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Topic: What makes Houdini different?
Message: Posted by: fengenroll (Nov 23, 2004 05:27AM)
Hi, I have always had an interest in magic, still I have been on and off the last 10 years, but one thing I always have been wondering: When you talk to people who know nothing of magic, they all have heard about Houdini and of cause Copperfield.

I was just wondering why Houdini did that was different from other greats in that time period?
People still know about him even though he performed like 90 - 100 years ago...
F.
Message: Posted by: irossall (Nov 23, 2004 05:48AM)
You can sum it up with two words, "self promotion".
Houdini was the king of advertising and he knew how to work an audience (two key ingredients for sucess).
Much of Houdini's career consisted of challenging the public and especially police departments and locksmiths to secure him in locks, ropes, chains etc... and he would always escape (most always, his failures evaded the press). All of this can be summed up with one word "Showmanship".
Houdini would get the audience to join in by telling everyone to hold their breath the minute he had to hold his, I don't think many were able to keep up with Houdini, especially when many times he was not holding his breath as the audience believed.
I think that most people today if asked what did Houdini do, would say he escaped from locks and chains but few (other than those into Magic) would say he did Magic (cards, silks etc...).
Just my personal opinion, I am sure someone will have much more to say on this subject.
Iven :patty:

P.S. It was 78 years since the passing of the Great Houdini.
Message: Posted by: Rob Johnston (Nov 23, 2004 01:28PM)
I agree fully with Irossall. He was a master promoter, etc.

He was also one of the first escape artists to get into the public EYE. For that he is remembered.
Message: Posted by: Brent McLeod (Nov 24, 2004 07:11PM)
Irossall-sums it up very well-so well said!!


I still have more books on Houdini than any other!

His self promotion & showmanship as mentioned was so clever

Also keeping in the public eye-with no TV etc-His live straight jacket escapes & underwater escapes in boxes etc as well as challenging Authority in Jail escapes especially in Europe in the early part of last century he was a champion of the people-he was rejected by American agents until his fame in Europe was so big!!

So what does he do!!-Creates a new escape-Milk can with Water-incredible tense atmosphere in the theatre

Then the Chinese water torture cell-where he is visible for a few moments upside down in the water-again tense atmosphere!

He needs to perform magic as well-so he makes an elephant disappear in New York

I think this combined with a warp humour of people seeing a man struggle & possibly fail & die on stage combined with my opinion of -

"He had big Kahunas"!!!!!!-to even attempt what he did-earns my respect

What an Entertainer
Message: Posted by: London (Nov 25, 2004 10:49AM)
Houdini was a great at self promotion. But Houdini is different than others in the fact he was brilliant , work harder than most etc. But Houdini was not completely mentally stable. Not that tht is a bad thing because it helped him greatly. He was not driven by hopes of money and winning contest etc. He was driven by passion and obsession which are very very strong forces. Some one like him only come along every so many years or decades . Not just in magic but in many fields especially the entertainment industry. It was really an escape for Houdini , not just from jackets and wet sheets and coffins etc but a real escape into a world of his own, where he wanted to be and not in this world. Just my useless opinion.
Message: Posted by: donsmagic (Nov 25, 2004 07:57PM)
Bess Houdini and Edward Saint helped keep the Houdini legend alive and growing. Also the movie Houdini starring Tony Curtis helped too. I still get people that tell me that Houdini died in the Water Torture Cell.
Message: Posted by: daffydoug (Nov 26, 2004 05:33AM)
Funniest pictures, in my mind, are stories about how Houdini would have the audience holding their breath while he was in the water tank, but in reality, he was back stage sitting down reading the newspaper having escaped long ago, and was just waiting for the proper moment to end the effect. He stretched that out as loooong as he could. Gave the audience their money's worth!

That was the master!
Message: Posted by: JoeJoe (Dec 18, 2004 11:42PM)
I've said it before and I'll say it again ... history is written by the newspapers. The one thing Houdini did so well was get in the newspaper. As others have pointed out, he would challenge jails and invite his audience to bring their own handcuffs. All of this attracted the media, who in turn wrote the history books. Many magicians of the time have attested that others such as Carter the Great were much better magicians ... they just didn't get the same press.

His biggest achomplishment was the straight jacket escape. The straight jacket was designed to be escape-proff, marketed as escape-proff, and sold as escape-proff. They are rarely used today, mainly because Houdini figured out how to escape from one. To give you some idea of how big this was at the time, it would be like the public learning that it is possible that two people would have the exact same fingerprint.

