It was September 1988, and my wife and I were in Coronado on our honeymoon. My wife was laying out by the pool, and I in my typical fashion was too antsy to sit still, so I decided to go into San Diego to look through some antique shops. I was in a shop, and talking to the owner, who of course asked what I was looking for. I told him magic and Houdini memorabilia, and he told me that he knew this man that had worked for Houdini. The man was into Art Glass and would come into the shop periodically. I asked if he could put me in touch with him and he told me he would try and contact him and would call me if he reached him.
Jules Traub in 1968.
A short while later he called me and gave me the gentleman's number. I called him and he invited me over. His name was Jules Traub. He was a magician in New York as a young man, and I believe he subsequently owned Fun Inc. in Chicago. He had a very dignified and refined air about him, even at that age. He did have COPD, and I could see the struggle in his breathing at times.
He told me that when he was 17 or 18, he was working in a magic shop in New York, I don't recall if he told me which one. As he told it, "I was at the counter wrapping up a package to send out. I was tying the package and I had wrapped the string around the package and had brought the string up to tie it at the top. As I was doing this the door to the shop opened and a couple of men walked in but I didn't look up as I was in the process of making the first tie. The men approached the counter and were just in front of me, and I said: Mister, would you mind putting your finger here so I can tie this not? And in a loud voice the man says, 'Everywhere I go, people want to tie me up.' I looked up and it was Houdini."
He was there with Jim Collins, as they were getting ready for the 1926-27 tour. They were there to get some things, and as Houdini was busy, Collins told Traub that they needed some help on the tour, someone to help with loading and unloading and putting things on stage. He asked Traub if he would be interested and he was and went on that last short fateful tour.
His recollections of Houdini, was that he was very egotistical, and didn't like his pushy, boastfulness. Jules seemed to like Hardeen much better as he felt he was more kind and personable. He also felt Hardeen was a better magician, and kept up a correspondence with Hardeen for many years. He showed me letters that he had from Hardeen.
He was very kind, and generous in sharing stories of his past. He also told me a very funny story not related to Houdini, but to Max Malini, with him and Dai Vernon in New York. It was a wonderful visit with a kind man willing to share his personal memories.
Thank you Joe. And thanks to Joe Fox at the William Larsen Sr. Memorial Library at the Magic Castle for finding me a photo of Jules (from the Jan. 1968 Genii).
Great stuff John! Thanks for posting this! Those that knew Harry personally are all gone.ReplyDelete
It makes me crazy to know how many people were still around when I was younger who I could have interviewed. But I was off having a life. BIG mistake! :pReplyDelete
We were lucky to have Dorothy Young describe her year on the Houdini 3 in 1 Show:ReplyDelete
I grew up in the 70's and it kills me that I was in the midst of older people in their 70's that actually watched Houdini perform. My Dad was born in 1914 and he said he remembered a kid selling newspapers on the street corner yelling "Houdini dies in Detroit!". He also was friends with someone in NY that was Houdinis neighbor and the story he related was that Houdini would walk the area with dirty clothes and (I hate to write this) he had significant BO as if he never or rarely bathed. This of course does correspond with what we already know but more extreme than we all imagined.ReplyDelete
I wonder today if I had asked older people I encountered back in the 70's if they ever saw Houdini perform what stories I may have heard. More than likely it would have been a rarity to find an "eyewitness" to a Houdini performance.
Perry from NJ.
Houdini bathed. David Copperfield has his bathtub to prove it. :pDelete