Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"Houdini must have been crazy to do this."

Recently I discovered some old cassette tapes I made as a kid, and on one I found a radio interview with the legendary Doug Henning. This appears to have been recorded in 1980 when he was preparing for a new tour that would kick off at the Los Angeles Pantages theater (a show I saw).


In the interview, Doug talks about performing Houdini's Water Torture Cell on his first television special in December 1975, and how he had a close call that night.

I hit record when the topic turned to Houdini, so it picks up as Doug is talking about looking through some Houdini material provided by his niece (Ruth Kavanagh). Enjoy.


Henning actually revived the Water Torture Cell for this run at the Pantages in 1980. According to the excellent Spellbound: The Wonder-Filled Life of Doug Henning by John Harrison, his first show went fine. But during the second performance, he panicked and had another close call. His lead assistant Nanci Hammond said, "The Water Torture Cell was very hard for him to do. He was really afraid that he was going to die doing it."

After the mishap, Henning's manager and the company staged an "intervention" and convinced Henning to cut the escape for good, which he did.

Below are links to anniversary coverage of Henning's first three live television specials, each of which featured an iconic Houdini feat.

Related:

11 comments:

  1. John Hinson great nephew of Bess and Harry HoudiniNovember 30, 2016 at 11:49 AM

    It was my aunt Ruth Kavanagh, then she sold some items for his book.

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    Replies
    1. Ah, so Ruth is the "niece" he's taking about? Thanks John.

      BTW, the guest book he references was something I was able to show at the Magic Collectors Weekend in 2012.

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  2. Thanks for the share and taking me down memory lane. I also saw him at the Los Angeles Pantages Theatre in 1980. I just found my “Doug Henning and His World of Magic” program from the show.

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  3. This is really cool. Wish he was still around. I hope someone makes a biopic someday.

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  4. Interesting that Henning wasn't strong enough to keep performing the USD, while Harry did for 13 years non stop.

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  5. Wow thanks for digitizing that old cassette tape! The most interesting thing to me is his statement about Houdini's USD being a "stage thing" and Henning having to change his so the camera could come up really close. Culliton's "The Key" revealed the secret of the USD. I'm sure Henning's Gaff was very much the same as HH's, but I wonder what else he changed for the cameras?
    Jack
    http://houdiniandhardeen.wordpress.com

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    Replies
    1. I think Doug was just being careful to not reveal anything. Proximity doesn't have anything to do with it. Houdini invited audience members on stage to examine his cell and stocks. Not sure you could have done that with Doug's cell.

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    2. Could be what Doug was saying is that the change they felt was needed was to make his cell glass all around so the camera could see him from all angles. Houdini's cell, of course, only had a glass front. But that was all the audience was going to see anyway.

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    3. Ah yes that could be it.
      Jack
      Houdiniandhardeen.wordpress.com

      Delete
  6. FYI, there was an exposure posted by an anonymous commenter that I deleted. True or not... Magicians Code!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here here!
      Jack
      Houdiniandhardeen.wordpress.com

      Delete

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