Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater magician Bill Kahn has raised thousands for St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen

CLEARWATER

For nearly 30 years, Bill Kahn performed his magic shows for organizations in Pinellas County and North Carolina. Every penny he earned went toward helping nonprofit organizations help those less fortunate. With his 90th birthday approaching on Sunday, Kahn has packed up his bag of tricks, but is still raising money for the needy by teaching aspiring magicians and encouraging people to donate to his favorite local charity, the St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen in Clearwater. "Everything I do has been as a volunteer," Kahn said. "In fact, I don't like to even handle the money. I ask people to send their donations directly to the organization."

His benevolence has paid off in huge ways for the soup kitchen, which estimates his contributions over the years in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Kahn has been performing as a magician since he was a teenager in New York and says his magic shows and his talent as a photographer helped him pay for his education in business administration at New York University.

He spent his career first as a photographer for the Army and later as a photographer to the stars. He took shots of many of the most famous celebrities of the '50s, '60s and '70s as a photographer for TV Guide magazine.

In fact, he says, Jackie Gleason first used his tagline, "And awaaay we go!" while clowning around during a photo shoot with Kahn.

He met his wife-to-be, Muriel, 87, when he was just a child and the two lived in the same apartment building in New York City. But it wasn't until they were in college at NYU that they started seeing each other and fell in love.

"We hated one another when we were young," Mrs. Kahn said with a smile. "I asked him to the prom and he turned me down!"

The Kahns have been married for 67 years and have two daughters and three grandsons. They also have a cat, named Timmy.

"I'll tell you, he is the light of my life," Kahn said of his 9-year-old feline.

When he retired and they moved to Clearwater in 1980, Kahn knew he wanted to spend his retirement years doing something to help others.

He discovered the need at the St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen and decided he wanted to help.

In addition to donating the proceeds from most of his local shows to the organization, he also helped persuade some well-known Pinellas County philanthropists to support the organization.

The walls of his home office are lined with awards for his generosity and letters of commendation from organizations he has helped. There are also letters from dignitaries, including former Govs. Jeb Bush and Lawton Chiles, U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis and even one from former President Bill Clinton.

But Kahn said the reason he donated his proceeds to charity had little to do with awards and recognition — it was all about helping other people.

"I always wanted to do the kind of magic that touches people's lives," he said. "That put me in a category apart from guys 10 times more talented than I am."

His efforts are appreciated.

"He has been a guardian angel to us," said Mary Lou Guthart, supervisor of the St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen. "He truly is one of the pillars of our organization."

Clearwater magician Bill Kahn has raised thousands for St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen 07/03/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 3, 2009 7:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays DFA Danny Farquhar to make room for Brad Boxberger

    Blogs

    The Rays continued shuffling their bullpen, dumping RHP Danny Farquhar after Wednesday's game to make room for RHP Brad Boxberger to be activated off the DL.

    Farquhar, who worked an inning in Wednesday's 6-2 loss, had a 2-2, 4.11 record for 37 appearances, working primarily in lower leverage situations. In …

  2. USF to face Indiana in men's basketball next season

    College

    The USF men's basketball team will get an early test from a Big Ten powerhouse next season.

  3. Rays employee helps save suicidal woman near Pirates stadium

    Blogs

    A Rays front-office employee joined umpire John Tumpane in saving a woman threatening to jump from a bridge near PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

    Multimedia production manager Mike Weinman, 32 (left), was walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge with boss Larry McCabe when he saw three men …

  4. Blake Snell struggles in return as Rays fall to Pirates

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH

    Blake Snell talked a good game ahead of his return to the Rays rotation Wednesday night, but he didn't pitch one.

    The Pirates’ David Freese scores on a Blake Snell wild pitch during the first inning against the Rays.
  5. College World Series title puts Florida Gators in elite company

    College

    The Florida Gators put themselves in rare company with Tuesday night's College World Series national championship victory.

    Florida ace and Tampa native Alex Faedo (21) lets loose with his teammates after they win the Gators’ first baseball national title.