Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Guest Blog: Discovery in Montréal

Today I offer up a very special Guest Blog by a very special contributor. Michael Cartellone is not only the drummer for the legendary rock back, Lynyrd Skynyrd, but he is also a major Houdini buff! That's right, he's "one of us." Michael recently shared with me photos of a remarkable discovery he made while touring. I'll let Michael take it from here...

Montréal, Canada: July 6, 2012

One of the great things about my job is getting to travel and see the world. The reality though, is with all that travel, sometimes you lose track of where you are! As an example, the other day was typical of life on tour: travel at night, wake up at a hotel, work out, have lunch and then decide to go for a walk in the afternoon. I went out the front door- looked left- looked right- decided left looked more interesting, so I turned and started walking that direction.

Two blocks later, I came upon this...

It took a moment... McGill... hmm... McGill University?... that's right! I'm in Montréal... Montréal!

So, into the University Library I ran- and using one of their computer's, looked up the location of the Princess Theatré. It turned out, I was only a 10 minute walk from where it was originally located. As I was walking, I was a bit in shock, thinking how lucky I was to stumble onto McGill and now be heading toward the Princess- at the same time shaking my head in disbelief, realizing how easily it could have slipped by!

Anyway, I recognized the Princess right away- as it looked much like the photos I had seen online (after it had been gutted/remodeled into Le Parisien Cinema). It's a shame the original, beautiful marquee is gone, replaced with grey cement blocks, but it's a miracle that anything is left of the Princess, at all.

If you take another look at the above photo, you'll see what I saw as I was about to leave. Could it be? Is that old brick, from the original building above and at the back? As I work often in a Theatré, I recognized that as the tall/top of a stage (where the catwalk and lighting trusses would be). So, much like our friend John Cox would do with his camera, I walked around the back of the building.

Lo and Behold... there it was... the original backstage door and loading dock of the Princess Theatré!

Apparently, when they gutted the Princess, they left the outer backstage walls intact! I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Then, it really struck me... this is the backstage door Houdini would have used to leave the building... after the punch.

Best Wishes,
Michael Cartellone


  1. Amazing! Especially when I read the words "after the punch" It sent a chill down my spine!

  2. This is the part of the building where the stage was, so is it still there? This is a very cool find and a fantastic guest blog!

    Though I must admit to misreading the name at first and I thought Michael Corleone was the blogger, lol.

    1. Hi Dean,
      I loved the Godfather reference!
      No, the stage is gone, unfortunately. The building is vacant yet again, most recently a men's clothing store. Inside, it's basically just a big white, empty box. The only thing that visibly remains of the original building is captured in the photo I took.
      Ps- I just searched Google Images (Princess Theatre Montreal)- there is a beautiful vintage color postcard, showing the Princess in Houdini's day:

  3. Excellent post (and blog!), thank you for sharing this! I hope you don't think I'm being critical of your wonderful discovery, but if you look carefully at the photo, all of the bricks around the door area have been replaced at some point, and are no longer original to the building. My guess would be that the arrangement of the doors was different in 1926, and probably had only a large barn-type garage door, where stagehands could load and unload props. At some point, fire-codes would have demanded that an exit door with a panic bar be installed, at which time they seem to have knocked out the original doors, door-frames, and part of the wall, and replaced them with the arrangement you see now. This is where Houdini left the theatre, yes, but I'd bet the layout of the doors was markedly different back then. Regardless, this is super cool to see! -Jim

  4. I would guess that the outline of where the current doors are would approximate where the original barn doors were located

  5. Hi Jim,
    Thanks for the interesting observation- and your impressive eye for detail.