Phil Stillman was born on Feb. 10, 1921 in Brooklyn, New York to Emanuel and Ann Stillman. They were both first-generation Jewish Americans. When Phil was about 7 or 8, his Uncle Julius showed him a card trick, which made a huge impression on his nephew.
Thus, young Phil found an interest that became a part of him for the rest of his life.
As a teenager, The Great Raymonde became his mentor and took him under his tutelage as an apprentice. Phil was soon performing around New York’s hot spots and the 1939 World’s Fair as “Prince Alhouda.” After having met and been impressed by the likes of Harry Blackstone Sr, Dante, Dell O’Dell and other magic luminaries, his rise as a talent for the prestigious William Morris Agency came to an end.
Uncle Sam finally drafted Phil at the age of 23 to help win World War II. Gone were the good times, parties and money as a magician. Private Stillman was now part of an anti-aircraft artillery unit as part of the Army-Air Corps 1st Division.
However, Phil was still able to perform at a few officers’ clubs during his limited spare time. Thanks to an officer who had seen some of Phil’s hypnotic performances, it was suggested that he put his talent to use in the medical field. A transfer was arranged and led him to a very good profession with no complaints. Plus, it saved his life, as his anti-aircraft armored unit was in the second wave at Normandy on D-Day, where history tells us everyone in that unit was wiped out with no survivors.
Phil continued his medical and officer’s training while performing for fellow officers, civilian clubs and many shows supporting the war effort. Eventually, he was shipped across the Pacific Ocean from Seattle to Okinawa, Japan, and then to Shanghai, China, and to North Korea; where as a second lieutenant he was the first medical officer to enter the country.
After mustering out of the army, 1st Lt. Stillman went to Colorado, where his mother was living and he continued to serve in the Army Reserve. Phil found work in physical reconditioning around the Denver area and he eventually landed an administrative position with the Jewish Welfare Board, which was similar in operation to the YMCA & YWCAs. He then went back to college, where along with his military credit studied to become a psychologist and social worker.
1n 1946, Phil was stationed at the Navy Hospital in central Colorado for soldiers with mental disorders from both the Spanish American War and World War I. This is where he met a nurse, a sweet young Coloradan by the name of Miriam Bills. She had wonderful charm and grace, thus charmed her way into his heart, while reminding everyone they were the ones “with the keys.” Phil now knew that girls could be better than magic. They were married on April 13, 1948.
Due to the high demand for Phil’s managerial skills, they moved around the country several times while raising four wonderful children. The family eventually arrived in Washington, D.C. where Phil worked for HUD as the head of social and public housing. He finally retired from the Army Reserve in 1965 with the rank of major. To be closer to their children here in California, Phil and Miriam moved out west to Elk Grove in 1985.
Phil was still very much interested in magic and even taught a course, “Magic as a Performing Art” for Elderhostel. After meeting a few other local magic enthusiasts, as a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians he started the Magicians’ Circle of Elk Grove in 2002, which was very active in Elk Grove events for a number of years.
Phil turned 100 years old on Feb.10 and he celebrated with his family. Miriam’s birthday is five days later and this magic couple will celebrate their 73rd anniversary on April 11.
They are a family whose lives have truly been touched by magic.
Dale Lorzo is a professional entertainer based in Sacramento and he is a friend of Phil Stillman.