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Danny Borneo
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Quote:
It's even more questionable whether he could have written coherent reports, without a ghostwriter.


Harley, I absolutely love this statement. I'm quite the Houdini fanatic, but it's more of a fascination with the truth of who he really was vs. the myth that he became, he's my favorite megalomaniac. I've always said that he was probably the worst author in the history of this country, although L. Ron Hubbard runs a close second Smile
jay leslie
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Maybe it's just a moot issue
but
why not see if any information is still on the books
THEN
you can question the author about his sources

eh?
Kevin Connolly
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For a guy that only went to third grade, from an immigrant home, Houdini did very well with the lingo. You may want to ask any adult illegal alien with 10 years here if he/she could read/write/speak English at Houdini's level.
Please visit my website.
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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]
Danny Borneo
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I'm in no way attacking immigrants or their grasp of the English language. I was simply making a comment as to the state of the authorship of the books he actually wrote. Reading something like "Miracle Mongers and Their Methods" is a daunting task since it is grammatically atrocious but I still appreciate it for what it is, a look into the thought process (how ever skewed that may be) of a man who is literally an American legend, something I know I myself will never be. When I say I'm a fan of his I mean it, I have several tattoos dedicated to him and a large collection of memorabilia (as I know you also do Kevin), but I try to educate the lay public as to what I have grasped from all the material I've read on him, he was not a kind individual to either his peers or competitors, he was not a great "magician" but always strived to be. Many of his competitors at the time (ie Blackstone) where much better performers but lacked the "marketing" know how or ingenuity that H had. I could go on, but the fact of the matter is that no one at this point in time knows or will ever know what the man was really like and we each have to make our own assumptions and judgements based on the small bits and pieces of info out there.
jay leslie
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Quote: "but the fact of the matter is that no one at this point in time knows or will ever know what the man was really like and we each have to make our own assumptions and judgements based on the small bits and pieces of info out there"

Danny, Jim Swoger met him and told me about the hour and a half he spent with him. I'm sure there are a few others who have met him too. if these people are 92 or better they might shed some light. Jim also knew a locksmith that Harry had on retainer so I was privy to a few stories on how he operated. There are still some people alive that have known the man. (Probably not in another ten years though)

Finally, He had a large library that indicates the ability to read and write on his own.

Doc... just for fun... let's see if there are any records.
Danny Borneo
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Well thanks for shedding light on that Jay. I definitely stand corrected hahaha. I sort of jumped the gun with my statement, when I was saying no one, I guess I actually meant to say the bulk of the magic community. I wasn't really thinking of some of the people that are longer in the tooth than myself, I guess I should have clarified that.

Of course his library is also a thing of legends. I'm not denying the fact that he could read and write. Just saying there were some things he was better at than others.

Of course no man is perfect.
jay leslie
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And I'm not denying that he probably had a secretary following him around taking notes that could have been used as the basis for books
Harley Newman
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I've read that he took notes on scraps of paper, and then tried to make sense of them later. For a couple of his books, he ended up hiring a ghost writer.

I'm not sure if he had a g-w for Magician Among the Spirits. I've read that the original ms was much longer, and more fragmented to read.

H wanted to be known for excellence. He (obviously) wasn't a stupid man. He certainly felt inferior in many ways...height, background, education, and fought hard to give himself a better self-image. I'm not sure if his publicizing was meant more for the public or for himself, but it probably helped both. He wanted to be known as intelligent, so he had to write books.

I think it's amazing, how he had to battle the world. That's a lot of what his escapes were about, and there's no doubt that he was a brilliant EA. To be a good magician, meant telling stories in a very different way than he was used to, and he just wasn't able to pull it off.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

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Kevin Connolly
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Quote:
On 2007-11-27 14:39, Danny Borneo wrote:
... he was not a kind individual to either his peers or competitors, he was not a great "magician" but always strived to be. Many of his competitors at the time (ie Blackstone) where much better performers but lacked the "marketing" know how or ingenuity that H had. I could go on, but the fact of the matter is that no one at this point in time knows or will ever know what the man was really like and we each have to make our own assumptions and judgements based on the small bits and pieces of info out there.


Of course he helped fellow magicians. He asked Kellar to hire Foo after Soo knocked him off his pearch. Houdini helped Adelaide Herrmann when she hit a tough streak. Not to mention magicians that he had on his charity dole.

IF Blackstone was a better magician, Houdini had him and the rest in showmanship.
Please visit my website.
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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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I disagree. Not all performers have the showmanship to do different kinds of acts. Many are specialists. It doesn' t mean that they can't do other things as well, just that they don't do them AS well.

