Five minutes with Magic Mike - balloon modelling, Nookie Bear, the Chuckle Brothers and cars
There is – as far as Scarborough and the other reaches of the East Coast are concerned – only one Magic Mike, and he is not a male stripper played by Hollywood hunk Channing Tatum.
He is a family entertainer famous for his red coat with harlequin-checked lapels and jester’s hat with bells on.
He was given a Nookie Bear – the puppet character of comedian and ventriloquist Roger De Courcey – as a Christmas present when he was six. To be able to say it was this that set
Magic Mike on the road to being one of the region’s most famous entertainers would be a lovely serendipity.
However, that is not the case. The puppet – which had eyes that moved by pulling a string at its back – sat on Mike’s bed.
“I describe my life and career as like climbing on to a rollercoaster ride and I haven’t been able to get off,” said Mike.
Magic Mike – real name Michael DeFreitas – was born at what was St Mary’s Hospital in Dean Road and went to St Peter’s and St Augustine’s schools.
“I didn’t want to do further education. I wanted to be out in the big wide world,” he said.
“By the time I got to speak to the careers officer there were two options left – Boots or Wheatcroft garage.”
After two weeks’ work experience at Wheatcroft, he was offered YTS (Youth Training Scheme). Two years later he was a qualified car
mechanic and has certificates to prove it.
So where does the showbiz come from? There was a great uncle, who was Dutch, who was on the stage but Mike does not know what he did.
Mike puts it down to watching the variety and Redcoat shows at the Grand Hotel, which, when he was a kid, was owned by Butlin’s.
His mum and dad Gabriel and Jose are Portuguese. His dad Gabriel was a porter at the Grand and took Mike to watch shows there including the wrestling.
From the ages of 13 to 16 Mike worked there part-time as a bar manager. “Without realising it I was doing an apprenticeship on how to be an entertainer,” said Mike. “I just absorbed it all. I am convinced it all started with the whole Butlin’s thing.”
Mike’s first foray into the business was as a DJ. He and his mate Stuart, a Redcoat, were at a wedding and decided they could do better than the one booked for the occasion.
They bought some gear and went off to what was then Yugoslavia, did six months and were set to return when war broke out there and they decided not to go.
Mike did two years running as warm-up DJ for the Chuckle Brothers at the Corner, now apartments in North Bay. He was DJing in nightclubs, including Laughton’s, Boleyns and Club XS, at the same time.
He was asked at one of the performances if he did children’s parties and, like he did to get the Yugoslavian gig, he blagged it.
“After that first party of kids running around in a big circle I thought if I was going to do children’s parties there must be more to it.”
He already juggled as a hobby and so he learned to balloon model. “At my first party I blew up 10 balloons and then couldn’t do any more. So I decided to learn a few tricks.”
Dabbling in magic became a serious occupation when his dad died. “It stems from a tragedy. Because of my dad passing away I put all my energy and time into magic as a distraction.”
Burning the candle at both ends became too much and Mike, who still DJs, gave up nightclub work.
The Magic Mike act evolved again with ventriloquism. His first character was Oscar, a parrot. He did not speak and deciding it would be strange if Oscar developed a voice, Mike then invented Chuck.
“It took me 12 months of practice in front of a mirror to get the art of ventriloquism off – and another eight months before I had the courage to take Chuck out of his case on to the stage,” he said. “I was convinced my lips were all over the place.”
His other character Carlos is Brazilian and is modelled on his dad whose “English was shocking”.
This year is the 25th anniversary of Magic Mike and 30 years in the business. He is now performing to children with parents who were children that he did birthday parties for. He does stage shows, school workshops and birthday parties not only in Scarborough but across the coast and county including Leeds, York, Barnsley, Huddersfield and Wetherby.
Magic Mike – the 2012 film – brought him all the global attention he could crave. The link was first developed by the then Scarborough Evening News and reached as far as a feature in the Pakistan Times and an interview with Canadian radio.
Mike lives with wife Maria, daughters Zara, 20, Darcie, 18, and son Rio, 14, in Scalby.
“I am happy with what I have,” he said. “The act is still evolving and who knows where it will end.”