Magician/actor Ballantine dead at 92

A U.S. TV favourite, Ballantine became beloved for his cabaret act on variety shows but he’s perhaps best remembered as Lester Gruber on 1960s sitcom McHale’s Navy, which also featured Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway.

Billed as The Amazing Ballantine, the actor played an inept illusionist on shows like the Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show.

He received a Lifetime Achievement Fellowship from the Magic Castle in Hollywood in 2007.

Funnyman Steve Martin, who presented Ballantine with the honour, tells the Los Angeles Times newspaper, “Carl Ballantine influenced not only myself but a generation of magicians and comedians. His was also the most copied act by a host of amateurs and professionals.”

Another fan, David Copperfield, tells the Times, “Carl Ballantine created comedy magic. The combination of magic and comedy had perhaps been done before, but he truly defined it and made it his own.”