Some weeks ago, magic historian and writer Gary Brown reached out to me with his experiences of writing a 1997 Henning retrospective for “Genii.” It’s a fascinating tale of missed connections, and planting the seed in Doug’s mind that maybe just maybe he was appreciated.
First, I’m part of what I like to consider the Doug Henning generation of magicians. I grew up in an era when Doug made magic cool again. His seeming (and perhaps actual) genuineness, in my view, made it possible for magic to make a comeback on TV and on the stage – after decades of disconnect between magic and the public.
I saw The Magic Show on Broadway for my 11th birthday. Seats were good enough that I caught one of the cards that the hackneyed “bad” magician sprang into the audience (I think that was David Ogden Stiers), and got to meet Doug briefly after the show, at which time he autographed the card for me. That signed card was one of my dearest childhood possessions, resting proudly on a stand in my bedroom. At some point, I lost that card — on some level I believe that its loss may have driven me to become a magic collector and historian.
Fast forward a few decades, and I was an active writer for magazines like Genii, and I agreed to organize and write a Doug Henning issue in 1997. Doug was deeply enmeshed in the Veda Land period, so I tried to get an interview with him and materials about him from his staff. They were very guarded, though nice, but ultimately provided me with a form biography (about 8 pages) and the photo I sent you. No one has seen that photo in color, as Genii reproduced it only in black and white. I never got to speak to my childhood hero….
The issue came out well, and that cover art is quite fabulous. A few weeks after it came out, I came back to my office to find a fax discretely placed on my chair. It was a letter from Doug Henning! The content is quite interesting, as he seems to genuinely acknowledge not recognizing the affection that the magic community had for him.
I was reminded recently from Dean Carnegie’s work (and longer ago by an article by Michael Edwards) that shortly after these exchanges, Doug began showing up at magic shops and reintroduced himself to the magic community in a (perhaps typically) quiet way. I would like to think that, in some small way, my work helped ignite this rapprochement.
I tried to get the original letter from his staff, but no luck.
A very special thanks to Gary Brown.