Van Buren's parents, Fred Van Buren & Greta. "One of
the World's finest & most original illusionists". Fred
Van Buren the man whose spectacular illusions have been described
as "a 21st Century Miracle".
to be involved in show business stems from the time he visited
a local butcher's shop in Sandbach as a child & noticed a
poster of an elephant stuck in the window.
"At first I thought the butcher was selling elephant meat,"
he laughed, "but after a while I realized it was an advertisement
for a circus".
Fred went to see the circus, it made a lasting impression on him.
"From that moment on I was bitten by the show business bug!"
years later, Fred began work as apprentice to a cabinet maker, with
these new skills he started to devise & make his first tricks.
Soon he saw the potential of big stage illusions, but he was very
aware of one important fact.
If he was going to be successful he was going to have to perform
his effects anywhere without luxuries such as curtains & trap-doors.
As Fred himself says, "Everything I do has to be performed
anywhere, in the middle of a football field - anywhere" He
has worked under this theme since the early 1950's.
As a youngster Fred Van Buren produced & put on his own concert
party shows developing various talents, much was learnt from Bob
Gandey of Circus fame who took Fred under his wing teaching him
the ins and outs of showbusiness, from comedy & trapeze to tricks
During all of this Fred eventually served his national service,
still keeping an interest & connection to showbusiness whilst
in the army.
finally took the plunge & turned completely professional working
on Gandey's circus in 1954, by now he was presenting a magic act,
also performing a trapeze act, clowning & even a dog & monkey
novelty act all of which he performed in the circus & outdoor
In 1955 he met Connie Greta, who started assisting him in the shows.
In 1956 they started concentrating on the magic & illusions
more. The act really started going places, they repopularised the
Houdini illusion Metamorphosis, (substitution trunk) with their
breath taking speed.
Working more & more in Theatre & Variety with their "Mystic
Baggage" & "Dutch Deceptions" acts, at this time
their Agents were Don Ross and Pauline Marks (aunty to Joan &
Jackie Collins) in London, later during the 70s they were managed
by Albert Saveen (the famous ventriloquist).
1960 they were billed 2nd top to comedy star Jimmy James whilst
in Skegness, also they were topping the bill at the Hull Palace
continental, the newspaper press loved the act with its fresh new
1961 was a momentous
year, Fred & Connie Greta were Married just prior to a summer
season in Llandudno Wales, November they did their first television
which was the BBC show "The Good Old Days" Broadcast live
from the City Varieties Theatre in Leeds. Also performing at Brighton
Hippodrome with Dorothy Squires as top of bill.
performed their "Whirlwind of magic" act in Summer season
at the Palace Theatre in Douglas Isle of Man with the Dickie Valentine
the 1960s there was more & more demand for appearances on
television, amongst which was the "TRICKS N NIXON" TV
shows, where they made several appearances with David Nixon. Then
in 1965 they Worked with comedian Roy Hudd in summer season at
Then a massive
turning point, Walt Disney commissioned special illusions from
Van Buren & Greta. Which they created and performed in the
Disney production of "Snow White on Ice", in Wembley
Empire pool Arena London for Tom Arnold & Walt Disney, then
going on to tour for a further year with the show. The combination
of illusions with fire in the ice setting was sensational.
1967 Fred and Connie moved out of London to Staffordshire, where they
established workshops & store rooms for the bigger illusions that
they were creating. During this time they concentrated on cabaret
work & private functions in the likes of the larger hotels &
venues, Grosvenor house, Dorchester, Edmundo Ros club, Savoy etc.
During this period of time their son Andrew was born. By now Fred
was heavily into the inventing & building of new illusions, one
newspaper called him "the 21st century magician" with his
showmanship & such creations as his Florescent light penetration,
the astonishing illusion where a bank of Illuminated Fluorescent Light
Tubes visibly pass through a person's body.
Among the most talked about & magical of
his illusions is the Houdini Metamorphosis (the substitution trunk
illusion) visually transforming into a cascading water fountain
But the ultimate
illusion is Van Buren's famous Vanishing Motorcycle & Rider,
the only one in the World performed completely surrounded by the
audience & regularly featured by Andrew today. Invented in
1976 whilst at the Pavilion Felixstowe in summer season with Windsor
Davies & Don Estelle of "it aint half hot mum" fame.
Later that year they were booked by the Magic Circle for their
first week of January 1977 for the first time the Vanishing Motorbike
was televised in cabaret from Ceasers Palace Luton for the BBC.
