NY Times “Merlin” Interview: Part 4

 So, as we wrap up this week on “Merlin” it’s interesting to think of what could have been had it run longer. But, the fact that we are still talking about it means some of the “magical musical’s” incantations and spells might just still be lingering. See you soon!

Published: February 13, 1983

There was no one like him when he first appeared before audiences conditioned to the macho persona of the classic stage magician. On stage he is as upbeat as a counterman in a sunbelt McDonald’s, a sunny elf whose magic seems to unfold effortlessly about him.

Mr. Henning gives meditation much of the credit for his peace of mind, his bubbling enthusiasm and the quality of his illusions. It was during the Broadway run of ”The Magic Show,” when Mr. Henning was at the height of his unhappiness, that he began meditating. He has been practicing Transcendental Meditation for nine years now. He is having a house built in Fairfield, Iowa, near the school established by T.M.’s founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He met his wife Debby, now 28, at a retreat there in 1981. The two of them meditate twice a day, often in Mr. Henning’s dressing room. They have yet to detect the lingering aura of Mickey Rooney, who inhabited the space during the run of ”Sugar Babies.”

Mr. Henning makes a distinction between illusionary magic, which he performs, and real magic, which he doesn’t. ”It’s illusionary if it’s hidden by the skills of the magician,” said Mr. Henning, ”and the cause of the magic is known to present day understanding of the laws of nature.

”Real magic is different,” he continued. ”The cause is not known by current science – it’s beyond our understanding. This includes telephathy, psychokinesis, clairvoyance and the universe – I do include the universe among these magical things.”

Magic is a celebration of the ”joyous unknown” for Mr. Henning, and he says that performing it is a part of his quest for – yes – enlightenment. ”My goal is to be enlightened,” he said, ”so that my mind can ultimately control the laws of nature. I hope to do real magic. I believe I’m very close to it.”

What would be the ultimate magic show? ”The ultimate performance,” he answered, ”would be a show that breaks all boundaries, and that would enlighten the audience. What I’d do would so impress the audience that they would know what it is possible for them to do.”

He is not the first magician to ride this particular carpet, of course. Houdini was there first. ”Houdini was a seeker too,” Mr. Henning agreed. ”He wanted to do real magic. He went searching everywhere for the real thing – he found himself going to spiritualist seances and exposing them for the frauds they were.”

Mr. Henning hinted about a feat of true magic he is working on now which, if all goes well, might be ready in some months. He wouldn’t say what it was. Didn’t Houdini drop such enigmatic hints too, to whet his fans’ anticipation?

”I think I can succeed where Houdini failed,” he replied softly. ”Houdini never found what he was looking for because he looked in the wrong place – outside himself. I’m looking within.”

One Comment Add yours

  1. LARRY WILFONG says:

    Have a MAGICAL week-end!

    LTM (Larry the Magish) 🐰



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