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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Magicians of old » » Houdini's original right hand man (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

houdinisghost
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Franz Kukol was born in Austria on the same day that Ferenc Deszo Weiss (Theo Hardeen) was born in Buda-Pest Hungary: Mar 4, 1876.
I have discovered that Franz worked with Houdini on the full-evening show in 1926 under the name Frank Williamson. In the Paligenesia photo, Vickery is about to have his head cut off, Collins is holding the swords, and Kukol/Williamson(sans the Kaiser Wilhelm mustache) is holding an arm.
Review King
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I go by the Tony Curtis film for any factual information!

:rotf:
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the saddest are, "It might have been"

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Kevin Connolly
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Good choice! You could do worse.
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]
houdinisghost
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On August 25, 1914, "Frank" Kukol applied for naturalized citizenship. He renounced all foreign governments and signed an oath of allegiance to the United States. His application was rejected: "not enough information." In it, he documented that his wife Anna and their two children, Marie and Harry were living in Austria.
The Conjuring Record for Sept. 1914 carried the following:(Special Despatch to the Record)
OBEYS CALL TO WAR;
HOUDINI LOSES ASSISTANT
New York, September 3.—Mr. Franz Kukol, one of Harry Houdini's chief assistants, was called by his country, Germany, to the front. He left at once to fight for the cause of the Fatherland. Kukol assisted Houdini in his escape from the water cell and other experiments.
There is some evidence that Kukol continued to work with Houdini, in the U.S. at least until America entered the War.
On Sept 12, 1918, both Harry Houdini and Frank Kukol registered for the draft at the same New York office.
Then Franz AKA Frank Kukol disappears.
I was told that the $500 bequest that Houdini left to Franz Kukol was sent to a New York address. Perhaps someone could help me on this.
If Franz was in New York when Houdini died, he would have to have been a pallbearer. Unless, perhaps, he was afraid of being picked up.
Franz wasn't a pallbearer, but, Frank Williamson was.
I thoroughly believe that Frank Williamson was Franz Kukol.
After the funeral, Frank Williamson disappears from history--so far.
I think Houdini made Franz disappear. That rejected application for naturalized citizenship along with the signed loyalty oath kind of made Franz a man without a country.
houdinisghost
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I've got a couple more things:
Houdini played the Maryland Theatre Twice in 1916. I don't know whether the clipping this quote is from is from the Feb engagement or the April return engagement. Nor do I know what paper it is from (might be the Baltimore Sun). The article says, in part: "Three of Mr. Houdini's assistants are Englishmen. The fourth is a German. 'I do not have to read the newspapers to learn about the war,' he said. 'Every once in a while I have to rescue the German from the Englishmen. They actually get to the coats-off stage in some of their arguments. It's all very funny to me, but they are not joking about it.'"
Great Britain declared war August 4, 1914.
Franz Kukol applied for citizenship August 25, 1914 but was denied.
In September 1916, Houdini announced Franz had been called back to service in Austria and had left immediately.
In 1916, Houdini joked about the conflicts between his German and British assistants.
The U.S. declared war April 6, 1917.
In 1918, Houdini and Franz (Frank) Kukol registered for the draft on the same day at the same office.
I have a loose quote (n.d., no source) wherein Houdini tells an interviewer: "One of my assistants, an Austrian, was with me for 16 years. I had to let him go after our country declared war on Germany." I'm trying to find the source now, but, it's an accurate quote.
Then there is Kellock. Even Silverman relied on Kellock in some matters. On page 282, Kellock writes: "His relations with his assistants were stormy and deeply affectionate. One, Franz Kukol, was with him for twenty years and named his child for Houdini. James Collins and James Vickery served him for eighteen years. All three adored Houdini. They carried him to his grave."
No, James Collins, James Vickery, and Frank Williamson carried him to his grave.
Houdini's greatest metamorphosis may have been changing Franz Kukol into Frank Williamson.
houdinisghost
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"Frank Williamson" is standing by the Morritt "Hello Summer" illusion in the Big Show Photo in the Henning book; and he is holding Vickery's severed arm in the Paligenesia photo in the Kellock book.
That's Franz (Houdini always spelled it "Frantz") Kukol, without his mustache, combing his hair differently, and 14 years older than the last photos we've seen of him.
Now, a couple of other things. Houdini always spells Franz Kukol's name "Frantz." Hardeen's birth name was Ferencz. When Hardeen got arrested at a Cunning performance, he gave his name as "Theodore Frank." In his will, Houdini leaves his equipment to his brother, Theodore Frantz Weiss. --Might have been a slip. Are these all the same name in different languages: Magyar, German, Austrian, and English?
Letter to Jim Bard Oct. 11, 1908
P.S. Frantz gets married October 29th!!!!!!! To an old girl of his. He intends to carry her with him. I presume you know he has a baby girl 7 years of age. He did the trick a short time before he joined you. HH
The girl Franz married was Anna (b. 15 Oct 1878) and the baby girl was Marie (b. 1 May 1901).
This is from an Unidentified clipping dated 13 Jun 1913. When the article says on the 2nd of this month, it is referring to March. UNLESS, the ceremony went over so big, HH and Frantz repeated it in June at the Newport Empire.
The ceremony actually took place at the Finsbury Park Empire, in London, March 2, 1913
PUBLIC PRESENTATION TO HIS CHIEF ASSISTANT.
A good assistant is one of the most valuable assets a magician can possess. He ensures the smooth running of the show on every occasion; he attends to all mere routine matters, and leaves the mind of his master free to grapple with the more difficult problems; he is a time saver, a money saver and a worry saver. Many magicians do not realise this, or at any rate do not acknowledge it. Some, however, are fully appreciative. An instance of this has just been brought to our notice. All who are well acquainted with Mr. Harry Houdini and his stage work know how ably he is served in the matter of assistants.
The chief of these is Franz Kukol. He completed ten years' service with Mr. Houdini on the 2nd of this month. Some masters would have allowed the occasion to pass without recognition or even comment. Not so Mr. Houdini. When he stepped on to the stage of the Newport Empire that night he asked for the indulgence of the audience for a few moments while he addressed a word or two to his Chief Assistant. Then, turning to Franz Kukol. he thanked him for his ten years of faithful service, and in recognition of it. presented him with a gold watch and albert. Kukol was taken entirely by surprise, and could only reply in faltering tones, "Thank you. sir. I've done my best, and shall always try to do so." But that little unstudied speech put the matter in a nutshell. On the one side of the stage was Mr. Houdini, a good master; on the other was Franz Kukol, a good servant.
Each understood and appreciated the other. And the audience understood and appreciated both. There were loud cheers from all parts of the house. The audience enjoyed the ensuing performance all the more because of that pleasant and very human prelude. And the business relationship between Mr. Houdini and Kukol was yet more firmly cemented.
So Franz started with Houdini March 2, 1903.
This item from Houdini's magazine is interesting.
April 15, 1908 Conjurers' Monthly magazine (Your Questions Answered Here)
Frantz Williamson, Elberfeld, Germany.
The packing case trick with the boards studded with sharp nails was introduced by Houdini while with the Corty-Althoff Circus in Dortmund. The idea was taken from the Spanish Inquisition torture instrument known in history as "The Maiden."
I don't think there was a real Frantz Williamson. I think it was a plant so Houdini could establish a claim on the effect.
Frank Saltman has just reminded me of a letter he has a copy of. The letter has to do with an accusation that the photo of Houdini and Teddy Roosevelt that Houdini was using in his publicity was a paste-up, that Houdini and the former president were never photographed together.
The letter, dated Sept. 4, 1924, is from Houdini to Mr. R.W.G. Vail of the Roosevelt Memorial Association at 28 E. 20 St., in New York City. In it, he refers to "my chief assistant and photographer ... Mr. Frank Kukol will call on you personally and give you further details...." Houdini explains that photo and others were taken by Kukol.
By the way, Houdini and his crew were catching the "last boat out of Germany" before hostilities erupted when those photos were taken.
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Franz, Franzl are Austrian (German) variants of Frank. Ferenc is the Hungarian version of Frank. The spelling Ferencz is probably a variation of that. Frantz is a spelling that was used by people who came over here from Europe so that their names would be pronounced correctly by English speakers. The letter "z" in German sounds like "tz" in English.

