The closing part of our interview with Jim covers an interesting, overlooked, and ultimately bittersweet time in the life of Doug. After retreating from the spotlight for many years, Doug had returned to Los Angeles with a seemingly renewed sense of vigor and love of magic. What this may or may not have lead to is hard to say, but Jim’s insights into the final year of Doug’s life are fascinating.
Did you know of his illness at the time?
We did not know. He never talked about being sick. He was back in LA, and I had met with him a couple times. Then quite suddenly you open your email and people are saying “Sorry to hear” and that was that…
Doug had recently come back from India (on a trip) and wasn’t feeling well…We visited him two or three days later and he had lost a tremendous amount of weight…and he did this thing where he said, “Yeah I was doing so great in India and then on the plane coming back I got sick.” Then you kind of go “You didn’t get that sick on a plane” …So, they (TM) wouldn’t talk about that stuff…
We had invited him to something in November of that year…and he sent a really nice email saying “Oh I would really love to come, but I just have a little flu. I’ve just really been under the weather. I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it.” Then of course in February, bang, we didn’t see it coming. I don’t think he wanted to advertise it….
In closing, is there anything that you learned from Doug that you try to carry with you in your life today?
Yeah, I would love to be as open and sharing as he was with me… He gave you experiences that got you excited about being in that field…What I didn’t realize until recent years now that he’s gone is that he didn’t talk about stuff that bothered him. You would have the impression that things didn’t bother him about his career…that it was fun and he was just excited.
What I realize now is that that hid a lot of stuff that wasn’t that way. I saw it on “Merlin,” and now I talk to people about “The Magic Show,” and now I realize it. We never heard about that stuff (from him). I would say that that’s a mistake that I still make. I still think about the hard parts of what I do…I would love to be able to do it the way Doug did it which is to be enthusiastic to people about what you should be enthusiastic about and not process the rest of that stuff…
That was what was refreshing about being around him.
“The Doug Henning Project” would like to give a sincere thank you to Jim Steinmeyer for sharing his thoughts with us. His time, attention, and suggestion of a good restaurant to meet at were very much appreciated.