Having once stumbled upon a rare Houdini photo, I can say that John Cox at WildaboutHoudini.com is probably have quite the run of visitors today. If you've not seen it, please click the link below and enjoy a truly incredible photo of Harry Houdini along with his assistants and his Water Torture Cell.
WILD ABOUT HARRY: NEW photo of Houdini and his Water Torture Cell un...: Here is an incredible never-before-published photograph of Houdini performing his Water Torture Cell in Scotland that will be on display sta...
Friday, February 24, 2012
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
It seems my boy just can't stay out of trouble. Another faithful reader alerted me to this one, which appears in the Silverman book on Houdini. Try as I might to locate a newspaper article, I've come up empty handed (so far).
Houdini was performing in Norfolk VA at the Colonial Theatre and got into a dispute with the management. One thing led to another and Houdini got arrested, again! My first article about Houdini getting arrested actually had the Theatre Manager bailing him out. But this time, it's the manager who had him locked up. Why?
It seems that while on stage, Houdini had some derogatory remarks about the theatre management. (no, I don't know what he said) According to Silverman, the New York Office told the manager to withhold $400 of Houdini's money as a fine. Houdini had finished his last show and was wrapping things up when he found out about the deduction of funds. Never one to be shy about things, he marched out on stage, while another act was performing and addressed the audience and told them what the management had done, then proceeded to demand his money.
The Colonial Theatre Manager had no choice but to call the police as Houdini was causing quite a scene and apparently wouldn't leave. When the police arrived they took Houdini to the jail for disorderly conduct. A fellow performer paid Houdini's bail, though it doesn't say 'WHO' that fellow performer was.
I can't help but wonder how many other performers had gotten fined over the years but didn't have the nerve that Houdini had to cause a scene. And I don't know if he ever got his $400. My guess is no.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
There are a number of things to mention that are history related. First is the March 2012 issue Genii Magazine with Howard Thurston on the cover. Ok, it's not exactly Howard Thurston, it's Jonathan Levit portraying Thurston at the L.A. Conference of Magic History. The article "Thurston LIVES" is by Jim Steinmeyer and David Regal and is an interview with Mr. Levit about his role as Thurston. It's excellent.
While on the topic of Genii Magazine, there is a fantastic monthly column by John Gaughan called "The Chamber of Secrets." My one complaint about this column is it always leaves me wanting MORE! And that's a good thing actually. The articles are brief glimpses into magical apparatus from yesteryear and the articles are concise enough to draw in even those who are not usually interested in history. Believe me, they are worth checking out. In the past, he has covered The Hofzinser Rose Mirror, Antonio Diavolo the acrobat automaton created by Robert-Houdin, Joseffy's Rapping Hand and many other amazing curiosities. Please go to www.geniimagazine.com to check out more and if you aren't a subscriber, now is as good a time as any!
If we move over to the monthly periodical of the Society of American Magicians M-U-M, we find a monthly column called "The Nielsen Gallery" by Tom Ewing which covers a different magic poster from the enormous collection of Norm & Lupe Nielsen. Also, there is a new column coming called "Treasures from the Salon De Magie" by Ken Klosterman. I can't say enough great things about Ken. His collection is beyond compare and he couldn't be a nicer gentleman. I've seen his collection first hand and it was one of the highlights of my magic life! You can find out more about them by going to www.magicsam.com
Next is MAGICOL, the periodical for the Magic Collectors Association. It is pure magic history from cover to cover. Besides a fantastic magazine they also have an excellent website as well at www.magicana.com
Another fabulous periodical on magic history is the Gibeciere by the Conjuring Arts Research Center. These are the same folks behind AskAlexander.com. Thanks Joe for the heads up on this. I can't believe I forgot to include them initially.
Then there is the official magazine of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, The LINKING RING. Editor Sammy Smith does a fantastic job covering the history of magic in his articles. Plus the official website for the IBM has a page devoted to magic history with some additional great articles there. http://www.magician.org/portal/en/news/magic_history
FINALLY, there is Stan Allen's MAGIC Magazine. Every issue has at least one and often more than one article devoted to the history of the art. Mike Caveney's column "Classic Correspondence" contains so much valuable information, I don't know how he crams it all in there! Word is he just wrapped up his second run on the column and hopefully a third series will be coming soon. Just a quick example of previous history articles in MAGIC: Nov2011 An article on Billboard Magazines one time coverage of magic news. Dec 2011 there was a cover article on Johnny Thompson who is really living history! And Feb 2012 has a great article about the life and magic of Kirk Kirkham. To subscribe to MAGIC go to www.magicmagazine.com
If you are wondering where 'The Magic Detective YouTube Show' is, well, it's coming. The debut is getting pushed back to March. I'll be doing what a friend of mine calls 'a soft rollout'. Meaning, the show will grow in content as we move forward but in the beginning I'll be keeping it fairly short.
