Thursday, May 30, 2024

🎶 Dunninger, Hoo-dee-nee, and Doug! 🎶

This week marks the 50th anniversary of The Magic Show, which opened at the Cort Theater on May 28, 1974. The Broadway musical launched the career of Doug Henning and opened the door on the next Golden Age of Magic. Doug's style was modern and up-to-the-minute, but he always honored the past, especially Houdini. The play even uses Houdini's name in its opening number, Up To His Old Tricks by Stephen Schwartz (lyrics below). So, yeah, we love Doug!

Hey, can't you just feel the strange excitement
The quiet commotion that we share
There's something like tingling in the darkness
There's something electric in the air
'Cause there's one thing I know turns a man of sixty
Back into a child of six:
Watching Dunninger, Houdini
Or Doug—the magic man
Up to his old tricks

You go spend an evening at the movies
And smile at the shadows on the screen
You turn on a radio or record
And dance to a voice you've never seen
But thеy don't make you gasp like a silly schoolboy
Or giggle likе a bunch of hicks
Not like Dunninger, Houdini
Or Doug—the magic man
Up to his old tricks

Clap clap
Pop up the dusty flowers
Hooray, hoorah
Break out the bowl of goldfish and the scarves
Saw the beautiful lady in half again…

Wasn't that illusion fun?
Not if you know how it's done

It may not be the world's most esteemed profession
But if sure beats law or politics
So here's to Dunninger, Houdini
And Doug—our magic man
Up to his old tricks

For all things Doug, check out The Doug Hennig Project by our friend Neil McNally.


  1. OMG, i never realized that they said, "Dunninger". I remember the Houdini and DOUG. Guess I wasn't paying close enough attention. I've gotten to see more of the life of Dunninger recently and he led a truly remarkable life. But sadly very overlooked and forgotten by the magic world.

    1. And at one time Dunniger was just as popular as any magician. But, sadly, just like all of the other magic greats, they are forgotten after they pass on... except Houdini.

    2. I've always wondered about the choice of Dunninger here. Was it because, in 1974, it would have been a recognizable name? Or was it because it was 3 syllables like Houdini?

    3. Dunninger's name has an attachment to Houdini. The Houdini stardust sprinkled onto him from the very beginning of his career. He was part of the Tony Curtis Houdini biopic, and stayed connected with his Houdini collection. Dunninger also took a page from Houdini's notebook on publicity. That kept him in the public eye almost to the very end.

    4. For those of you old enough to remember, KRESKIN was the go to guy when people thought of mentalists by the public. From the 70s- to the early 2000s. BUT prior to him, Dunninger was that person. Forget the Houdini movie for a moment. Dunninger had his own radio show. Dunninger had his own TV shows. Dunninger performed for near every celebrity there was. Recently, I learned Dunninger had over 20 huge scrapbooks of newspaper clippings about his own career. Every time he appeared in the news, he had a clipping service add it to the books. This came as a shock to me. I did not realize just what a huge name he was. Dunninger also hung out at Flosso's Magic Shop in NYC. He was best friends with Al Flosso. If the producers/writers did any sort of research for the broadway show, it would have been super easy to run into the man. Another way to look at it, in the big magic void from say the 40s to the 70s, the one name that had National recognition was Dunninger. There were other magicians sure, but they just didn't have the status. The public knew Dunninger, in the same way the public knew Houdini. He was not the average magician. There are many reasons for Houdin's fame, but one of them was that the things he did many of them appeared real. Let's face it, he did escape from crazy stuff, over and over and over. Dunninger, did mentalism and had the platform, TV/radio to reach a broader audience. And like it nor not, the public even today largely thinks that is real. Now having said that, it could have just come down to his name having enough beats/syllables to fit the song, LOL. But I'm going with my previous theory.

    5. Wonderful write up, Dean! You articulated what I only touched upon.

  2. Does anyone know where Dunninger is buried? I’ve looked and one reference mentions “Cliffside Park NJ” but I cannot find Dunninger at any of the cemeteries in that town.

    1. He was cremated. There is one site online that says he was buried in st.louis. This guy has most of his facts wrong, including when he died and where.