HERALD COMMENT: Eastbourne’s funny man in the red tarboosh

Just like that ... Tommy Cooper meets a group of fans
Just like that ... Tommy Cooper meets a group of fans

It’s sad that Cooper’s Magic Shop has announced it will be hanging up the ‘closed’ sign for the final time next month.

Eastbourne residents young and old will miss the Cornfield Road outlet which, in addition to tricks, offered one of the largest selections of fancy dress items and accessories in the county.

Owner Sabrina Cooper blames online shopping and superstores for her shop’s demise – and there must be many independent retailers who would echo her views.

She is the niece of the legendary magician and comedian Tommy Cooper, who lived in Eastbourne. Many a local youngster (and quite a few adults) will have a treasured keepsake of Tommy, famous for the magic tricks that went wrong – but occasionally worked when least expected. He would sign autograph books with his own pen, handing both back to the grateful fan. Only later would they realise they had gone off with the great man’s ballpoint – which bore the words ‘Stolen From Tommy Cooper’.

John Fisher wrote in his biography of Tommy, “Everyone agrees that he was mean. Quite simply he was acknowledged as the tightest man in show business, with a pathological dread of reaching into his pocket.” One of Tommy’s stunts was to pay the exact taxi fare and when leaving the cab to slip something into the taxi driver’s pocket saying, “Have a drink on me.” That something would turn out to be a tea bag.

Cooper’s Magic Shop was established by Tommy’s brother David, father of Sabrina. Its closure marks the end of an era and a tangible link with the man in the red tarboosh, in his heyday one of the most recognisable comedians in the world.