Over this week, I will be featuring an interview I conducted recently with acclaimed New York magician Steve Cohen. Steve is very well known in the magic and entertainment communities for his must-see show “Chamber Magic.” This intimate evening harkens back to magic salons of the past, and over the last twenty years has become one of the most popular magic shows in the country.
Steve was kind enough to share with me his thoughts regarding Doug, and how he influenced him as a boy and beyond…
Can you tell me your earliest memories of watching Doug on TV?
I remember seeing Doug Henning perform on television when I was around six or seven years old. I was born in 1971, so I’m guessing that was probably around 1977.
His specials always aired around the holiday season. I remember this because we’d go to my grandmother’s house for a Hanukkah dinner, sit around the television and watch him on TV.
Were there any illusions that stood out for you at the time?
The first memory I have is “Things that go Bump in the Night.” I remember seeing those bobbing handkerchiefs emerge from the box and wondering what was underneath. That number really captured my imagination.
Another memory that I have from one of Doug’s early TV shows was the Water Fountain Levitation. Something about that routine really spoke to me. It was so elemental. Watching his specials really made me want to become more like Doug. His TV appearances really inspired me to want to become a magician.
What was it about his stage presence that drew you in at that time?
Well, when you watched him on TV, he really transcended the television set. You felt he was in your living room.
I remember talking to (magician) Paul Daniels shortly before he passed – we performed together at an event in Portugal. Paul said that close-up magic was made for television, and vice versa. Television was made for close-up magic because a card being held at your fingertips can fill the entire screen, just the same as a person’s body. To someone watching at home in their living room, televised close-up magic feels real, as if they’re sitting directly across from the magician.
In a similar way, when Doug would smile on TV, his big kooky smile played right through the television, and into my living room.
Be sure to return tomorrow for Part Two where Steve discusses the two times he saw Doug perform live!