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Topic: Doug Henning-greatest magician of his era??
Message: Posted by: magicjack1977 (Sep 20, 2006 03:43PM)
Was Doug Henning the greatest magician of his time? I vaguely recall seeing one of his specials as a child in the early 1980's and remember being totally enchanted by his unbelievable magic and, most notably, the bright colors he wore.

The magicians of the 1970's and 1980's includes an assortment of greats including Lance Burton, David Copperfield, Seigfried and Roy, and Harry Anderson. So my question is, showmanship aside, was Doug Henning the most talented magician of the era? It's hard for me to say no, but personally, I'm torn between him and Burton.

What do you guys think?
Message: Posted by: The Drake (Sep 20, 2006 06:54PM)
I'm a big Burton fan but Lance was in the infancy of his magic career with when Doug was at the top of his. I don't think they should be compared. Doug took magic out of the "tuxedo blues" and brought it to a new generation. The Criss Angel of his day ( without the camera tricks ) .

I'd consider Copperfield to also be in a different era than Doug. If they were lumped into the same one I'd have to give David the edge.


Message: Posted by: Greg Arce (Sep 20, 2006 09:05PM)
Doug was up there with the best. His first special was done live... there go the camera tricks. It was wonderful!
I remember going to conventions and seeing tons of young magicians now dressed in dyed shirts, long hair, and doing the Gene Anderson tear and everything that Doug did on TV.
I guess things don't change much..

Message: Posted by: Randwill (Sep 20, 2006 09:42PM)
Unless my memory is failing me, the first few Henning specials were done live. He went to pre-taped ones the fourth year, I belive, after a close call during the third one. Anyone else remember for sure?
Message: Posted by: NFox (Sep 20, 2006 09:50PM)
I was just talking to someone who told me that they actually "went to tape" midway through the third show because a tiger got loose. I'm not sure whether that is true, or just an urban legend, but it makes for a good story.

Nick Fox
Message: Posted by: Marvello (Sep 20, 2006 10:35PM)
On 2006-09-20 16:43, magicjack1977 wrote:
The magicians of the 1970's and 1980's includes an assortment of greats including Lance Burton, David Copperfield, Seigfried and Roy, and Harry Anderson.
[/quote]The only 70's magicians that were really on the same level at the same time as Doug (in the public's eye) were Harry Blackstone, Jr. and Mark Wilson (and Kreskin). Each of them was amazing in their own right, and not to take anything away from Doug or the others, but I think that given that list I would put Harry Jr. at the top of the list of 70's magicians.
Message: Posted by: Kevin Connolly (Sep 20, 2006 10:40PM)
You have to put Richiardi in there too. To me, he was the best above all the others mentioned above.
Message: Posted by: Greg Arce (Sep 20, 2006 11:30PM)
On 2006-09-20 23:40, Kevin Connolly wrote:
You have to put Richiardi in there too. To me, he was the best above all the others mentioned above.

Wow, Richiardi!! I saw his traveling show several times. What a show! Not only was he fantastic but he presented the best acts around... Vito Lupo, Richard Ross, etc.

I remember sitting in the audience and watching these marvelous performers and thinking, "Maybe one day..."

Message: Posted by: Jazz (Sep 21, 2006 02:27PM)
Doug Henning was the first big illusionist I had the luck to watch on TV. And all his colourful surroundings, plus impossible illusions made this boy hooked on magic for life
Message: Posted by: Stanyon (Sep 21, 2006 05:12PM)
Henning was probably the most recognized/televised, but greatest...questionable.



Cheers! ;)
Message: Posted by: thehawk (Sep 25, 2006 09:11PM)
Henning was great, he is sadly missed.
Message: Posted by: kregg (Sep 26, 2006 07:44AM)
Doug Henning made magic palatable during a time that magic was sterile and predictable. Besides me, how many people did he inspire to dust off their old tricks and freshen up the look?
Message: Posted by: Shnarker (Sep 29, 2006 11:38AM)
I truly cannot campare him to others in that era, since I was very young and was not into magic at that time. Harry Blackstone Jr., Lance Burton and David Copperfield were the only other magi I watched.

