Is there an illusion that you designed for him that is a highlight?
John Gaughan: Well, they were all kind of wonderful things to play with. The big Japanese warrior that came to life (in Merlin) was a lot of fun, and I remember bringing that thing in because that was one of the last things to go into rehearsal. I remember flying all night long and I had all of the boxes of it as excess baggage. I took two taxis to get it to the theater, and they dumped me out at the stage door. It must have been 8:30 or 9 in the morning, and no one had shown up yet. I was just dead tired, but I remember that particular moment.
But, there were some great levitations in “Merlin.” One of the things that sounded really dumb that Doug came up with was when he wanted this guy cross-legged sitting on a stage and then he would grow…and it looked perfect. The way the guy rose and came forward. So, for something that doesn’t sound good when you’re sitting around trying to come up with it, Doug was right on the money.
Was there more pressure working on that than on his television specials?
John Gaughan: No, just different. At least on his TV specials, we had him right here at the shop. We would work back and forth, and I was only ten minutes away from NBC to run things in and out.
That was unbelievable to to do a live TV show…a magic show for Christ’s sake!
Jon Stetson: Didn’t he say when it came time for it that “I’ll only do it if it was live, and if there are no commercials?” That was the only stipulation, and he was expecting the answer to be no. Then they said “Okay.” He was just so popular at the time…It was remarkable. I can’t think of anyone doing that today on network television.
What do you think it was about Doug that made him the first “superstar” magician?
John Gaughan: Well, I think it was the right place at the right time. He was so different, but it was his energy and believability…When you watched him or saw him you really believed what he was saying. He wasn’t some slick dude….
Tim Felix: Doug really was that guy on TV going “Oooh, it’s mystical! It’s magical! That was him!
John Gaughan: He didn’t think he was different.
Jon Stetson: It was coming you know? That 1974 magic boom was building for a variety of reasons I think, and Doug was the perfect guy to be the face of the whole thing.
Do you like a Part Four? I like a Part Four! See you back here tomorrow for the conclusion of our interview with John Gaughan and friends.