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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » All tied up! » » Escapology's heyday? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

DaiBato
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In terms of public awareness, was Houdini's career the pinnacle of publicity for the art of Escapology?

Dai Bato
Cliffg37
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I would think the 70's and 80's would be that. Several times a year you'd have a TV special with one escape or another doing spectacualr stuff.
Magic is like Science,
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Kevin Connolly
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I'll go with 1905 to 1915.
Please visit my website.
www.houdinihimself.com

Always looking buy or trade for original Houdini, Hardeen and escape artist items. I'm interested in books, pitchbooks and ephemera. Email [email]hhoudini@optonline.net[/email]
Harley Newman
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It's an academic question.

Houdini defined the artform so strongly to himself, that few performers since then, have been very creative with it. Look at how many use "-ini" as part of their stage names. Look at how many use archaic handcuffs. Look at how many, do the same old cr*p.

I have long maintained that had Erich Weisz not died when he did, his historical value would have diminished fast. His death, and the desire of Bess and others to keep his memory alive for fun and profit, are what made him what he is today.

I asked a question a few months ago. Nobody answered it. Did Erich Weisz actually originate anything? He was, without a doubt, one of the best publicists of modern history, which he learned from reading the Davenport's publicity and biography. But did he originate any of his performance material? That's in the past.

For the present...if you can engage the imagination of the audience, and do a great escape, then the art is at its peak. I know quite a few performers who do so. A couple of them actually post here.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

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Cliffg37
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Good question Harley.

Did he originate anything. You me and everybody else with an opinion in this matter all have one thing in common, we weren't there.

There is no doubt that he took credit for creating everything he did. Later in his career he had designers working for him. Did he design the wall penetration? or did one of him employees? The straight jacket escape? We will never know. I like to think that in his younger days, mostly handcuff work, that he did use his lock smithing skills to design his own picks and keys....But we will never know.
Magic is like Science,
Both are fun if you do it right!
thorndyke
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I'd say Kevin has it right, the period before the first world war seems to have had an abundace of EAs.
Wolflock
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He was the originator of Escapology as an Entertainment form and not a proof of power as performed by Native American Indians and Isangoma's of old. I believe he was the first to ever perform a SJ if I am not mistaken. I know that he was the first to fly a plane in Australia if that counts. Others here who are more knowledgable than I will help with this one.

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Wolflock
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Cliffg37
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My point seems to have become overshadowed or missed.

While the period prior to WW I certainly is full of EAs and Houdini himself, that wasn't the question. The question was in terms of public awareness. This is why the Vaudville years can not provide the answer. Houdini or one of his peers may have been the best, or maybe the hardest working etc. but until the advent of television, public awareness was limited to the larger cities. If people in teh suburbs saw a newspaper ad for the shows, they probably ignored them if they were in those newpapers at all.

This is why I feel that the 70s and 80s (featureing weekly Steve Baker stunts) on television raised public awareness the most. Ask any man in the street who was the greatest magicain of all time. You will probably get the answer "Houdini" Then ask what magic he did. Some won't know, some may say escapes. Ask for a specific trick he made famous. You will stump almost all of them.

Heck, I teach students who don't know who Einstein was. TV existed almost 10 years before he died.
Magic is like Science,
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DaiBato
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Great thread, guys. Very informative, thanks.

Dai Bato
thorndyke
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Cliff raises a good point. I can't recall seeing Steve Baker on any of the local stations. I would find out about his performances weeks or months after the fact in conversations with people who knew of my interest in these things. Also, newspapers occasionaly ran photos or articles on entertainment subjects, but I honestly can't recal seeing anything escape related in my area in that time. Try explaining what that time period was like to an age were people can see whatever they want at the push of a remote - the look you get when you tell them that if you were not at home in time for a show you missed it!
Wolflock
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Very good point. I have a nephew and Niece which have NO IDEA what an LP (Record) is. Or that there was actually a time when Internet NEVER existed. They just get blank looks on their faces.

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Wolflock
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CARNEGIE
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When I was a kid I thought Houdini was the only escape artist. Then I saw Doug Henning, who was not an escape artist do the Water Torture Cell. Amazing Randi was on TV a fair amount but only as a debunker, I never saw him do an escape. It wasn't until years later that I learned he used to do escapes.

The only escape artist that I can recall on TV when I was a kid was Steve Baker. And I saw him on TV a lot. I never expected to one day be friends with the guy, thankfully though it worked out that way. But friend or not, that guy did a load of TV back then.
CARNEGIE
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I tried to answer the question that was posed but I have since reread the question and would like offer a different thought.

"In terms of public awareness, was Houdini's career the pinnacle of publicity for the art of Escapology?"

The first wave came in the 1900s, the second wave came in the 70's & 80's and a bigger wave is on the way.

What I'm getting at, isn't it better to think that the heyday for escapes is ahead of us, instead of behind us? If it's only behind us then we are merely paying homage to something whos time has come and gone. But if we look to the future as a bigger heyday then we've all got an exciting future ahead. I for one believe the future is very bright for escapes!
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