However, his true skill was bringing a sense of wonder and beauty to his effects, and transferred that to the audience. He wanted the audience to share that experience with him. He was a beautiful person, and expressed that through his magic. It made an indelible impression on me, even in my grade school years. I still smile thinking of his performances, and the effect it has on my thinking.
Message: Posted by: joseph (Sep 30, 2006 01:22PM)
Although not an "inventor", he was a great showman....One of his tv specials must have been live; I remember him performing an illusion and falling off one of the boxes, only to jump up and continue....I think lots of people missed that one.... :) ..
Message: Posted by: entity (Sep 30, 2006 02:12PM)
Although Doug Henning wasn't an "inventor" per se, he certainly was an innovator. I believe that, like Robert Houdin before him, he took Magic and gave it a new look, and new style that grabbed the audience's imagination and attention.

He also, through his collarboration with Jim Steinmeyer and John Gaughan, was responsible for developing a number of stage illusions that have become modern day classics, such as The Origami Illusion, Walking Through a Mirror, the modern version of The Water Fountain Levitation, and others.

He also had (IMHO) the very best elephant vanish of any illusionist out there.

As a side note, I think that to link his name in any way with Chris Angels is an insult to Henning's memory. There is no comparison.

- entity
Message: Posted by: walid ahumada (Sep 30, 2006 03:13PM)
For me lance Burton is the best magician we have today, his opening with cards, candles and doves is the most beautifull routin I've seen
Message: Posted by: Bendy (Nov 1, 2006 10:40PM)
Don't know if Doug Henning was the greatest of his era or not, but he's the reason I got into magic. I had seen magicians as a kid...but Doug Henning made magic more "magical" for me. He was responsible for sparking enough interest in magic that my Dad bought me a magic kit for Christmas; which was the first step that moved me from spectator to performer.
Message: Posted by: silverking (Nov 8, 2006 03:58PM)
Is it just me or does anybody else start to feel slightly ill when folks make any sort of disparaging comments about Doug?

The man who returned wonder to magic, and taught folks that they could love magic again deserves complete and unquestioning respect.

I was a wide awake teen and completely into magic in 1973, and I can assure you that most folks hated not only all magic, but (for the most part) all magicians as well.

Then along came Doug, and for the general public it was true love baby!!!
Message: Posted by: Bill Scarlett (Nov 9, 2006 07:55PM)
I couldn't agree more Silverking.

It is hard to say if Doug Henning was the best magician of his era, it's subjective. But I can say, to a ten year old boy who saw him in The Magic Show on Broadway and waited patiently to get his autograph after the show, Doug was the greatest.

Doug had a natural innocence and sense of wonder that was infectuous. The contrast between the enthusiastic young hippy that Doug played and the stuffy snob magician played by David Ogden Stiers (of MASH fame) was emblematic.

It turns out that Doug wasn't really acting. I believe that innocent young man full of wonder was really him. I can't say univerally that Doug was the greatest, but to me he was and always will be.

PS: Lance Burton is great, but he was probably fooling his friends in grade school in the 70's.
Message: Posted by: Dennis Loomis (Dec 24, 2008 07:49AM)
To Entity,
You mention Doug's colaborators (John Gaughan, and Jim Steinmeyer) but did not mention the most important one: Charlie Reynolds. Jim Steinmeyer was not involved in the early TV Specials, but came on board later in Doug's Career. (Not to belittle Jim... he is arguably one of the greatest illusion designers of all time.) For the first special only, most of the illusions were built by Les Smith and the gang at Owen Magic. But Doug and Charlie, with the help of Glen Priest and Brian Lumley really did the design. They dusted off some old illusions which had been in books but had not been seen on stage in a long time. Doug's presentation of the Lady From the Light was just beautiful. They updated the Fu Manchu Pendulum Illusion into the illusion where Julie Newmar was cut into three pieces. The method of this illusion still fools many magicians today.
While it is true that Doug was not primarilly an inventor of illusions, I can tell you that he was the guy that made it all happen. He was in charge of his staff and chose to surround himself with some of the best magic creators and television people available. His success was due to him.
One of the people that is almost forgotten in terms of Doug's career is Ivan Reitman. He has become, over the years, one of Hollywood's top producers and directors, but he was the guy that Doug chose to help him produce both The Magic Show and it's predecessor in Toronto: Spellbound. They had almost no money and staged a show for potential backers and raised $40,000.00 to put Spellbound together.