This unique illusion hit TV & newspaper headlines.
Summer 1977 was a repeat of the Windsor Davies
& Don Estelle show at the White Rock Theatre in Hastings where
they broke box office records.
Also during 1977 was the Televising of Van Burens Vanishing Motorcycle
& rider illusion on The Seaside Special Jubilee show & from
Twickenham the last David Nixon show presenting the Fluorescent
Light penetration, Little knowing it would be David Nixons last
Motorbike illusion was now in so much demand that the act had to
get bigger, employing a company of girls to work in the act.
prove that all of his illusions could be worked surrounded The
Van Buren's then returned to Circus for Christmas 1977 / 78 performed
the act with Chipperfields Circus. Another outstanding aspect
of Fred's illusions is the fact that he devised & built them
1978 they appeared in Weston Super Mare for the summer season,
then they were booked by Lucas car firm to perform at the first
motor show in Birmingham with impressionist Mike Yarwood, &
the chart topping Nolan Sisters.
Following this they toured Sweden with circus Svenson , again
hitting TV & newspaper news headlines with the unique vanishing
motorbike illusion. This led on to more top class work on the
1979 Fred was invited to appear at the World Congress of Magic "FISM"
performing his vanishing motorbike illusion in the Grande Place
in Brussels this was televised all around world.
1980 back into Theatre for summer season at the Gaiety Theatre in
the Isle of Man. 1980 / 81 toured south America with the Black &
White Minstrel show. Then in 1981 a season at Chessington zoo with
their son Andrew teamed up with a Hungarian State Circus artist
who taught him the art of Unicycling. This Lead on to Andrew developing
an act of his own. Going on to not only tour with his parents,
but also to tour his own act.
with the illusions in France with the famous circus show Le Voix
Du Nord. 1982 / 83 Christmas circus Kelvin hall Glasgow. Summer
1983 By popular demand a return visit to the Gaiety theatre Douglas
Isle of Man. ln 1984 a full seasons tour with Fossetts national
circus in Ireland.
1985 & 1986 Short seasons with Bob Gandey's
grandson's show (Philip Gandey). Also during this time Fred toured
his own full illusion show, which moved & developed from theatre
to leisure centres, outdoor gala's & finaly a 3000 seating big
top tent, touring until 1992 around the world.
By now Andrew
was very well established with his juggling act, also presenting
a magic illusion act as a second spot.
Fred Van Buren presented the illusion show in Wembley Arena along
side Gerry Cottles circus fun fair with TV celebrity Jeremy Beadle.
1993 The Van
Buren family performed in Blackpool tower circus, for this Fred
& Andrew put their heads together to create a new act "ANCIENT
& MODERN", Fred & Connie played the part of the old
magicians being constantly interrupted by Andrew the young whizz
kid illusionist on roller skates, unicycle & finally motorbike,
on which he then disappeared, the old timers getting the last
Over the years
Fred has appeared on television programmes throughout the world,
most memorable being performances in The Good Old Days, CrackerJack,
The David Nixon Show, License for Singing & Dancing, Seaside
Special, Arrivals, The Magic Circle International Shows, even
advising on the Muppet show, to name but a few.
an endless list of stars, celebrities & personalities from Margery
Manners to Tommy Trinder, Ken Dodd to Brotherhood of Man, Morris
& Cowley to Little & Large, Roy Castle, Billy Cotton, Donald
Peers, The Three Degrees, Dorothy Squires, Vince Hill, the list
goes on & on.
1997 Fred &
Connie officially Retired from performing, although they still have
close involvement with the shows, Fred still building props &
creating new effects for Andrew, Connie keeping her eye on them
presents the illusion show, touring the world, as well as performing
his juggling plate spinning act, thus keeping the family tradition
going into the 21st century.
Now On Sale
The Van Buren Story
A complete DVD documentary charting the history of this unique showbusiness family.
Over two hours of interviews, stories, laughs, guests, cine & video footage, television appearances, hundreds of photographs, footage of their big production magic illusion shows around the world, behind the scenes, the workshops & prop building. Theatre shows, behind the cruise ships & even an appearance by singer Robbie Williams. The DVD has received rave reviews world wide. The regular comment is "we watched twice".
Special introduction by television comedy actor Roy Hudd OBE.
Produced by professor Ray Johnson MBE - Staffordshire Film Archive.
This is a must for anyone with an interest in showbusiness, magic circus, theatre, entertainment & history.
The Van Buren Story DVD is available from:
see also Themed & Plate Spinning pages