The first episode is going to feature a video of my friend Steve Baker almost getting killed, FOR REAL, in Venezuela. I'll also share with you some behind the scenes things that Steve told me regarding the escape both before, during and after. It's a shocking piece of video, and yet I hope you enjoy it!
INSIDE BLOG NEWS
I received a very kind email from Jonathan Pendragon regarding the article I wrote about him. Well, Jonathan was nice enough to put a link on his Facebook page and that one article shot up past all the others to take the #1 spot! I was thrilled. Well, as of this week, we have a new #1, the article on HUGO and the Real George Melies has now gone past the Pendragon article. I can say, those two will probably fight it out for some time jockeying back and forth between 1&2. They are both good reads and if you missed them, click on their links.
Labels: magic history
Saturday, February 11, 2012
The examples of Houdini being less than friendly, keep showing up. I'm not implying that he made a regular thing of it, but it did happen. A couple weeks ago I posted When Houdini Got Arrested. Now a regular reader of my blog has alerted me to another example. This time the year is 1925 and Houdini is summoned into court in NYC. But why?
It turns out that there was a business in the city called 'Francis P. Houdina Company' at 1476 Broadway. The owner Francis Houdina was an electrical engineer and inventor. His mail, and Houdini's mail often got mixed up which is how Harry Houdini found out about them. Houdini assumed that the electrician was trying to capitalize upon the magicians name and fame by using a name which sounded similar.
One hot July evening in 1925, Houdini burst into the offices of the Francis P. Houdina Company and accused them of unlawfully using his name. The newspaper article says 'he tore from a packing case a tag addressed 'HOUDINI', the complaint says'. They demanded he return the tag and he refused and that is when a scuffle broke out and property was damaged, by Harry.
A few days later, George Young, the secretary of the company, presented Harry Houdini with a summons just before he was about to go on the air at WOR Radio in New York. He was being charged with disorderly conduct and destruction of property. Mr. Young had two policemen with him when he served the summons, probably a smart move on his part. Houdini began a heated argument with Mr. Young and Young accused Houdini of disgraceful behavior. Houdini followed with "I would have been killed if I had not used force to get out of the office."
Following this altercation at WOR Radio, Houdini did go on the air and spoke for fifteen minutes about his on-going fight against spiritualist fakery.
Houdini did appear in court and the charges were apparently dropped because no one from Francis P. Houdina Company showed up. All of this began because the post office initially mis-delivered mail belonging to Houdina and Houdini, which alerted Harry to the similarity in names.
*Thanks to Ron for the heads-up on this article!
UPDATE: Just learned that this story is actually false. Please read 'Clearing the name of Houdina' to find out the actual story.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Today is the 200th Birthday of famed writer Charles Dickens. The author of such stories as A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, and A Christmas Carol, some might not be aware that Mr. Dickens was also an amateur conjurer. Born Feb 7th, 1812 in Portsmouth England, he went on to become the most famous novelist of his era and his fame continues to this very day. A more thorough biography of Dickens and his magic is certainly warranted but it will have to wait for a later date.
Just imagine, had there been no Charles Dickens, today there would be no David Copperfield. David Kotkin borrowed the name of the famous Dicken's character and used it as his stage name.
By the way, I found the picture below online, and swiped it! I fully admit that in this case. The photo is from a flier or poster for a talk by magician Ian Keable of England. Mr. Keable just presented this at the Churchill Room, Goodenough College, Mecklenburgh Square, in London. I'm very intrigued by the poster and I hope that it's a very successful program and maybe one day Ian Keable will present it here in America...because I want to see it!
It was 12 years ago today that Doug Henning passed away from liver cancer. Feb 7, 2000. What a shock it was to the whole magic world and especially those of us who were so inspired in our youth by Doug Henning's magic. I still remember the very first issue of Genii Magazine I ever purchased, it had that photo above on the cover and a huge ad for the LeGrand David Magic Show. Both Doug and the Le Grand David folks would be instrumental in my magical education.
