Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Forgotten Houdini Student

Poster by Alfred Choubrac
Looking through old magic magazines often reveal little gems of information. I was going through an old issue of Mahatma Magazine, the July 1902 issue, I came across a sentence about Houdini.
"Eugene Fougere has been taking magic lessons from Harry Houdini, according to an account in a German Newspaper. I think that magic is in demand as everyone wants to become a magician."

There is little chance of me finding the German newspaper, but I was curious who this 'Eugene Fougere' was. It turns out that Eugene Fougere is actually Eugenie Fougere and was a French Vaudeville and music hall star.  Her act was extremely suggestive & seductive for the time. She was called a soubrette-a flirtatious or frivolous woman. In 1891, she came to the United States to tour the Vaudeville theaters here. Her tour was met with scandalous reviews. She was really before her time. One article I read likened her to the way America looked at Elvis when he appeared on the scene. Many loved him, others were shocked by his gyrations. I'd say that Eugenie's gyrations were even more daring than anything Elvis was doing, at least for the period of time, but tame for the 21st century of course.

In 1902 she was back in Paris. Houdini, in January & half of  February of 1902, was performing at The Olympia Theatre in Paris. He started at the Olympia on November 29th, 1901. The Olympia is a 2000 seat theatre that has since hosted stars like Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich, Liza Minelli, The Jackson Five, The Rolling Stones, even the Beatles. But in 1901-02, the Olympia was featuring Houdini & Eugenie Fougere on their bill. It was his King of Cards Act that made him a hit in Paris, rather than his handcuff act. I would imagine it was card magic that he was teaching to Eugenie Fougere. And I've seen nothing in regards to her adding magic to her act. It is likely her sex appeal outshined any tricks she might have included.

By the way, one of Houdini's more famous non-escape promotions took place in Paris. He hired 7 bald headed men to paint the letters H-O-U-D-I-N-I on top of their heads. They would then wear a bowler hat and sit at a cafe. Then at numerous times per day, they would lean over and remove their hats, showing the name HOUDINI to passers by.

And now, for the curious, here is Eugenie Fougere presenting her 'ragtime -cake-walk' dance.




2 comments:

  1. Nice catch Dean! It pays to read those old magic magazines now and then.

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