You will occasionally see the name Weiss spelled Weisz. The double s is also called ess tzet in German. It originally was sz. Some of these spellings are simply affectations. Many languages have gone through what one might call "orthographic cleansing" in the last 75 years or so. The idea is to make the spellings used in one part of a country the same as the spellings used in another.
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houdinisghost
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There is some wonderful footage of Franz Kukol in the 1907 bridge jump footage on the Kino Houdini the Movie Star 3 dvd set Special Features.
On the same dvd, "Frank" has a nice little cameo in "Haldane of the Secret Service."
houdinisghost
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I've posted some photos of Frank on handcuffs.org in a topic titled "funeral."
http://www.network54.com/Forum/261154/th....../funeral
houdinisghost
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Franz Kukol and Jim Vickery on YouTube.
Kukol and Antonio Brassac are in this 1910 Australia footage. Vickery, who is not in this clip was a vital member of Houdini's aircrew. He was a machinist and a carpenter. Only Brassac knew the plane better.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsT1y7lvD6w
Vickery and Kukol are tying Houdini up in this clip from "Merveilleux Exploits du Célébre Houdini à Paris - Pathé (1909)."
Vickery is in the bowler hat. The third man looks a bit like Collins, but, if it were, this would have Jim Collins working with Houdini before the Australian tour, and Collins wasn't on that tour.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_avYnAT-cU
Then there is terrific footage of Franz in this 1907 bridge jump.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrnCPoTky9s
I don't know who we can see in the footage of the pallbearers carrying the coffin. I believe I see Vickery and possibly Frank Williamson (Franz Kukol).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUAyEylXhqQ
Collins and Vickery show up in some of the outdoor strait-jacket footage that is on the KINO dvds. Kukol might be there, but, this was after Houdini made him disappear so he is hard to spot.
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