Thursday, February 15, 2024

Chita Rivera Has Died


Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero was her real name, the Broadway World knew her as Chita Rivera. And she was a singer, dancer, actress and Broadway Royalty!  She was nominated 10 times for Tony Awards and she won twice. One of those nominations was for her role as The Queen, in the magical musical MERLIN, also starring Doug Henning. 

She died January 30th, 2024, she was 91 years old and didn't look a day over 60. She had an amazing career. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Houdini vs Dunninger Water Torture Cells


I will begin by saying, I have no idea what is going on here. The top image is from the book, Houdini His Legend and Magic by Doug Henning and Charles Reynolds. I assume this image first appeared in a magazine article during Houdini's time. If you flip it upside down, clearly the face looks like that of Houdini. 

So explain to me the image below. This is the exact same image except it has been doctored. A drawing has been placed over Houdini's name. The name DUNNINGER has been added. If you flip it over, the previous face of Houdini has been altered very slightly, but more hair has been put on to look more like Joe Dunninger. 

At first glance, I wonder if this is just a bit of youthful fun. Not something meant to be seen by the public, but just something Joe did on his own. Yet, it did appear in a Dunninger book. And I don't think it's something the original artist did, though I suppose that is possible. 

My next question is, did Dunninger have a Water Torture Cell? I know he did handcuff escapes, strait jacket escapes, jail escapes and more. But did he have a WTC? Houdini went after folks who tried to duplicate this. There were others who had Milk Cans, but that trick had seen it's day. The Water Torture Cell was really Houdini's big sensational escape. I'm very curious.

I know there are at least a dozen, and probably MORE Dunninger Scrapbooks out in the magic collecting world. I've seen them on the various auctions. IF you have one, can you help me shed some light on this curious question? Did Dunninger own a Water Torture Cell? 

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Florida Magic Collector's Conference 2024


The Florida Magic Collector's Conference 2024 just finished up and it was both educational and historical. OH, and lot's of fun as well. A smaller conference than some, it has a charm all it's own. I missed the first day's events which had a flea market and auction. And then in the evening, a charming presentation was given by Skilldini, Tim Wright. He has a history with Abbott's Magic Shop in Colon Michigan. He worked there and knew many of the various characters who built, painted, welded, sewed and created the various treasures that were sold at the shop. A really fun presentation.

On Monday morning, the day began with a lecture by Bob Swadling. He was to lecture on The Magic Tea Kettle. He began with a history of the prop, demonstrating various early versions. And for the first time I got to see The Inexhaustible Bottle being performed. It looks just as good as I always imagined. Next he shared the first Tea Kettle, which was the creation of David Devant. He finally moved to his own version of the Tea Kettle which he built for Paul Daniels. Bob them demonstrated his version of The Magic Tea Kettle, and it was glorious. He finished with a video of Paul Daniels performing the Tea Kettle on his TV Show. For those unaware, the basic effect is that any drink called for can be poured out of the Tea Kettle, such as: Red Wine, White Wine, Port, Sherry, Mixed Drinks, Milk, Soda, Champagne, and more. It's diabolical in it's methodology. let's just say, it's pure magic.

Martin Preston and Tammy Calvert were next to talk about the touring life of John Calvert.  I saw John Calvert lecture at Denny's many years ago, and I also have a video of his performance in Memphis TN where he does his full stage show. But hearing many behind the scenes stories from their life on the road was amazing. 

Martin Preston as it turns out, had a history working with John and Tammy Calvert, so he was the ideal person to both interview Tammy and share recollections of the show. Martin presents a Liberace Tribute Act, which is his claim to fame. But he is clearly a Calvert Historian as well. A Great Talk!

The next lecturer was Todd Harris who lectured on The Master Builders of Great Britain. This was a brilliant lecture. Todd had both a slide presentation as well as actual props to show from the various builders. I had not heard of many of these people, but I could appreciate the amount of research that must have gone into this presentation. In fact, finding who builders are, has to be even more difficult than discovering the lives of performing magicians. I wish I had taken more photos, but I got caught up in the his presentation. Todd really hit it out of the park with his lecture, and from what I understand, he is making it available to the attendees via streaming. So a double win! Sadly, I didn't get a chance to talk to Todd, but I know I'll run into him again in the future. I can't wait to go on FB and check out some of his videos!!!

In the evening was The Contest that is Not a Contest, lol. The basic idea was the present some piece of Vintage Magic. But as Dan Stapleton told me, that doesn't always happen. Several performers shared clever pieces of magic. Even yours truly presented a routine. It was a fun show.

Tuesday, began with Rick Heath, the Magician with a Paintbrush, the man who painted everything from scenery to props to posters at the Le Grand David Magic Show in Beverly Mass.. But on this morning, he lectured on Robert Orben and it was sensational. I didn't have previous knowledge of Robert Orben other than he wrote some comedy books for speakers. Wow, was this an eye opening presentation. Orben began as a magician. Later turning to writing jokes and one liners for other entertainers. Then writing material for speakers and even various Presidents of the United States. But his most prestigious job was being a speech writer for President Gerald Ford. This was a wonderful and extremely informative lecture. Rick received a well deserved standing ovation.

Next up, was yours truly, presenting my lecture on Maro: Prince of Magic. This is my third time presenting this lecture, but I always try to add something new each time I present it. Maro is a long forgotten performer who died in 1908 before he really made a name for himself. But despite not making a name for himself, he still had an incredibly lucrative career. Judging by the many conversations I had following my lecture, I would say my lecture was very well received.

The next lecture was supposed to Jeffrey Alan from the American Museum of Magic, but as fate would have it, Jeffrey came down with Covid prior to the conference and was unable to attend. In his place, they showed  a video of one of John Calvert's movies. I've got to say, I really enjoyed this. The movie was fun and John plays a detective in the movie. He even does a little magic in the movie as well. This was what was a called back in the day a "B" movie. But it's better than a lot of the junk you find on streaming services today. 

In the evening was the Gala Show which I cannot report upon because I missed it. I had to head home midday. But I know that Dennis Phillips did a 100ft Rope tie. Dan Stapleton presented his version of The Sands of Egypt. And Tammy Calvert was due to perform some of the magic from the Calvert Show. I'm sorry I had to miss this show. 

They had a great dealers room, but I can't say too much about it because I had a booth of my own, and didn't leave my booth but one time. But it was nice to meet so many folks from the conference and also meet some of my podcast listeners. I enjoyed all the conversations with fellow magic history buffs. 

I've got to say, this was a charming little conference on magic history. All the presentations were top notch. Dealers room was full of folks and I know for me at least, I sold about half the things I brought with me. The one unfortunate thing about the conference was that I was not able to meet everyone there! I did meet quite a few new friends and look forward to seeing everyone again in 2025! If you want to find out more here is the web site