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Man who was ZBM Santa for almost three decades dies

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The late Keith Hart, an advertising executive and amateur magician, displays his membership certificate for the Magic Circle society (File photograph)
Keith Hart, who spent decades as Bermuda’s own Santa Claus (File photograph)
Keith Hart demonstrating a model car for the Mid-Ocean News (File photograph)

A man who delighted generations of Bermudian youngsters as the island’s Santa Claus on TV has died overseas.

Keith Hart, an advertising executive, was also a broadcaster on ZBM and appeared as Mysterio the Magician as a stage act.

The children’s entertainer also honed his act as a weekly performer for several years at the Grotto Bay Beach Hotel in Hamilton Parish.

Mr Hart, an enthusiastic collector of Bermudian books and postcards, died on January 24 in Gwynedd, Wales.

His online obituary did not supply an age or year of birth.

Mr Hart, who was president of Hart Advertising on Reid Street, Hamilton, appeared on TV in Bermuda as Santa Claus from 1968 to 1996.

He also handled public relations for the children’s charity The Committee of 25.

Mr Hart and his wife Linda moved to Wales the year after he hung up his Santa suit.

He started performing for adults as well as children in the early 1970s with mind-reading tricks and a vanishing act.

He enjoyed light-hearted tricks such as the creation of balloon animals.

Mr Hart traced his fascination with magic to his childhood, but said he started to study the craft in earnest after the birth of his children, twins Alison and Joey.

He told the Mid-Ocean News in 1992: “I am not there as a manipulator to dazzle the children and the parents usually enjoy it as much as they do.

“I try to work in an educational message, such as road safety.”

Mr Hart, who was inspired by the Bermudian magician Roy Grant, said adults were much easier to fool than children.

He added: “Scientists are the easiest of all, because they subject themselves to such rigorous mental self-discipline.”

Mr Hart joined the exclusive British magician’s club, the Magic Circle, in 1976.

The group has only about 1,500 members worldwide.

Mr Hart also belonged to the Society of American Magicians and the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

He said: “A magician can buy a piece of magic and learn how to use it, but the challenge lies in incorporating it convincingly into his act.

“Some effects take only a few minutes to learn and other require hours of practice, but whatever the trick, it must fit into the presentation.

“Any performer’s success hangs on establishing his own individual style, which distinguishes him.“

Stage alter egos included Dinky the Magic Clown.

But playing Santa each year on TV was Mr Hart’s best-known act.

It began in 1965 on radio and moved to television three years later.

Mr Hart read out children’s letters in character.

He wove references to the North Pole into his performance and Santa’s fondness for cassava pie, as well as answering children’s questions about flying reindeer.

Mr Hart said just before he retired: “To those who say there is no Santa Claus, I have to say that I feel they are missing a fine part of Christmas.”

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Published February 03, 2021 at 2:45 pm (Updated February 03, 2021 at 2:45 pm)

Man who was ZBM Santa for almost three decades dies

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