Friday, March 26, 2021

Houdini shares his stage in Boston


There's a joke you'll sometimes hear that is supposed to be from Houdini's time. It goes:

-What kind of magicians did Houdini like?
-Dead ones.

This is in part a reference to Houdini's well-known practice of visiting the graves of dead magicians. But it also plays into a belief that Houdini "hated all other magicians" and could never bear to share the spotlight with anyone. This has always rubbed me the wrong way. While Houdini certainly hated his imitators (many with good reason), he was close friends with most of the major magicians of his day, including his chief competitor Howard Thurston. It's also doubtful Houdini would work so hard to build up the Society of American Magicians as its 'Most Illustrious' president if he "hated magicians."

But as to the charge that Houdini couldn't share the spotlight, here's something even I found surprising. On September 14, 1926, Houdini turned the entire first act of his "3 Shows in One" over to local magicians. An account of exactly who those magicians were and the tricks they performed can been read below:

Boston Globe, Sept. 14, 1926.

This wasn't the first time Houdini did this. On February 18, 1926 he invited local magicians in Philadelphia to perform as a special feature during his run at the Chestnut Opera House.


So maybe we need to rethink the old joke. How about...

-What kind of magicians did Houdini like?
-S.A.M. magicians.

Okay, not as funny. But at least it's true.

8 comments:

  1. I suspect that Walter J. Taylor's "trick that he desires to remain a secret at present" means that he's pacing the floor in a sweat and muttering "I can't BELIEVE Razoux is doing a floral and silk production act! He KNOWS that's my THING!"

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    1. Lisa Cousins,
      It's you! Hope all is well.
      You practicing your magic? Barry Spector presented me with a wand he made from wood from 278 w. 113th and I have been trying to perfect the wand spin vanish -- because it's a "magic" wand and I must be capable of doing magic with it. This is what we are striving for.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY29B-HEJnI

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    2. Haha, that's perfect, Lisa. And good to see you!

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  2. The magicians HH allowed/invited to perform in his 3 in 1 didn't present a threat to his ego. The magicians higher in the pecking order rankled him. He jumped on William Robinson for performing the DeKolta Die illusion, believing he had sole rights to it. He jumped on Blackstone for doing the Overboard Box escape. Silverman quoted Harry Leat, the British magician who noted "Houdini thinks he is the God amongst conjurers."

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    1. Houdini and Will Robinson were life long friends. Gay Blackstone will tell you despite their differences Houdini and Harry Sr. got along fine. You can make a long list of very famous magicians that Houdini was friends with.

      I've no doubt Houdini saw himself as a "God amongst conjurers." Doesn't mean he didn't also enjoy spending time among the mortals. :)

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    2. Kellar was the only magician alive that he revered. You can see that in the film of them in the back seat of the car. HH also had high respect for Samri Baldwin, the White Mahatma. The other magicians were just friends--and competitors.

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  3. Very interesting find; thanks for sharing. Doing this would also be great PR for these appearances, though Houdini was clearly interested in and admired many other magicians at various professional levels.

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    Replies
    1. I really think for Houdini this was about supporting and promoting the S.A.M. and local S.A.M. magicians. What a boost for these performers and the local chapter.

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