That achomplishment drew him a lot of press, as he would roll into Main Street USA and be hung upside down from the general store and perform his impossible escape - todays audience see a straight jacket, they automatically assume the person can get out. That was not the case in Houdini's day. He did what everyone knew could not be done, and in turn they all wanted to see him do it. Here is a link to an article from 1916 where 20,000 people gathered to watch him:

http://www.uelectric.com/houdini/pittsbrg.html



One thing I have learned from studying Houdini was how he made things seem more impossible then they really were - like hanging upside down while doing the escape. He had learned that in order to escape from a jacket, he would need to be hanging upside down. But he never revealed that, he instead used it to make the feat even more impossible.

JoeJoe
Message: Posted by: mormonyoyoman (Dec 19, 2004 12:46AM)
Evidently, the guy was also a master of timing. I've read a number of first hand reports & correspondence, and he had his audience utterly on pins and needles -- staring at a blank curtain!! -- for 45 minutes or so. And just at the point when some men would express impatience and some women would be almost hysterical -- Houdini would walk through the curtains, dripping wet.

Some have said that modern, impatient (MTV?) audiences wouldn't hold still for it. I'm of the opinion that such a forceful personality could manage it, even today.

*jeep!
--Chet
Message: Posted by: Brent McLeod (Dec 21, 2004 06:54PM)
Joe Joe-

Thanks for sharing !!

A brilliant newspaperarticle-you are so right!

Every detail recorded & photos & huge crowds-WOW!!

The Legend continues to grow!!!!
Message: Posted by: irishguy (Jan 2, 2005 02:44PM)
[quote]
I was just wondering why Houdini did that was different from other greats in that time period?
[/quote]

Houdini was considered great simply because Houdini considered himself great...and would tell anyone who was within earshot.

He wasn't the most talented of magicians. His card skills were mediocre. But that guy could sell himself like no one else. He had drive.
Message: Posted by: saranacbo (Jun 7, 2005 07:33PM)
Yes, Houdini was indeed a brilliant promoter. From what I've read he had advance men go into towns before his show and be sure to jazz up the place with posters and probably newspaper promos too (can't remember exactly).

Moreover, he was an incredible showman. When he first did the straight jacket escape, he did it behind a curtain. But then when he came out a few minutes later, the audience wasn't really impressed because they figured someone helped him or it was somehow or other rigged.

After that, he'd struggle on stage, seemingly forever. That really jacked up the audience; made them a part of his struggle.

Interestingly, I knew three people who saw Houdini in person. One was my mother; the other was the man who taught me magic, and the third was an older gentleman I worked with. My mother and the man who taught me magic saw in in NYC, on stage. Just remembered him struggling endlessly.

The other man was German and saw Houdini in a small hotel in Germany in the early or mid-1920's, I think. He thought someone in the hotel's management knew Houdini personally and that's why he was there, because the venue was so small. He didn't remember anything specific. . . except of course how great he was.

A really weird note: An old guy in my town, originally from NYC, and pretty much a B.S. artist, while passing himself off as a man of the world, cornered me (this may be 20 years ago or so). He knew I did magic and proceeded to tell me the story of Houdini and the packing crate escape from one of the rivers in NYC.

In the movie, it had the packing crate crash through the ice and Houdini escape, only to be trapped under the ice and blah blah blah. He in fact had done a packing crate escape in that river, but the river was not frozen over (obviously, he knew more than to take that chance).

Anyhow, this guy told me he was a young fellow at the time, but he was there and saw Houdini go through the ice and all.

Of course he also claime to be Admiral Byrd's personal secretary as well.
Message: Posted by: FLIM-FLAM (Jun 17, 2005 04:27PM)
Harry Houdini = "Master of Promotion" & "Master Showman"
Message: Posted by: Antony Gerard (Jun 17, 2005 06:49PM)
Fengenroll asked: "I was just wondering what Houdini did that was different from other greats in that time period?" In my opinion it was because he was a master promoter and showman and he knew how to draw a crowd. Houdini didn't really do anything different, he did them more often and very well.

