During the mid to late 1950’s, there were two main places in Toronto, Ontario where local and visiting magicians would gather. (They were) The Arcade Magic & Novelty Store in the Yonge St. Arcade, and The Magic Counter in Eaton’s Toy Land that was run by Johnny Giordmaine.
The Ring 17 Hat & Rabbit Club monthly meetings were popular for members and guests…both Doug and I, as amateur magicians and under age to attend a lot of magic functions, were delighted when we were invited as guests to pop over…
I eventually auditioned and joined Ring 17. I’ll never forget Doug picking me up at home one club meeting night, and I as got into his car, he relocated a canvas bag off the seat so I could sit down. He had a case of equipment as well for a performance that evening. It turned out that it was his audition night. Although I do not remember his routine, he made a huge impression to all the other older members and myself when he picked up his walking stick, and turned it into a large writhing snake (his pet, a Python I believe)! I think he was the youngest to be accepted into the Hat & Rabbit Club. So, guess what I almost sat on that in his canvas bag on the seat of the car? That’s right!
We saw each other on a few occasions before he got his big break. I had relocated to Windsor, Ontario in the mid 60’s where I became very active in Ring 116 and Ring 22 in Detroit MI. and various Magic ventures including establishing my own shop, Ye Ould Magic Castle… Incidentally, my Mom would keep me up to date with newspaper clippings and updates on Doug from his mom. They were casual friends… through probably a Church Group or other.
Doug had moved from Oakville to Toronto in the 60’s. I remember him telling us of his big break at a club show my long time friend Ed Bruce and I attended. It was good to see Henning & Mars performing to this small intimate gathering.
Eventually Doug came to Detroit with his show, and my wife Nancy and I took a young magic student of mine with us. After the show, we waited around for the crowds to disperse and asked security if we could see Doug as I was an old Toronto friend. She took my name, and a short while later came back and said Mr Henning will see you now… It was like the old days meeting him again, and I wish he had more time. But, he gave up some of his meditation time just for us!
We enjoyed those few private minutes to reminisce, and he autographed his new book on Houdini, and sent some personalized photos at a later date…
That was the last I heard from him until he was running for government office in The Natural Law Party in Toronto.
Special Thanks to Johnny Ould for taking the time to share his remembrances