Friday, October 25, 2019

Houdini lives in Pasadena

On Wednesday I had the pleasure interviewing The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini author Joe Posnanski at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, CA. It was a terrific event with a great turn out.

I had teased "a very special magic guest." That guest was none other than the mighty Mike Caveney! Yes, the self-proclaimed "#1 Houdini hater" came out to talk Houdini and it made the event all the better. Joe joked that we were the angel and devil on his shoulders.

After the event, Mike invited us to see his famous Egyptian Hall Museum. This is the first time I had ever seen his collection and it's a mind blower! And it turns out the "#1 Houdini hater" has some pretty sensational Houdini items, including an original poster for Houdini's "3 Shows in One" in Harrisburg that I've never seen before. (Harrisburg was the final stop for his 1925-26 tour.) So it was a Houdini-filled night in good old Pasadena.

Thank you Joe. Thank you Mike. And thanks to everyone who came out to see us.

Click here to see the full list of Joe's upcoming appearances. The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini can be purchased at and



  1. Patrick: Let's compare one of my stories -- as it happened -- with the way Joe, the boy writer tells it in "the Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini."

    Joe Posnanski: On March 24, 1974--and Patrick will never forget the day--he went into his old boxes and pulled out all of his old Houdini stuff. A couple of friends were coming over, and he wanted to share with them his childhood passion. He had not looked at some of it in years, all of these photographs and books and magic tricks but was surprised how much he remembered about Houdini, how much he still knew, and how easily he could do some of Houdini's sleight-of-hand tricks.
    At some point, someone asked him Houdini's birth date.
    March 24, 1874," he said instinctively.
    "Hey," one of his friends said, "that's exactly one hundred years ago today."

    Patrick: Not one word of that is what I told Posnanski.
    This is what actually happened:
    One day, in 1974, a friend of mine, Forry Ackerman (Forrest F. Ackerman, the editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland, Ray Bradbury's first literary agent, the creator of the character Vampirella, and the man who coined the term "sci-fi"), Forry Ackerman called me and told me he had gone on a local show on KNBC called "the Collectors" and shown some of his Monster collection and he wanted to give the producers my name as a Houdini collector.
    Sounded good. I said sure. These guys who were doing this show and I figured out the only time we could get together to discuss what Houdini stuff I should bring to the taping was the following Sunday.
    These guys weren't friends. Our first meeting was when they showed up on Sunday morning.
    Before the "Collectors" guys arrived, I went into a closet and pulled down a big cardboard box from a high shelf -- had that box been on a lower shelf, everything in it would have been destroyed when the house was hit by a massive mudslide -- while I was "safely" in Vietnam.
    I hadn't seen anything that was in that box since 1968 when I packed it away before I went on active duty in the Army. It had remained untouched for six years.
    So, I unpacked the box and the contents filled a room. I was stunned. The producers showed up and we got acquainted while they told me what pieces would work well on their show.
    One of the guys asked me when Houdini was born. I said, "March 24th, 1874" -- and I added, incredulously, "100 years ago today."
    That's exactly how it happened. That's what I told Posnanski. So Joe stirred what I told him into a quart measure of his intellect and told the story his way -- which was technically riddled with lies.

    Q: That's a good story, Patrick, but, who are we supposed to believe? You or a famous sportswriter. Is it true your book Houdini--the Key was bound in vinyl?

    Patrick: No, The book and it's slipcase are bound in this bulletproof library cloth called "buckram."

    Q: Sorry, Joe says it was bound in vinyl.

    Patrick: Joe Posnanski IS vinyl.

    Patrick: This man, Posanski, used me as a gimmick, exploited me throughout his book, yet, despite the fact that I am mentioned more than Jim Steinmeyer or John Cox, they read the book in galleys months before the public saw it. I didn't. That, and this "writer's" penchant for inaccuracy has really upset me. He has misstated the facts of my life as if it doesn't matter -- but it matters to me.

    1. I love you, Pat!

      The two versions aren't so terribly different. Joe version makes the point quicker. Had the difference been that is was or wasn't March 24 that would have been a problem. But that's what this beat is about and it works. Dramatically, I kinda like the friend saying it, even if it was you who actually said it. He just "Houdinied" it! :)

      Too bad about the vinyl, but I honestly thought the cover was vinyl myself. I don't know what buckram is. No one knows what buckram is! But I bet that's something that could be fixed in the paperback? But I don't see the big deal. Vinyl is not an insult. Vinyl connotes toughness and an untypical level of care, which is the point.

      Also, Joe's book is a phenomenal advertisement for The Key. It gives it mythic status. I'm going to put the link to it back on my sidebar because I know you still have a few left.

      And as I said before, if you want to write up all your objections/corrections and put on your site, I will gladly link to it. Or I will even publish it here. Anything you want. You remember the letter Conan Doyle sent to Kellock with all his objections and corrections (reprinted in full in the Ernst Houdini and Conan Doyle book)? I can see this being the same type of thing.

      But be nicer to the boy writer. He loves you too!

    2. Nonsense, This "writer" changed everything about the story. The visitors to my house as I stated were not friends. I had never met them before. He says I had not looked at some of the contents of the cardboard box in years. That's more of his bullshit and not as good as the truth. I hadn't looked at any of it in six years. It wasn't one of the strangers who had come to my house to meet me and look at Houdini memorabilia who said, "that's exactly 100 years ago today." He asked me when Houdini was born and I said, "March 24, 1874 -- one hundred years ago today." The truth -- what I told Posnanski -- is always better.