Doug Henning died a short six months after David’s interview took place. Their friendship, albeit brief, left a large impact on David’s life. As you will read, all of this came to a touching conclusion at Doug’s rarely talked about memorial service.
Do you believe he would have returned to magic?
I don’t think he was coming back to do a big show again. He was so absorbed with “Veda Land” and that whole project and his whole interest in TM. But he realized whenever he would go to speak to groups about this project they would go “Oh gee, you’re Doug Henning! Well do some magic!” So, he started doing the magic again and realized it still had a strong draw (for possible investors) because that’s how people knew him…They wanted to see him. He was the still the magician in the minds of the public.
As the interview took place six months before his passing, were there any indications that he was ill at the time?
He didn’t look ill. He looked fine. He was gaunt; he was thin. But, he was always thin. He still had the black hair and the mustache…He had a little pair of glasses that he would wear to read stuff. But he looked like the Doug Henning we all remembered.
(After the interview came out) Doug called and said “David. It’s FANTASTIC! Debby read me the interview.” I thought that was odd, that he said Debby had read it to him. What I didn’t know, and none of us knew at that time, that he had been in the hospital and starting chemo….
You attended his memorial service. How did that come about?
Debby (Doug’s wife) had called John Moehring, the editor of MAGIC magazine at the time, and said she wanted permission to use the interview in Doug’s upcoming memorial program. John called me to ask my permission and I said, “Of course.” Debby then invited Stan Allen, the publisher of MAGIC and me to attend the memorial. I have a fax here in front of me, dated February 16, 2000 from “Maharishi Veda Land, Inc.” It reads:
Dear John (Moehring),
As we discussed yesterday, it is my pleasure to pass onto you an invitation from Debby Henning for one or two people from your magazine to celebrate the life of Doug Henning. To be held in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 20th at the Bel-Air Hotel…”
So, Stan Allen and I went to the memorial, which was an event – an unusual event. You had some magic people and Doug’s family friends and some TM’ers It was a whole cross section of people from Doug’s life. But, there were not a lot of magicians there per se. It was a very private event with a total of only about 150 people there.
During the memorial, we’re all sitting there and Debby got up at the end to thank everyone for being there. She said, “I’m so glad you’re here for Dougie.” She used to call him Dougie. “Now he planned this whole thing. Before he died, he was really concerned about this event…He was concerned about “What would we feed them? (He said) I want my favorite dishes. I want macaroni and cheese. I want blueberry pie…”
So, as Debby’s saying this, the hotel staff pulled open the doors of the banquet room we were in and on the other side of the doors there was another banquet room with a big buffet of macaroni and cheese, blueberry pie, and all the stuff he wanted. In some ways it was funny, but it was really touching too. He planned the whole thing. Then as we were all leaving we were each given a yellow long-stemmed rose with tag attached that had a quote from the Maharishi. I’ve saved mine now for 17 years. It’s a little decrepit, but I saved mine and it’s all in one piece.
The memorial program, which was gorgeous, was like a magazine. It’s got great memories from all the people that were around him. There are quotes from the Maharishi, his friends, and from his sisters. Then right smack dab in the middle is the whole interview I did with him from MAGIC magazine; which shocked the hell out of me! Of course it also re-enforced my thought on how important it was for him to do that interview and say what he wanted to say.
How does it make you feel to have been the last person to interview him?
Well, I’m honored. It’s sad in a way that it was the last one he did. I’m honored that he trusted me enough to open up to me because to some people he wouldn’t have. We had a connection and he made a big impression on me even in the short time I knew him.
In closing, where do you see his place in magic history?
He’s the guy that brought it back to the masses. His approach was fresh, his presentations were fresh, his personality was fresh…Everything was fresh and bright, and again in the right place right time. You couldn’t take the Doug Henning of the 1970’s and drop him in the world today. It wouldn’t work. He was of the era.
“Timing is everything,” as they say in show business, and his timing was impeccable. Much of what the magic world enjoys today was built on the foundation laid by Doug Henning.
David Charvet. Thank you so much.
To read more about David and his work, please click on the link below: