Showing posts with label Doug Henning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Doug Henning. Show all posts

Friday, May 3, 2013

Happy Birthday Doug Henning!

Today is Doug Henning's birthday. He was born May 3, 1947 in Winnipeg Canada. He is credited with the rebirth of magic in the 1970's that eventually led to a second Golden Age for us magicians.
Doug sadly passed away on February 7th, 2000. But we can still enjoy much of his magic that was recorded on video. Below is a wonderful illusion, created by Jim Steinmeyer and first presented by Doug Henning! 

Friday, February 8, 2013

We Still Miss Doug Henning

It's been 12 years since Doug Henning passed away. If you're a younger reader to my blog, you might not be totally aware who Doug Henning was. He is credited with bringing about a rebirth of interest in magic in the 1970s. His MAGIC SHOW on Broadway was a big hit and it was quickly followed by several years of annual 'Doug Henning's World of Magic' TV Specials on NBC. He was only 52 years old when he died on Feb 7th, 2000, the same age as Houdini.

His magic was mostly old school presented in a modern way. He didn't dress like a magician nor did he act like any magician that modern audiences had seen. He was young and vibrant and most of all enthusiastic about his art. He constantly said words like 'wonder and illusion' like they were candy and they became synonymous with him.

Even though he did tricks for a living, Doug always seemed to believe there was real magic out there, somewhere. An incident that happened to him in 1971 appears to be a turning point in his career. He was booked to perform in an area several hundred miles from the North Pole. It was a tour for the Canadian Armed Forces who were stationed in the frigid arctic region. During the tour Doug also did a show for a group of Eskimos. Who didn't respond at all during or after his show. No clapping or laughing or anything. They paid attention but gave none of the usual reactions that Doug was used to getting from his magic.

After the show Doug spoke to one of the Inuit Eskimos and asked about how they liked the show and it was clearly some sort of misunderstanding. They did not understand why he did magic when in their view magic was everywhere. Doug tried to explain his various tricks were magic in his eyes. The group spoke amongst themselves and told Doug they understood why he did magic, they said "It's because your people have forgotten the magic and you do this to remind them that there is magic in the world"*

That was Doug's mission after that, to bring 'wonder and magic' to the world. He inspired so many of us that are around today. Now in the 21st Century, magic has changed a lot. Attitudes and styles and techniques have evolved. Doug's magic seems a little dated by today's standards, yet the real magic of Doug Henning had nothing to do with the tricks, it was the man himself.

By the way, I want to point you to an article on another blog that is about Doug and one of his props and his influence on the life of a female magician.

Oh, and in case you're wondering if Doug had any influence on me, take a look at the photo below.

*I found this story on the Magicpedia page on Doug Henning. It's very possibly from the book by John Harrison, but I don't have that handy to check it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Doug Henning, Remembered

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.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Gifts of Doug Henning

I couldn't stop thinking about ole Doug Henning after my blog the other day so I thought I'd share with my readers some of Doug's 'gifts' or contributions to magic. There are a number of effects that are instantly associated with Doug Henning. The top of the list: Sands of Egypt, Things That Go Bump In The Night, Metamorphosis, The Water Levitation, Double Sawing, Mis-made Lady,  and more. You'll notice that many of these have links. The links are too Youtube videos of Doug performing those particular effects.


ZIG-ZAG Lady. Today this trick is rarely seen because it was so overdone in the 1970s and 80s. It was the creation of Robert Harbin and Doug built his career with this prop. It was in his Broadway show The Magic Show and he toured with it. When it became a popular illusion for other magicians, he replaced it with other routines.

The Sands of Egypt. This is the effect where three colored sands are dissolved in water and then removed completely dry. It's a great effect and certainly associated with Doug, but he didn't create it, nor was he the first to perform it. The trick dates back pretty far. To give you an idea of some others who presented the effect: Charles Bertram, Eugene Laurant, and Jack Gwynne just to name a few.

Things That Go Bump In the Night was actually the creation of Servais LeRoy. His original creation was called "The Three Graces". And the effect was quite similar to what Doug Henning presented. But I think it's safe to say that Doug resurrected that routine and today it's more associated with Henning.

Metamorphosis. Before the Pendragons came along, Doug had probably the fastest Subtrunk in the business. As we all know, the effect was Houdini's though the trunk trick itself predates him. The substitution of two people though was all Houdini and many other performers have presented it since. It's become a staple 'starter' illusion for young performers. In Doug's version the first thing that you notice is the condition of the box. It was always beat up and did not look anything like his other props. This was on purpose of course. It just looked like a wooden crate, not a magic prop and this helped sell the routine. Doug's costume change at the end was another bonus, though he was not the first to do that either. But prior to the Pendragon's I think many people associated this prop with Doug. After Jonathan and Charlotte came around, they pretty much owned it.

