In this two part article, magician Richard Sherry has graciously agreed to recount for “The Doug Henning Project” the times he spent with Doug as a teen growing up in Canada. It’s a fascinating window into the life of a young Doug Henning and the positive effect he had on the people around him…
Growing Up with a Legend
By Richard Sherry
Back in 1971 my friend David Fraser and I joined the Society of Canadian Magicians. The meetings were held at the Inn on the Park hotel in Don Mills, Ontario once a month. With a membership of 200 people (or more) I met a lot of incredible magicians including Sid Lorraine, John Giordmaine (who was on the Captain Kangaroo show, Howdy Doody, and the Ed Sullivan show to name a few), Uncle Bobby Soxer, and a young Herb Morrissey…. These are just a few of the many talented magicians that attended these regular meetings, but the biggest by far to come out of them was Doug Henning.
When my friend and I would walk into the meetings we were usually late because we had to take the bus from Brampton to Don Mills. There would always be a group around an enthusiastic little man with long hair. Henning was not yet famous, but he stood out among the other magicians for a reason I could not understand. I befriended Doug Henning through these meetings. I would sit beside him whenever I could get a seat, and I always found him to be a genuinely generous man. I have never seen anybody so enthused about magic, and so willing to share his knowledge and excitement.
I remember sitting beside him during an auction and he had just bought a pair of linking rings and he took the time to show me, a kid 12 years younger than him, these rings and what made them so special. To this day the Linking Rings are still one of my favorite tricks to perform.
Doug had told me that if I wanted to be a magician I should study psychology, and he had even given me a print out of the topics I should pursue. At the time, I never understood what he meant by the importance of understanding psychology when performing magic. But,it is advice I have grown to appreciate in my years as a performer…
I was a first-hand witness to Doug Henning’s meteoric rise to stardom. I remember reading a TV Guide article when I was a kid which listed Toronto magicians and their rates. Doug Henning was at the top of the list making the most money with his assistant at $75 per show performing on campuses and in coffee shops. Doug could also be found performing with local bands at the time such at Lighthouse.
The first big break that I saw in Doug’s career was when he went from performing at coffee shops to performing at the “Toronto Sportsman Show.” It was advertised that he would produce a black panther. As time went by Doug was at the magic meetings less and less because of his incredible rise in fame.
Grumblings around the club were that Doug was putting together a show to be performed at the Royal Alexandra Theater. This theater seats 1497 people and is the oldest continuously operating legitimate theater in North America. Rumor had it that he was to quickly put together a show to fill a spot that was vacated by a cancelled show.
To Be Concluded Tomorrow…