Take care and take cards
Antony Gerard

PS: It is common knowledge that Houdini was into avaition but it is not common knowledge that Houdini was an aviation pioneer. In fact Houdini was once quoted as saying “The magic of flight was a glorious thrill and that people may forget Houdini the great magician and escape artist but they will forever remember Houdini the aviation pioneer”.
Message: Posted by: Skip Way (Jun 20, 2005 12:59PM)
Speaking of aviation, as I understand it, Houdini was the first person to pilot an aircraft solo over Australia. And it is true that we remember the first & greatest showmen in their given genre - P.T. Barnum, John Philip Souza, Elvis Presley, the Beatles...ad infintum. They each captured the imagination and admiration of the common man in a way no one had to that point.
Message: Posted by: Antony Gerard (Jun 20, 2005 03:51PM)
Hi Skip Way

Skip Way said: "Speaking of aviation, as I understand it, Houdini was the first person to pilot an aircraft solo over Australia." The above statement is only part true. Though Houdini was an aviation pioneer and was the first to successfully take off and land a plane in Australia, he was not the first to pilot a plane over Australia. The catch word that Houdini used is "successfully". He successfully piloted a plane over Australia. Actually, there were already pilots in Australia before Houdini ever set foot on the continent, but they didn't successfully pilot their planes. They crashed or had to abort the flights.

The two paragraphs below are taken out of "The Funny Side Of Magic"

"It is common knowledge that Houdini was a pilot but is not common knowledge that Houdini was an aviation pioneer. In many of his advertisements Houdini claimed to be the first person to successfully fly an airplane in Australia. The statement is true, however, there is a catch. There was a flight school in Australia before Houdini ever set foot on the continent. The problem was the fact that the Australian pilots could not successfully take off and land their planes, hence they crash landed. When Houdini appeared on the scene with his new Voisin biplane that he had purchased in Germany for $5000.00 he succeeded in doing what the other pilots had not. He successfully took off and landed his plane at Digger’s Rest in Victoria Australia. A feat that he was very proud of.

After the flight Houdini said “The magic of flight was a glorious thrill and that people may forget Houdini the great magician and escape artist but they will forever remember Houdini the aviation pioneer”. I find it interesting that Houdini taught himself to drive so he could get to the airstrip where he was teaching himself to fly but for reasons never divulged, after the Australian tour he would never personally fly or drive an airplane or automobile again."


Take care and take cards
Antony Gerard

PS: Another bit of Houdini trivia is the fact that Houdini was the first person to use a robot as a character in a movie. That would mean that R2D2 and C3P0 are somewhat Houdini inspired characters. Just a thought.
Message: Posted by: God-glorified (Jun 20, 2005 07:56PM)
He was the first
THerefore
HE was teh best
case closed for me
Message: Posted by: magicusb (May 17, 2006 10:55AM)
Basiclly he invented it all, or brought it to the fore.

Dick Brooks and Dorothy Dietrich
Houdini Museum, Scranton, PA
New show, "HAUNTED!"
Message: Posted by: mark2004 (May 24, 2006 06:39AM)
[quote]
On 2005-06-17 17:27, FLIM-FLAM wrote:
Harry Houdini = "Master of Promotion" & "Master Showman"

[/quote]

I agree that Houdini was a master showman and a brilliant promoter, but his success was also down to technical skills and knowledge. He may not (as another posted suggested) have been particularly good at manipulation or certain other magic skills but he made sure he was good at the areas in which he decided to make his name. He put a lot of time an effort into the techical details of his stunts so that he could make them look dangerous while minimising the real dangers. He worked to make himself an expert in locks and other equipment and he studied and prepared for his stunts. That is a side of his success that we should be careful to remember because there have been too many would-be escape artists who have come to grief through over confidence.
Message: Posted by: Pete Biro (May 24, 2006 05:51PM)
Houdini was NOT the first to make a successful flight. His mechanic took the plane up before him to check it out and see if everything was OK. The Kangaroo leather flight jacket he wore for that flight used to be on display at the Magic Cellar in San Francisco, but was stolen when the club closed.
Message: Posted by: Kevin Connolly (May 24, 2006 06:30PM)
Houdini definetly the first to fly in Australia.
Message: Posted by: Rennie (May 24, 2006 06:46PM)
He is also in the Dictionary ;
HOUDINIZE, v.t. To release or extricate oneself ( from confinement, bonds and the like), as buy wriggling out, "Funk and Wagnells' New Standard Dictionary, issued in 1920. On the streets "to do a Houdini" had become a common expression for vanishing, breaking away. Through the length and breath of the land Houdini was regarded as the symbol of elusiveness and illusion.
Message: Posted by: ursusminor (May 31, 2006 01:07AM)
[quote]
On 2006-05-17 11:55, magicusb wrote:
Basiclly he invented it all, or brought it to the fore.
[/quote]

Hmmmm????

