Can you talk about the two times you saw Doug perform live?
For this interview, I dug out two ticket stubs from my collection. One of them is for “Merlin” on February 23, 1983. The other ticket was for “Doug Henning’s World of Magic” on Saturday, December 22, 1984.
I vividly remember going to “Doug Henning’s World of Magic” at the age of thirteen. I remember the moment when Doug walked onto the stage, I was sitting in Row O, 15 rows back. Doug was a tiny guy, but he appeared larger than life. When he walked onstage, his smile radiated to the back of the house… the audience went wild.
That show was incredibly polished. I remember that he performed the vanishing motorcycle, transporting it from one hanging cage to another hanging cage. He did a close-up set with a large projection screen. One of the tricks was a coin assembly where four silver coins jumped from the four corners of the table surface to one single corner. At the end, Doug produced a tiny turtle, and this made an incredible impact on me. It was a live turtle that just crawled out from underneath his hands and started walking across the close-up mat.
What are your recollections of “Merlin?”
The one thing I remember more than anything in Merlin was his performance of David Devant’s “Mascot Moth” illusion. This was an unrivaled opportunity. The night I attended there were no technical issues. It was a miracle. It was perfect. I knew it was coming because I had read about it. But even though I was primed, I had no idea how beautiful it could actually look.
A female assistant entered the stage wearing wispy, flowing robes. When she arrived at center stage, Doug made a dramatic magical gesture. A puff of smoke was released, and the girl (and her voluminous robes) completely vanished. The puff of smoke and the complete vanish of the girl clinched it, confirming in my teenage mind that Doug Henning was a genuine wizard.
How does Doug continue to influence you as a magician today?
I think that Doug was a product of his time. When I was a kid watching him wearing all the hippie clothing, I was wearing clothing that was not far off. My parents dressed me in stuff like that, too. Particularly denim and striped velour! So, I wouldn’t say that Doug necessarily influenced me in a continual ongoing way, but he certainly started me off on the route of wanting to become a magician.
There’s something to be said for a Part Two, and it’s a Part Three. Be sure to return this Thursday for just that!