Is there an illusion for you that stands out as a personal favorite?
I don’t think there’s any particular thing. His showmanship and some of the illusions he did on his shows were really old stock illusions. But, the way he did them and the approach to it he did them all in his own way…Anytime he did anything it became his and he put his mark on it. He had an exploding personality that carried over the footlights…very few people could do that.
What was the reaction in the magic community when he retired from magic?
I think everybody was surprised. He just literally decided to go live on top of a mountain and meditate…but I think everybody in magic just considered it a great loss. So, yeah, I think I was disappointed because he was such a presence in magic when he was doing it. Then all of a sudden it was “Whatever happened to Doug Henning?”
In the end, before he passed away he had major, major plans for a “Magic City” (Doug’s unrealized theme park known as Veda Land). If he had lived it probably would have happened because he had the backing of incredibly rich people and they could have built it. But, unfortunately, he passed away and who’s to say what would have happened had Doug lived.
Do you think he would have ever returned to magic had he lived?
Well, I think the theme park would have been magic. He thought of magic in a much broader sense than we (the magic community) do…I think Doug really figured that if he could do magic (such as) if he really wanted somebody to float why do they have apparatus to do that? All he would do was command them to float and they’d be floating. He never proved the point, but I think he could have done it.
I had great belief in him…
In closing, what lessons do you think Doug took from “The Magic Castle” that he carried with throughout his career?
Well, I think with “The Magic Castle” we were considered the innovators of bringing magic back…and I think all that influenced Doug very much. He saw it happening and then he started making it happen in his way. We profited in magic because of Doug Henning, and Doug Henning profited because of “The Magic Castle.” So, I think there’s no question about that…
A very big thank you to Milt Larsen for speaking with “The Doug Henning Project.” His time and insights were much appreciated. Also, special thanks to Harlan Boll for setting this up.