Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Houdini plays the Palace...in 1983

On May 22, 1983, ABC broadcast Parade of Stars. The two-hour special benefited the Actors Fund and featured an assortment of Broadway and television stars recreating famous vaudeville acts at the Palace Theater in New York. Of course, Houdini played the Palace many times, and he was represented not only in the show, but also on the advertising key art below (top left).

Houdini was portrayed by Alan Alan, the English escape artist who died in 2014. Alan did his signature upside down chain escape from a burning rope. According to a user on IMDb, Alan's act was cut down from 13 minutes to six minutes to eliminate the comedic elements and make it a more straightforward Houdini escape.

Other celebrities who portrayed Palace stars of the past were: Debbie Allen as Josephine Baker, David Cassidy as George M. Cohan, Gregory Hines as Bill Robinson, Ann Jillian as Mae West, Rich Little as Jack Benny, Dorothy Loudon as Fanny Brice, Jeanne Moreau as Sarah Bernhardt, James Whitmore as Will Rogers, and Shelly Winters as Sophie Tucker.

You can read a New York Times review of the show HERE. You can also view a short clip on YouTube.

For fun, here's a photo of the Palace with the real Houdini headlining (also notice the real Fanny Brice on the bill).

Thanks to Mark Willoughby for sharing the art and bringing this one to my attention. 



  1. Very cool! I was in New York then but I don't remember this event. I have quite a few friends who have "played the Palace" in Broadway shows, so the next time I see one of them I'll have to ask if they've seen any reference to Houdini backstage (I've never noticed anything in the house itself.) Surely there must be something there.

    1. It one of the great still standing NYC Houdini theaters. Shame that the exterior is so covered with advertisements that you can't even see the building anymore. Houdini once did a suspended straitjacket from the Palace, btw.

    2. Thanks, I didn't know that he did one at the Palace. I'll have to do a search to see if I can find a photo; I don't recall ever seeing one published.

    3. Check out page 159 in The Secrets of Houdini Dover paperback.

    4. And it's not the crane shot. It's the pic on the back of that. It's just credited as "a New York skyscraper", but I recently found it in a newspaper credited as his 1922 Palace escape.

  2. Great, thanks again, John. I have the book - now I just have to figure out where I put it!!