Chicago Tribune Interview: Part Two

Welcome back! For our second round, the article delves a little more in depth into Doug’s views on current magic and, in particular, David Copperfield’s recent Statue of Liberty disappearance trick! Enjoy.

Doug Henning Pulls New Secrets From His Hat To Hold Off Competition
By Larry Cart

Blowing minds has, of course, always been the magician`s goal, even though back in the mid-1800s Robert-Houdin, the founder of modern stage magic, might have put things differently.

But semantics aside, Henning has some intriguing ideas about the effect stage magic has on an audience and why a particular illusion does or doesn`t work–concepts he has either rediscovered or worked out on his own.

Perhaps chief among them–although it sounds so obvious that one wonders why all magicians don`t work this way–is Henning`s penchant for making himself the subject of his illusions, instead of adopting the role of the austere, aloof manipulator.

“That`s one of my greatest secrets,“ Henning says, “and it was one of (Harry) Houdini`s too. He escaped from jail, he walked through a brick wall and he was riding the elephant when it vanished. I started to do things that way on my early TV specials, and I think that`s one of the main reasons for my success.

“I don`t put a girl in a box and clap my hands three times and she`s gone. I get in the box, and I vanish and I reappear at the other side of the stage. That way people don`t think, `That`s a great illusion.` They think,`Doug`s a great magician.` “

One wonders what Henning thinks of some other young magicians who have been labled “great“–in particular, the very slick David Copperfield, whose trick of making the Statue of Liberty “vanish“ created something of a stir when it was shown on TV.

“Well,“ Henning says, “I have a policy of not saying anything negative about anything another magician does. But people all around the country have told me that the (Statue of Liberty) illusion didn`t work for them, and I think I know why.

“For an illusion to work, it must create a sense of wonder… After all, when you watch a magician, it shouldnt just be like trying to figure out a puzzle…”

The words “sense of wonder“ crop up so often in Henning`s conversation that one wonders after a while if “wonder“ still has any meaning. But Henning does have a reasonably precise idea of how we react to magic–a notion that, at the very least, has served him well and one that coincides with the response of more than a few bemused skeptics.

To be continued…

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