In part two of our interview, Milt Larsen discusses Doug as a person, the magic community’s reaction to him, and the impact Broadway’s legendary”The Magic Show” had on the craft as a whole. Milt take it away…
It’s been said that his enthusiasm for life and his work always bubbled up at the surface. What were your impressions speaking with him as a person?
Well he was just one of the most delightful people in the world…He would travel a lot, but every time we would see him he was just a true gentleman…Unfortunately, he passed away seventeen years ago, so I wish I had had more time to be a close friend. I was a close friend, but I didn’t see him that much.
Can you talk about the impression of him from within the magic community at the time?
He was sensational. You know the thing about Doug was that he got prominence because of the Broadway show. But, one of his earliest television specials astounded the TV industry because he got huge ratings at a time when magicians were kind of not on television. Mark Wilson was one of the first magicians to have a network television show, but Doug because of the ratings that he got all of a sudden they said “My God, this guy’s selling tickets!”…
The magicians loved him because someone was bringing prominence to magic. They certainly weren’t throwing away their white ties and tails and tuxedos, but he was certainly respected by every magician because he certainly brought a fresh approach to magic. He had that all his life.
In your opinion, how important do you feel “The Magic Show” was to Doug’s career and magic as a whole?
Well certainly I feel it was a remarkable achievement to be the star of a Broadway show at his age. It had Steven Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell) doing the music…Everybody involved in it was huge and here’s this magic kid. You know Doug always looked like he was twelve years old and until the day he died he was a young looking guy. The thing there is that when he did that he got notoriety, but then he went onto his TV specials in the mid-70s and that’s what catapulted him into big stardom actually.
“The Magic Show” was great, but he was just one of the stars that happened to play the part of a magician….Later when he was doing his own shows he had some of the best people in the world working with him. His illusions were beautiful and he really brought a fresh approach to magic.
You have to remember that in the days of vaudeville…traveling shows like Thurston, Keller, and Houdini and all those people would take a show in a railroad car and where ever the railroad car went the show would go. Vaudeville theaters were all over the country and people could play vaudeville. So, when the Depression, World War II, and movies came along all that kind of dried up. Magic was kind of on a hold I’d say for quite a while. So, when Doug eventually came in there was not much magic in TV, movies, or anything…so when he got started he was certainly one of the earliest people that really made magic a must-see thing on television.
All good things must come to an end and tomorrow will be no exception! Join us then for our third and final act in the “Larsen on Henning” trilogy.