Dennis Loomis

P.S. Was Doug the best? Who knows? That question is so subjective. But Doug was the most influential magician of the 70's and along with Mark Wilson's TV Work and Siegfried and Roy's work in Las Vegas started the revival of interest in magic that we still enjoy today.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Dec 24, 2008 08:13AM)
It is a simple matter of opinion on who is greatest anything of any time.

I think it is safe to say without doubt Doug made his mark on magic in a positive way which many could emulate and be proud.
Message: Posted by: Heres Tony (Dec 24, 2008 09:32AM)
Doug altered the perception that the public had of magic at that time. It seems to me anytime any type of performance "art" is pushed ahead when someone steps outside the box and does things in a different way. Doug made magic cool when it hadn't been cool for a long time. It doesn't matter whether or not you think he was the greatest at the time. What matters is that he was great and did great things for the art.
Message: Posted by: Keith Raygor (Dec 24, 2008 09:40AM)
Of the dozens and dozens of posters and one-sheets that have hung in my abode over the last 3 decades, only 3 remain hanging proudly - Doug, because of his vision, spirit and leadership; Lance, because of his kindness to an unknown (and I'm certain I'm not the only unknown with whom he's shared his time and knowledge), and Andy Dallas, because of his mentorship and passion.

I believe Doug Henning set the stage for all that followed.
Message: Posted by: Steve_Mollett (Dec 25, 2008 08:41AM)
Anyone remember Tom and Sherry?
Message: Posted by: joseph (Dec 27, 2008 09:10AM)
On 2008-12-25 09:41, Steve_Mollett wrote:
Anyone remember Tom and Sherry?

Which one was the cat again?... :) ...
I remember their great dove act which I saw at Abbott's Get Together years ago.. Nice...
Message: Posted by: JRob (Dec 27, 2008 09:44AM)
There is no question that Doug made a major contribution in the way the public viewed magic at the time. He certainly got many of us out of the stodgy tux-n-tails stereotype. That said I just cannot bring myself to call him the greatest of his era.
Message: Posted by: Ken Northridge (Jan 2, 2009 02:47AM)
Doug’s greatest contribution to magic was his insistence to present his magic shows on TV live without commercials. Doug somehow knew this was the key for magic on TV, a point that some TV magicians of today are missing. I’m not denying the creative talent of Chris Angel and others, but it’s a different kind of talent. Just because a new technology exists does not mean one has to use it.

As you know, Doug was on his way to a come back before his untimely death. I often wonder how this great magician would have shaped this era.

Doug is also author of one of my favorite quotes, “Love is the real magic”
Message: Posted by: Dennis Loomis (Jan 2, 2009 06:44AM)
To Ken,
While I echo most of your sentiments about Doug, his TV specials were not without commercials. Even back then, the TV Networks had to pay their bills (and their talent.)

He did his first few specials LIVE... or to be specific they were seen live in the Eastern Time Zone and rebroadcast without any editing to the other time zones.

This made things very difficult compared to taking the time to shoot, edit, reshoot where necessary, etc. Because of this there were some on-air difficulties which would have been edited out. I was always impressed that Doug started out one of his live specials with the great John Cornelius effect: Fickle Nickle. It's a wonderful vanish and reappearance of a coin, but has VERY delicate angle problems. It took courage to do that on live TV.

Dennis Loomis
Message: Posted by: silverking (Jan 2, 2009 11:22AM)
I've not figured out why somebody like Jim Steinmeyer hasn't yet written and published Doug's life story.

With all the books that have been published in the last decade on the lives of magicians, a glaring empty spot is the missing biography of Doug Henning and his rise to the top of magic.

I sure hope somebody is working on this project while the folks who could help tell this story are all still healthy. Todd Karr, David Ben, Jim Steinmeyer.......there's a lot of folks who could do Doug proud.

Some of the key players in Doug's story have already dropped off the radar completely. Time is certainly not on the side of waiting another two or three decades before a major work on Doug is undertaken.

