Sunday, June 23, 2013

Houdini's hurt feelings

Here is a revealing entry from Houdini's diary on October 20, 1916 when he was performing in Toronto, Canada:

"Toronto, Canada. No challenges as paper does not notice the house as they do not advertise in them. I helped Red Cross and recruiting drive with O.D. Stunt. After the street show 12 boys of the Red Cross, I am told collected $2796.12--a neat sum. No one even thanked me."

There's a lot to love about this. First is the glimpse into the politics of showbiz that a newspaper won't write stories about an act unless the theater buys advertising. Houdini's shorthand "O.D. Stunt" appears to be his catch-all for "outdoor stunts" (bridge jumps, overboard box, suspended straitjacket). Finally, Houdini's expression of hurt at not being thanked feels very genuine. Doesn't matter if you're the world's greatest mystifier; everyone likes to be thanked.

Houdini not being thanked.

Photo from Houdini A Pictorial Life by Milbourne Christopher.

8 comments:

  1. Another great blog John! What was your source for this diary entry? Is it published somewhere?

    The Red Cross should have thanked him. $2,796 is a nice hunk of cash--and worth even more back then.

    Not the first time Houdini was snubbed this way. On a European tour, he tipped some stagehands and they didn't bother to help him pack up his show.

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    1. I knew someone would ask the source. I didn't say because I'm not sure. I have the last page from what appears to be a magazine article (or book?) that excerpts quotes from Houdini's 1916 diary. But there's nothing on that page to show were it came from. The article appears to be a personality test of sorts with a "Mrs. Siever."

      Think I need to dig into Arthur Moses' periodical bibliography and see if I can find it.

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  2. I asked because diary entries are difficult to come by. Most of Houdini's personal diaries are in the hands of collectors. Some of them refuse to allow researchers to read them.

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    1. That's true! This article is a real gem. Wish I had the other pages. It was among Pat Culiton's papers.

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  3. Do we have any idea or evidence of which O.D. stunt Houdini performed on this visit to Toronto?

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  4. Ah, I see! It was a suspended straitjacket escape performed in Toronto two days before this journal entry. I love the other photos of it in Milbourne Christopher's book. Do we know what Christopher's source was for these photos? I'd like to pinpoint which streets in the city are pictured. Hunting . . .

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    1. I'm pretty certain that book was made up of pics from Christopher's own collection. Where they are today, who knows.

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  5. There was another episode where HH tipped the stagehands to help him pack up his show and they gave him the cold shoulder and didn't bother to help out.

    Can't remember which book it was in but might have been untold Story.

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