Below is a video of Doug doing his 'Things That Go Bump In the Night' Illusion. This was a Servais LeRoy idea originally known as The Three Graces. I'm not sure but Doug might have been the first magician of the modern age to bring that illusion back to the masses.
Labels: Doug Henning
Monday, February 6, 2012
The photo above is a very famous publicity photo of George McDonald Birch and his wife Mabel Sperry.
I'd seen the photo many times over the years. Mabel is sitting upon a stack of 'Next of Boxes' that were used in his act to find a borrowed object.
One day a few years ago I was visiting with Bill King, the magic collector from Hagerstown MD. Imagine my surprise as I walked through the various rooms of his collection and came face to face with the iconic boxes!!! Below is a photograph of those boxes. I imagine they have found a new home since I visited because Mr. King passed away not long ago.
Labels: McDonald Birch
Sunday, February 5, 2012
The Inexhaustible Bottle-A magic effect wherein a bottle is filled with water to wash it out and then emptied. Once cleaned out, dry ribbons of different colors would come out of the apparently empty bottle. But upon command of the magi, several different drinks pour forth from the bottle in a seemingly never ending succession. Some versions of the trick have the performer breaking the bottle open at the end and producing a ring, scarf and/or even a guinea pig.
I suppose it was inevitable that I would come face to face with the trick known as the Inexhaustible Bottle. In my youth, I worked with my younger brother on a version of this using a tea kettle. But back then, I hardly knew anything about the trick and really did not do the famous routine justice.
|Robert Heller 1870|
Robert-Houdin presented this trick for the first time on December 1, 1847 and claimed it as his own creation. It was said that Robert-Houdin produced 100 glasses of wine/port and other drinks from his bottle. Robert Heller and John Henry Anderson first brought the trick to America and made it popular. Harry Kellar, Compars Herrmann and Alexander Herrmann also presented the trick using a bottle.
In the book, The Secrets of My Magic, David Devant explains that it was his wife who came up with the idea of using a common Tea Kettle rather than a bottle. Devant's routine was called 'The Obliging Tea Kettle'. Charles Hoffmann or Think A Drink Hoffmann as he was known, used a cocktail shaker and built a career out of this one trick. Today, Steve Cohen presents his version using a Tea Kettle in his show Chamber Magic. I’ve not seen Steve perform his full routine, though I have seen clips on video. I have no doubt his work is brilliant.
Houdini reveals that the trick can be traced back to the book Hocus Pocus Jr. in 1635. During this time period the trick used a barrel or wooden cask rather than a bottle but worked on a very similar principle.
The inspiration for the trick possibly comes from two biblical stories. These two stories are when Jesus was at a wedding and turned Water to Wine, the other is the story of the loaves and the fishes certainly an ‘inexhaustible’ miracle.
I added a version of the Magic Tea Kettle to my summer show in 2011. My version was based on an idea by Jim Steinmeyer but I came up with a decidedly different climax to the trick. In all the Tea Kettle versions there is no real climax other than pouring more and more unique drinks. The ending I came up with gave the trick a definite 'ta-da' ending, but it proved to be more shocking than I expected. I actually had to rewrite the set-up for the ending in order to not freak people out.
What was my ending to the Inexhaustible Tea Kettle you ask? After pouring numerous drinks like milk, cool aid, tea and so forth I announced I would attempt Orange Juice, but I apologized in advance in case it didn't work because, as I explained, Orange Juice was the hardest drink of all. Then I told the audience for some odd reason the oranges would separate from the liquid in the strangest way. At this moment, I would pour the remaining liquid and the oranges slices could be seen separated in the water for a brief moment....then suddenly the audience realized the orange slices were actually GOLDFISH!
Tremendous ending, I thought. First time I tried it, two of the people who took drinks of the other liquids almost puked thinking they just drank 'fish water'. It was terribly funny and somewhat embarrassing and thus required a rewrite in order to have the ending make sense and for the audience members not to get ill thinking they drank dirty fish water. The 'corrected' script solved the problem and it made for a tremendous effect in my show. As enjoyable as my twist on the trick was, I still long to one day present an actual Inexhaustible Bottle effect...if I can ever locate one.
Now if you'd like to see a novel presentation of the 'Think-A-Drink' act presented by Charles Hoffman, please watch the video below.
*portions of this blog were reprinted from my old magic blog dated Feb 9,2010.