did birthday parties as Rebo for stars such as Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews. He was even booked for a bank branch opening with Dai Vernon where he amused as Rebo while Vernon performed the cups and balls.
He was a consultant for shows and theme parks applying his expertise in not only comedy magic but also staging, lighting, sound and music. His inventions include the Multiplying Wands and he is credited with creating the first one-balloon dog/animal in 1957.
Bev authored the books, Willard The Wizard (1978) and Tony Marks (2002) and the video, Rebo: Nose Clowning. His monthly column, “Cutting Up Jackpots” became a twenty-year favorite of Linking Ring readers. He served as president of the International Brotherhood of Magicians in 1996. Orlando’s IBM Ring 170 made Bev the Ring’s namesake. For years he was its treasurer (in reality it was Alouise doing the books) and he presented a monthly magic teach-in at club meetings.
Bev was recognized for his many successes. He was named a member of the Society of American Magicians Hall of Fame in 1992 and honored by the Magic Collector’s Association in 1995. Then, in 1998, Bev Bergeron was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Fellowship by the Academy of Magical Arts.
Alouise, his wife of 58 years, died in January. They are survived by their three children: Bambi (Michael) Hobgood, Carmel (John) Bohlen, Beau (Pam) Bergeron; six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
On Bev’s cluttered desk amongst the stacks of paper, books and computer was a small placard with words expressing his positive attitude. It read: “When life hands you lemons — ask for tequila and salt.”