That we can sing, doesn' t make us Pavarotti. That we don't fall down when we think of ice, doesn't make us Scott Hamilton.

Nobody comes even close to me, with beds of nails, but I'm just passable with fire. And sleight of hand...I have trouble with buttons, forget cards, or sleeving.

Houdini's best genre was doing escapes, within the structure of vaudeville, so 20 minute sets, several times a day. He started as a sideshow performer, and that's the sideshow format. It has a particular sense of timing, a certain kind of stage presence. It's a very different thing, to go on a stage, and take the full evening, as Blackstone did. To compare them, is an apples and oranges thing.

Even today, I've met a lot of magicians who have an act that's 12 minutes long, and they think it's a lot. To me, that's just enough time to warm up.

H only did a full-evening show, the last few weeks of his life. His ticket sales were not good. His reviews were not good. I think that if he hadn't died when and as he did, he probably would've faded from public consciousness.

Houdini as a helper to others...well, maybe to folks who were no competition to him. You need to read the Rauscher book, Kevin. And not all the stories were written down. The father of one of my friends, was one of H's mechanics. I've heard some stories that wouldn't make it into one of the standard bios.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

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Kevin Connolly
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I've read the Rauscher book. If you know the author, you know the slant to the work. I have never said a word about this book since it was published. I will not say anything more about. I know Bill and don't want put anthing between us.

Without going to the files, Houdini did at least two years and scheduled for a third with his full evening, 3 in 1 show. A few weeks in certain cities is maybe what you meant. Blackstone was the one didn't know it was the end and probably closer to the truth. He didn't do his act between movies because he was a draw.

Bottom line is this, to say Houdini was just a magician, is unjust. As we all know of his interests, he was more than just a magician.
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]
Kondini
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To look from a different angle,,,he was just a man,,doing a job,,, the likes of his audience gave him the credability the hero worship and fame. Look at this thread, we are here still perpetuating the myth.

Just think what he could have done and achieved if he were here today! Right now more famous in death than in life. The Chinese whispers gathering size as the years go on.

I am no Houdini expert but having spent too much time delving into certain aspects of his life what strikes me most is his use of the people around him at the time,,,his ability to think on his feet and capitalise on his own self made publicity,,,a true showman.
One name which is never mentioned is that of Alan Burford,,,one of many who I am sure put more into his success than he did himself.

A spy! James Bond of the past !!! Where will it all end,,, I think with the fame of the name there will be more to come,,,,just so long as there is a buck or two in it for the authors!!!

I have it on great authority that he was sent here from the planet Zogg,,, I am at present writing this factual story which will be sold at the Crop Circle Café in Avebury,,release date April 1st 2008.

Ken
fireperformer911
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The book says he worked for Secret Service which I guess was before the CIA. What about the challenge escapes do you really think they took such a toll on him as the book describes? I think it was no different than todays stunt men.
GreatWizardoftheEast
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Quote:
On 2007-11-27 17:27, Harley Newman wrote:
And not all the stories were written down. The father of one of my friends, was one of H's mechanics. I've heard some stories that wouldn't make it into one of the standard bios.


I'd love to hear some of the stories Harley, if you are willing to share them. Houdini was no saint, but history has had a way of painting him like that. Still I am fascinated by the man.

Harold
Harold White
Kevin Connolly
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Definetly different from todays stunt man. Houdini worked six/seven days a week. Doing the escapes 2/3 per day. Now throw in public appearances for the upside down straight jacket, bridge jump, etc. The schedule was grueling. I don't think a stunt man would hold as long.

As for taking its toll, it sure did. Houdini mentions it many times in his diaries. Something to the effect " This is killing. Have to find a better way." My feeling is that all the escape and upside down work had an affect on his organs, especially the appendix.
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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I think most of his challenges, weren't. It was a great way to publicize himself, and his sponsors. Once in a while, I'm sure he was backed against the wall, and had to deal with it. It's the nature of the beast.

Many of us know about the 100' rope challenge, and others of its ilk. A real challenge?...rarely. In a way, they're not fair. We have so much more experience than our tiers, but then, fair has nothing to do with it. It's all about putting on a good show. Or it should be.

H probably had a diet that would be considered unhealthy, by today's standards. His work kept him in pretty good shape, but years of physical abuse take their toll. When you're older, strained ligaments, broken bones, pulled muscles all have a way of not healing the way they did when you're young.