The Water Levitation was Doug's. At least, as far as I know he was the very first to present it. It was basically an older method revamped onto a tall platform and the addition of the water fountain was genius. This was pure Doug Henning.

The Double Sawing is a routine that Doug presented on his TV specials and also on a number of TV shows, like the Tonight Show and others. I believe they even created a version of it for the Broadway show MERLIN. I believe the Double Sawing can be credited to Channing Pollack actually. At least that is what my memory is telling me. If I am incorrect, please let me know. Doug resurrected the routine and many other performers since that time have used it.

The Mis-Made Lady was a fairly new trick when Doug started doing it. This was a creation of Chuck Jones, but Doug was probably the first to use it on TV and he even created a version using a Giant Muppet Character!

Walking Thru A Mirror: This was a Jim Steinmeyer creation and Jim worked for Doug. It's a beautiful trick that was debuted on one of the World of Magic Specials.

Origami Box: Yes, Doug was the first magician to present the Origami Box. Another Jim Steinmeyer creation. And sadly, it's been way overdone since Doug's time.

The Elevator: Doug was the first to present the Elevator, though he used a method different from what many others are using today. I remember the first time I saw it and it fooled me badly. Another Steinmeyer illusion.

The Pole Levitation: I don't know if this ever made it to a Doug Henning Special. But I know I saw him do it on a TV Talk Show and of course I saw it live several times. Another first for Doug and yes, another Jim Steinmeyer creation.

The Rube Goldberg Illusion: From what I understand, this was actually Doug's idea. To take the Rube Goldberg puzzle effect and turn it into an illusion. I can't find a video of this one unfortunately.

There was a lot of smaller magic that Doug made popular too. The Enchanted Rubiks Cube, The Flexible Mirror or Needle Through Mirror, The Double Dancing Hanks, The Torn and Restored Newspaper and the Vanishing Nickel.

The Double Dancing Hanks were a creation of Ralph Adams. The Torn & Restored Newspaper was of course, Gene Anderson and the Vanishing Nickel was John Cornelius's creation. Many of these effects, both small and large are still presented today.

There are some things that Doug did that still stand out to me today. His version of Houdini's Walking Through a Brick Wall is one example. Doug also used Houdini's Vanishing Elephant on his second special with a very different method than what Houdini used. Though I think Milbourne Christopher was actually the first magician to vanish and elephant on TV. NO FEET is a great routine created by Andre Kole and can be seen at the end of the Enchanted Rubiks Cube clip that I posted above. Basically, in the NO FEET illusion, the performers feet seem to vanish!

One of my favorite Henning routine's was a Ring in Bread routine that he presented in his last tour and on the Tonight Show. This was based on an idea by Orson Welles and Jim Steinmeyer built the effect around it. I can attest to the strength of the routine as I use it myself today.

The Jarrett Box is another highlight in my memory. The production of 21 people out of a fairly small cabinet. This was the creation of Guy Jarrett and Doug brought it back to life. I'm not sure if it had been seen since the days of Howard Thurston. Recently, Scott Alexander presented the Jarrett Box on TV producing a Gospel Choir from the box.

Apparently, the idea for vanishing the Statue of Liberty was first presented to Doug who passed on it. That idea was then given to David Copperfield and that trick put him on the map so to speak. Another was an illusion called Permeability, which illusionists will know as Interlude. This is the person through person effect first debuted by The Pendragons. Well, I just learned the idea was originally going to be for Doug, but it never made it. Permeability, as well as many of the above effects were creations of Jim Steinmeyer.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Doug Henning and Christmas

As I kid, I can remember one thing that always made the Christmas Holidays a little more magical, the annual Doug Henning World of Magic Specials. The very first one aired on December 26th, 1975. It was NOT a Christmas special, though it did air during that time period. What an amazing special that first one was. Many magicians have opened their TV specials with some grand illusion, but Doug opened his with a very small piece, the nickel that vanished. The camera came in very tight and without any funny movements, Doug closed his hand and then opened it and the nickel was gone!

The very first special contained many of Doug's signature routines, like the Gene Anderson Newspaper Tear, the Sands of Egypt, Things that Go Bump in the Night and the Shadow Box. And the closer of the show was none other than a recreation of Houdini's Water Torture Cell. This was the 'hook' to the show, the thing that was supposed get viewers to tune in and stay tuned in. Frankly, it was probably the one trick in the show that was not a Doug Henning trick, but he did it in classic Henning style. Rather than just escape, he vanished from the cell and reappeared as his own safety man! It sure fooled me when I was a kid.

For the next several years Doug would have an annual World of Magic Special in the month of December. In 1979 he appeared as a guest on the Crystal Gayle Special which aired in December. Then in 1980, Doug was part of the Osmond Family Christmas Special as well.

If you'd like to get a great gift for yourself or a magic friend, the book Spellbound by John Harrison is a must have. It's a fantastic biography about Doug Henning.
Finally, the video below is Doug during the Osmond Family Christmas Special. Enjoy.