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John Shirley

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John Shirley
BornJohn Alfred Schirle
September 9, 1917
Detroit, Michigan
DiedJuly 19, 1993 (age 75)
Chicago, Illinois

John Shirley (b.1917-d.1993) was achieved show business fame as a magician, puppeteer, ringmaster, MC, balloon act, inventor and builder.


He created a variety show and puppet act that used puppetry he modeled and cast himself. The figures included a clown, an acrobat, a skeleton that came apart and a dog. Two of his puppets are in a puppetry museum in Atlanta.

Shirley invented the balloon barrage where hundreds of inflated long balloons were shot out to the audience. Ed Sullivan thought it was the best finale he could have for a variety show and used John Shirley's act on important in person shows, for a month in Las Vegas, and on his tour of Russia.

He was a member of the Society of American Magicians, the International Brotherhood of Magicians, and the Puppeteers of America. For 20 years he served on the board of Governors of the Showmens League of America.

He was married three times (one named Shirley) and died after a two month illness at Glencrest nursing home in Chicago on July 17, 1993.[1][2][3][4]


  1. Obit, Genii 1993 September
  3. Broken Wand, Linking Ring, September, 1993