What Paul Daniels told me about halos / by James Whitaker

Paul Daniels portrait by James Whitaker

Paul Daniels was a really lovely guy to photograph. He was warm and friendly, and incredibly generous with his time. I met him in his dressing room before a show and Debbie McGee was there, repairing his jacket. There was the obligatory magician's rabbit hoping around. It was everything I could have hoped for from a meeting with the celebrity TV magician of my childhood.

As we walked down the street to where I wanted to take the portrait Paul started to explain to me the origin of the halo. He explained that back in the day sculptors started to add disks above the heads of their famous subjects to prevent their face from becoming awash with bird poo. With time this purpose was forgotten and the discs were simply associated with important people, and then in turn saints.

Now, a lot of my knowledge comes from stories like this. Often the stories are told to me in the pub where alcohol may have been consumed. Despite the world wide web being on my phone, in my pocket, I don't fact check these things. Wikipedia is not consulted. Had I referred to Google I would have found countless articles about the origins of the halo, almost none of which refer to bird excrement. But then why let facts stand in the way of a good story?