I know that's true for me (but at least the cuts heal). I'm the same age as H when he died, and have been doing stunts and escapes for about 25 years. Before that I did 10 years of slapstick comedy, very physically demanding. I get up most mornings, and wonder why I do this to myself. Then I say, it's not that I healed faster then...it's just that I was more oblivious to it. And then, I DO love the work.

Hanging upside down can be a strain on the circulatory system, but one can train for it. Look on eBay, and you'll find inversion tables, reasonably priced, which are perfect for such training. They benefit your back, neck, and shoulders, and are a great way to do crunches.

The appendix, as a vestigial organ, has little function except to get infected, perhaps when some piece of undigested food gets stuck in the corner of the cecum, off which it hangs.

If H had had the infection 10 years later, penicillin would have just been discovered, and he might have lived. As it was, the most effective antibiotic was echinacea, which has some value, but not much.

The job of the Secret Service is to protect the US president, and it's been around for a long time. CIA was created from the OSS, after WW2, and is about international espionage.

Maybe one of these days I'll tell some of the stories. For now, they're not mine to tell.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

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Kevin Connolly
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If he had the infection 6 months later he may have been saved with a sulfur treatment. Also, the infection may have come from operation had in the weeks prior to his death.

I don't think wriggling on a rope in straight jacket or under water in the Cell is the same as hanging upside down to help your back. I may be wrong.

Throw out the 100 foot rope escape. Put in escapes from embalmed turtle, wet sheets, surgeon's thread etc. Now compare.
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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Underwater is a lot easier on the ankles.

I'm not convinced that all of the more exotic challenges happened. Some, maybe, but not all.

H learned almost everything he knew about publicity (at least, at the beginning of his career), from reading the Davenport biography. The author, their sometime manager, claimed they'd done some things that, if we look at it with our specialized knowledge, we can surmise to be highly unlikely. But the way they structured their PR, some of the challenges they accepted, some claims they made...all were copied flat out by Houdini. Here's a link to it. It's a must-read. BTW, that website has a lot of other great stuff.

http://www.spiritwritings.com/BiographyBrothersDavenport.pdf

My understanding of his infection, was there was evidence that he'd had a number of previous bouts with appendicitis. The precipitating factor was the blows to his side, which ruptured it. Peritonitis was a foregone conclusion at that point. It's still not the easiest thing to cure now.

We could quibble about his full-evening show. He'd done a couple of years of the exposure show, as a full-evening thing. But he'd just started on his first tour with a full-evening magic show, and it wasn't going well. Bess had a substance-abuse problem, and had returned to NY. The receipts weren't what H expected, the reviews generally poor. His name was made as a brash, pugilistic kind of guy who could and did take on the world. He didn't have the personality to pull off suave.

I think he'd painted himself into a corner, with his myth. He knew he had to change, but didn't know how, or where to go. Kind of tragic, really.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

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Kevin Connolly
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The turtle was real. There is a picture of it in a newspaper on the net. Wet sheets is pictured in Houdini books.

Underwater easier? When 50+, 10-15 times a week, throw in the other escapes and publicity work. Definetly took its toll.

The show was going into its' third season, not first.

You paint Houdini with a broad brush and really underestimate him. It sounds like the rant from the ones that couldn't compete against him.
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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No, Kevin, I don't underestimate him. He had an important historical place, and even though he's been dead for 80 years, a lot of folks won't let him lie. His image could easily have faded, had Bess's seances not kept it alive.

Was he a powerful performer? Absolutely. Was he a good person? No. The ego that made him one, got in the way of the other.

I'm not a shut-eye hero-worshipper, a type of person that's all too common when magicans and Houdini are named in the same breath. I think he defined the artform of escapes so strongly to himself, that even now, I know few EAs who can think outside his box. He attacked anybody he saw as a competitor, verbally and sometimes physically, whether you accept the evidence or not. He almost killed the artform.

H did serious escapes for 30 years, and painted himself into a corner. He'd been there, done that, and had nowhere else to go with it. He educated his audience so well, about his ability to escape, that as society changed, his image became somewhat blase. Oh, he's going to escape again. What a surprise.

He tried movies, and couldn't cut it. He held patents for movie processes, though he certainly didn't have the chemistry background to support it. He ran his spiritualist exposure show for a few years, which I view as a good thing, but in his quest to destroy the spiritualists, he killed the salability of the show.

If I never again saw an EA invoking H's name onstage or in PR, I'd be happy about it. If they're good performers, they should be able to stand on their own feet.

I get the impression that Hardeen was a far better performer, though he lived in H's shadow.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

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