Tuesday, December 26, 2017
The Day That Changed The World of Magic
I'd say there were many dates that fit this title, but in the later 20th Century that date must surely be December 26, 1975. This was when Doug Henning's first NBC Special appeared on TV. It was also the night that many new magicians were born, due to Doug's inspiration.
To set the stage, magic was not a prime time event in the 1970s. It's luster had long ago run out. Magic had not totally vanished from television, it was being kept alive by Mark Wilson's wonderful TV shows. But those were not on prime time TV.
Doug Henning had made a big splash on Broadway with his show The Magic Show. It had taken everyone by surprise, and the true magic within the show was Doug. As was stated in the fine book by John Harrison, Spellbound, "Doug couldn't act, couldn't dance and couldn't sing", and yet here he was a bonifide Broadway Star.
It was producer David Suskind's idea to bring Doug to the masses via a network TV special. The first special had a number of unique qualities to it. First, the show would be presented LIVE. Second, Doug would be closing the show with a dangerous escape, the recreation of Harry Houdini's Water Torture Cell. It also had something unique that must have endeared Doug to magician's all over the country, and that was that he opened the show with the world's smallest trick, The Vanishing Nickle.
That was the start of the new age of magic.
Much of the magic on that special had been unseen for years, but after that night many routines would be staples of Doug's future performances, such as The Metamorphosis, Things That Go Bump In the Night, and The Sands of Egypt.
It turned out to be one of the highest rated magic specials in Television history and made Doug a star over night! And as I mentioned earlier, that night gave birth to many new magicians as well.