For a few weeks now we have been talking with people that worked with Doug. But, “The Doug Henning Project” wanted to get Doug from a fan’s perspective, and what better fan than John Cox? John runs the very popular Houdini website “Wild About Harry,” and his knowledge and love of Doug were evident as we sat down one Friday afternoon at “The Magic Castle.”
What your first exposure to Doug?
Of course, everything with me ties into Houdini, and my first exposure to Doug Henning was within weeks of my first real exposure to Houdini or at least catching the Houdini bug…I was going through TV Guide and I saw an ad for “Doug Henning’s World of Magic.” This was the first 1975 television special when he was doing “The Water Torture Cell.”
In TV Guide, there was a photo of him standing in front of a Houdini poster… So, that really blew my mind because here was this young magician that was going to do the feat that Houdini couldn’t. *
(John had discussed that many people during this time still mistakenly believed that Houdini died performing this illusion)
That was dramatic and exciting and, of course, I watched that and it blew my socks off. Boy, you look back on that and it was such a brilliant and dramatic introduction of Doug Henning to a larger audience… He did not look like the kind of person that should be doing something like that…But he wanted to announce himself, he wanted to go to that place of the highest magic…
So, short answer it was his first special!
What was it about him that drew you to him as a fan?
Back then (for me) everything was relative to Houdini…but, also I loved him like everyone else did because I was seeing stage illusions that I had never seen magicians do on this scale. I mean he really brought that back and they were incredible. I mean, as much as I remember “The Water Torture Cell,” I remember “Things that Go Bump in the Night” just blowing my mind on that special…Now I look back and I appreciate him maybe in ways I didn’t understand fully then. It was just his tremendous charisma and energy and his “wonder-filled set” …It was so beautiful, it was so wonderful, and just so genuine…
What do you think it was about him that made him stand out at the time?
He was doing things that people hadn’t seen in thirty years (at that time) …The idea of the grand illusion show had kind of disappeared, and he brought that back with effects that were brilliant and based on old effects, but with new stuff as well.
It’s interesting how dramatically different he was as a magician. He took away all the gothicness and all the darkness of it…He was rainbows, and he was bright, and he was hope, and he was wonder! It totally worked, and I think it was because it was for real. It was really him, he was genuinely that type of person.