Bjørn
Message: Posted by: Steven True (Jun 1, 2006 08:03PM)
I have heard the story about his aviations in Australia. I also heard that even though he was into aviation he was supposed to be affriad of driving. Does anyone know anyting about this? I think I read it in one of the Gibson books. He had a picture of Houdini sitting in his new car but said he didn't drive because of the fear of it? Mybe wrong here,I have been before. He was a great showman and there is still that strange thing about him dying on Halloween. Kind of a strange day for someone like him to die on that day. He went after so many fake mediums and spirtialsits there was once a rumor out that he die on that day because they had something to do with it. Which we know is false. We will always wonder what else he would have done for our art if he had lived many more years. Tv,movies,newspapers will keep his name alive for many more years to come. I am glad that he was here and was able to give so many today the desire to want to learn and grow in the art of magic.

Steven
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jul 15, 2006 07:40PM)
[quote]
On 2005-06-07 20:33, saranacbo wrote:

A really weird note: An old guy in my town, originally from NYC, and pretty much a B.S. artist, while passing himself off as a man of the world, cornered me (this may be 20 years ago or so). He knew I did magic and proceeded to tell me the story of Houdini and the packing crate escape from one of the rivers in NYC.

In the movie, it had the packing crate crash through the ice and Houdini escape, only to be trapped under the ice and blah blah blah. He in fact had done a packing crate escape in that river, but the river was not frozen over (obviously, he knew more than to take that chance).

Anyhow, this guy told me he was a young fellow at the time, but he was there and saw Houdini go through the ice and all.

Of course he also claime to be Admiral Byrd's personal secretary as well.
[/quote]

This wouldn't have been Louis L. McCoy, would it?
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jul 15, 2006 07:42PM)
[quote]
On 2005-06-20 20:56, God-glorified wrote:
He was the first
THerefore
HE was teh best
case closed for me
[/quote]

The first at what?

There is, for example, a certain amount of doubt that he really was the first person to pilot a plane in Australia.

How did it get there?
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jul 15, 2006 07:44PM)
[quote]
On 2006-05-24 19:46, Rennie wrote:
He is also in the Dictionary ;
HOUDINIZE, v.t. To release or extricate oneself ( from confinement, bonds and the like), as buy wriggling out, "Funk and Wagnells' New Standard Dictionary, issued in 1920. On the streets "to do a Houdini" had become a common expression for vanishing, breaking away. Through the length and breath of the land Houdini was regarded as the symbol of elusiveness and illusion.
[/quote]

This was another example of self-promotion, a brilliant stroke, in fact. Consider this. "Houdinize" never made it into any of the other dictionaries, such as the Merriam-Webster or the OED. Why? Dr. Saint, who was Houdini's manager PAID Funk and Wagnall's to put the entry in.

See if you can find it in any later editions.

One of the ironies of Houdini's life was that he invented very little. He called himself "The Handcuff King," but he did not invent the handcuff escape.

He also stated that to call oneself a magician, one must master the cups and balls. There is no record of his ever performing the cups and balls.
Message: Posted by: Kevin Connolly (Jul 15, 2006 09:30PM)
Houdini was in a Funk and Wagnalls in 1917 and he(Houdini) never knew about it till 1918. Eddie Saint wasn't even in the picture.

Houdini brings his plane and cameras. Where is the other guy's proof? Sounds like grassy knoll stuff to me.

And yes, Houdini was the Handcuff King. Then, now and in the future.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jul 19, 2006 06:12PM)
When do you hold services at the First Church of the Perpetual Houdini?
Message: Posted by: MagiClyde (Sep 2, 2006 11:04PM)
Houdini, as far as I know, wasn't afraid to drive. Like many of his other interests, he would pursue it with a passion for a time and then abandon it completely.

Perhaps the best biography I have read on the man is from Milbourne Christoper. I believe the title is The Illustrated History of Houdini.

The one thing I know that Houdini actually feared was going on an ocean voyage. He suffered greatly from sea-sickness!

