Most of this story has been compiled by “Professor Edwin A Dawes M.I.M.C.” with his kind permission and its source from The Magic Circular vol. 83, pp.133-135; 161-163 (1989). The original story was from ‘A Rich Cabinet of Magical Curiosities’. Some extra parts have been added by David W Gregson who worked with him for many years as his organist and co-producer of his show at the Pleasure Beach.
On any Sunday night of the season at South Shore, visitors to the Pleasure Beach were seen to detach themselves from their fellow fun seekers and enter the Horseshoe Showbar, drawn by posters claiming that “Lorde Payne, the Sensational Hypnotist”, was presenting another Hypnotic Sunday Night, just as he had done since 1975.
Richard Lance Payne was born on the 19th March 1913 at Hinckley in Leicestershire. His father, Arthur Horace Payne was an amateur conjurer, principally interested in close-up magic, and his uncle was Professor William E Payne, a conjurer and illusionist. Under their tutelage Richard became fascinated with magic and gave his first show in public aged 11, adopting the title of The White Wizard.
In February 1934 he appeared at the Hinckley Liberal Club, the local paper observing “he is one of the cleverest young magicians seen on a local stage for a long time”, singling out the burnt and restored banknote as the outstanding item in a programme that included a razor blade trick and a guinea-pig from a saucepan!
Both Richard’s father and uncle had experimented privately with hypnotism, but had never given public demonstrations. At the age of 16, Richard followed suit and found he could make people fall at whim. As he puts it, “This was when I realised my father and uncle were not talking a lot of ballyhoo.” This interest continued sporadically until he refined his talent as a wartime entertainer. Both Richard and his brother Dudley Vincent, volunteered for the Royal Marines and were called up in early 1940. During training at the Royal Marine Reserve Depot at Lympstone, Devon, they became involved in entertaining their comrades, performing magic sets as The Payne Brothers.
In 1945 Richard returned to his native Hinckley, and decided to become a full-time professional entertainer. In 1946, his agent Arthur Kimbail secured him his first hypnotic engagement at the Kings Hall, Stoke-on-Trent, with Ted Heath and his Band. He gained national fame in December 1948 after being filmed at the Chevrons Club, London by Pathé Pictorial. His attempt to improve the form of Hinckley FC through hypnosis in April 1949 generated national headlines in the Daily Mail and Mirror, and a Giles Cartoon titled “The New Factor in Sport” in the Daily Express on the 21st April.
In August 1952, a Parliamentary Bill banning the demonstration of hypnotic phenomena for purposes of public entertainment was passed, compelling Richard to forsake hypnotism and become a publican. He continued to perform an escapology act on the club circuit, with famous Australian escapologist “Magic” Murray, acting as his agent. The two remained firm friends until Murray’s death in 1989.
Eventually, the high taxes on beer and spirits led Richard to abandon the role of landlord. He left for Blackpool in 1968 stating “in show business I will be able to provide a decent living for my wife and kids.” Richard returned to magic, doing children’s shows, while also continuing to entertain adults with a mentalist act, Mysticisms of the Mind under the name of “Zan Astaire”. He also set up as a consultant psychotherapist and hypnotherapist at St Anne’s on Sea, and helped Found the Federation of Ethical Stage Hypnotists.
In 1974, Richard semi-retired and became a security man at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. At a Christmas Party he did a show for the staff and the management immediately perceived a solution to their problem of Sunday night entertainment at the Horseshoe Showbar. So, in 1975, as “Richard Lorde Payne”, he commenced a season of Sunday night hypnotic entertainments, little realising that their popularity would keep him employed long past his projected retirement. In 1988, at the age of 75, he completed his 14th successive season.
Richard’s hypnotic show comprised of two parts. For the first half of the show Dave Kenny played accompanying music, Richard and his assistant Eric Strong were dressed in long robes, and from Richard’s neck hung a medallion. Richard sent susceptible volunteers to sleep by means of the interlocking fingers test. Thereafter Richard guided them to a party, the cinema, perhaps a disco or the ballet, and they enacted their various experiences. One male subject was humorously controlled by his wife or girlfriend and smokers were cured of their habit. They were then put back to sleep for the duration of the interval.
Richard and Eric then returned in dinner dress and the subjects were awoken and turned over to the audience for requests. The volunteers became a cowboy, body builder, John McEnroe, Shirley Bassey, Margaret Thatcher and Arthur Scargill, all at the whim of their friends. The subjects then found themselves seated on hot chairs, or the stage became hot. There were more humorous situations before all the volunteers were awoken and sent away assured that it was over. As they took their seats Richard clicked his fingers and the volunteers then shouted out to him “Mr Payne, would you like me to get you a barley wine from the bar?” Drinks ordered, Richard says “Sleep” and they all immediately fell to the floor. Richard then says, “you are now all awake,” and thanks them for the drink! After this they all returned to their seats once again. Handshakes for the stage-side spectators follow, Richard took his well-deserved, sustained applause and another evening in that incredibly long success story at Blackpool concludes.
After 1991, Richard finally retired to his home in Abergele, North Wales, and sadly on April 10th 1996, aged 83, passed away after a stroke, and was cremated close to his home, I was privileged to attend his funeral to say a fond farewell to one of the world’s greatest entertainers.