Houdini actually thought that people would remember him for his pioneering work in aviation, not for his escapes. History, it seems, has a sense of irony as well as humor.
Message: Posted by: MagiClyde (Sep 2, 2006 11:10PM)
As for who flew first over Australia, I am reminded of the words I read from an astronomer. He used to document everything from any project he worked on because 'If it isn't recorded, it never happened.' Just like in America, there was supposed to have been another man who flew a plane before the Wright brothers. No pictures, no proof. It's as simple as that.
Message: Posted by: bear trees (May 14, 2007 08:18AM)
I also read in a book by jc cannell I think that he taught soldiers how to fly a plane whilst in germany.
Message: Posted by: CAROLINI (May 14, 2007 02:43PM)
The main difference between all of us ...PRESENTATION.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (May 14, 2007 11:57PM)
[quote]
On 2007-05-14 09:18, bear trees wrote:
I also read in a book by jc cannell I think that he taught soldiers how to fly a plane whilst in germany.
[/quote]

J.C. Cannell did not teach soldiers to fly a plane whilst in Germany. Houdini may have.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (May 14, 2007 11:59PM)
Houdini's real secret was that he was determined to be the absolute best at everything he did. He spent a huge amount of money on advertising. He fabricated at least one of the awards he was presented when he was in Europe. He was a publicity hound. He knew how to sell himself. And he guarded what he considered to be his act with a passion.
Message: Posted by: gardini (May 20, 2007 06:36AM)
Houdini, with his planet sized ego, sharp eyes and great knowledge base on how things were down, drive to learn, were his greatest traits. The story I always liked about him he would find out if an magician was buried in the area that he was going to perform in and he would pay he's repect to him. Just how much of it was out of respect or for pulbicity, I don't pretend to know, but I do know this that it captured the hearts and minds of people where ever he went.

Gardini
Message: Posted by: Marshall Thornside (May 20, 2007 07:44PM)
Behind every sucessful magic man,
there's a very strong and an extremely
wise woman.

Mrs. Harry Houdini made sure her her
husband's name would stick around long
after she was gone.

Her goal after his death was to perpetuate
his name...probably also to keep her pretty
well healed in moola too.

A great self-promoter? Only when he was
alive. Otherwise, every great self-
promoter would hold just as high of
value on items signed, used or worn.

I think I'm close to be a great self-promoter,
but I'm sure that when I die, my music will
and so my name.

so that's not the reason.

Its the woman behind the man...
That's the secrete behind reason.
Message: Posted by: airship (May 21, 2007 02:59PM)
Houdini kept moving. He would develop something and perform it, and when the market became swamped with imitators, he would re-invent himself. He moved from magician to escape artist to spiritualism exposer, always keeping a few steps ahead of the crowd.
Message: Posted by: MagiClyde (May 24, 2007 12:32AM)
One thing that stands out, for me, was how hard working he was. One would almost have to paint him as obsessed with trying to squeeze every last ounce he could out of living.

Another thing that few people realize is that Houdini was extremely generous without seeking publicity for certain people or causes. He was definitely a more complex man than people give him credit for.
Message: Posted by: Banester (May 24, 2007 12:15PM)
The defining moment I think is what the poster was looking for. What was it that broke the ice and catapaulted him into the lime light.

I would have to say his first escape. Jim Stienmeyer has a great book called "Hiding the Elephant". I read it quite some time ago and I can't remember the specific point it turned his career around, but Jim does mention it.

Why is he remembered today. Well I would agree with everyone else who stated that he was a great promoter. Bess also helped Houdini and she worked very hard after he died to keep his name in the public eye making him a legend.

I have an audio tape of the last Seance where Bess finally agreed that Houdini could not come back. There were people tuned in from all over the world that night and groups set up all over the world. His brother was in New York, one of his friends had a group set up in London, and Australia, etc. And I would have to say that Houdini dieing on Halloween of all days even gives me chills.
Message: Posted by: Banester (May 24, 2007 12:18PM)
Here is a link to Jim's website. He has some great books on various performers and history.

http://www.jimsteinmeyer.com/

I loved the little book "Antonio Diavolo, A Souvenir of his Performance". It must have been quite a site seeing an automata in one of those poorly lit stages.
Message: Posted by: Steven Conner (May 24, 2007 06:41PM)
Houdini as an escape artist was probably the best ever. Why? He was the only one who challenged the world to keep him contained. Goes back to marketing. Whether simple or difficult, it was the impression he left.
Message: Posted by: Moxahalla (Jun 4, 2007 03:15PM)
And we mustn't forget...

Houdini DIED on HALLOWEEN (Now, THAT'S SHOWMANSHIP, brother!)

---which, created even MORE of the mystical & spooky legacy surrounding HOUDINI.
Message: Posted by: DStachowiak (Jun 4, 2007 07:48PM)
Not to mention the fact that, more than 80 years after his death, the mere mention of his name in a forum post can generate more replies than the next 22 topics on the page...