I'm one of those folks who believes that anybody performing contemporary magic of any type, is doing so in Doug Hennings brilliant shadow.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Jan 2, 2009 11:31AM)
I will say one thing about Doug. He inspired me into magic in the first place.
Message: Posted by: Dennis Loomis (Jan 16, 2009 03:13PM)
As to a Henning biography. I am doing a series of my own recollections of Doug for MUM magazine. The first appears in the February 2009 issue which has been printed and is on it's way to subscribers.

Todd Karr told me that Jim Steinmeyer may be writing a full book about Doug. That would be great.

I've also been told that John Harrison has written a book about Doug which is just about to be released. Wish I had more details, but apparently John interviewed a lot of folks.

Dennis Loomis
Message: Posted by: Donal Chayce (Jan 16, 2009 05:34PM)
Thanks for the heads up, Dennis. I look forward to reading your article(s), and I'd greatly enjoy reading both of the books you referenced if/when they're released.
Message: Posted by: Bridgewater (Jan 18, 2009 04:35PM)
I saw Doug Henning in "The Magic Show" in 1976. Standard tricks (Chinese sticks anyone?) but hardly a standard performance. I still consider it the best magic show, and one of the best shows of any kind, I've ever seen. Not only was Henning among the best of his era, I'd count him among a very small group of the best ever. A weird guy, but a great, great magician.
Message: Posted by: Dennis Loomis (Jan 21, 2009 05:31AM)
Not sure what you mean when you say that Doug was a "weird guy." First of all, he was exactly the same onstage and off. You saw Doug's real personality on the stage and on the screen. He was quite down to earth and very approachable especially in his younger years.

Perhaps your comment relates to his interest in Transcendental Meditation. It certainly became his all consuming passion and eventually led to his retiring from magic. That's unfortunate, I suppose, but Doug's life was his to live. He was involved with TM from very early in his career and often credited his success to it.

When he was taken from us at a pretty young age, he was planning a comeback into magic. It would have been interesting to see what he could have accomplished had he lived longer.

I have written and submitted the second article on Doug for MUM which will appear in the April issue. The first one appears in the February issue and details that wonderous night when Doug and I first saw Walter Blaney's Stepladder Suspension. I believe it to be one of the top two or three illusions of the last millenium and Doug and I were just totally fried... as were most of the other magicians when they first saw it.

Dennis Loomis
Message: Posted by: Bridgewater (Jan 22, 2009 10:38PM)
A grown man wearing unicorns and rainbows on his clothes, even in the 70's, strikes me as unconventional. And to be blunt, the whole "VedaLand" thing was just loopy. But the fact that he made his rather offbeat persona work for him as a performer simply magnifies his talent.
Message: Posted by: critter (Jan 27, 2009 09:56AM)
I think Doug Henning did the most for magic during his peak.
I don't know if he was the best. There were a lot of past masters still alive at that time and there are often brilliant magicians that are not as widely known to the general public, like Reed McClintock nowadays.
I don't know. Was Teller performing yet? I like Teller.
Message: Posted by: Dennis Loomis (Feb 16, 2009 07:53PM)
There is a rumor that a book on Doug Henning by John Harrison is to be released in March. I have some misgivings because I just don't know if he's the right guy for this task. I wish him well and am anxiously awaiting news of his book.

The guy that should do this is Jim Steinmeyer as someone noted earlier in the thread. Yes, Jim knew Doug well and worked with Doug on many projects starting (if memory serves) with Doug's 6th TV special. Jim is a great writer and an excellent researcher and would do a great job.

In the mean time, I hope that the Harrison book, if it is released, is a good one. Doug deserves an excellent biography as he was an excellent performer.

Dennis Loomis
Message: Posted by: Dennis Loomis (Jun 3, 2009 09:16AM)
I just heard from John Harrison and his book on Henning is nearly completed. He says that it will be available in August. Several well known magicians have seen the book and have said some good things about it. I do hope that I was wrong about John being the right person to do this. He assures me that he did a lot of research and based on a quote from Charlie Reynolds, the book will be very good. John has offered to send me the uncorrected proofs to look at. When I get them and have read them, I'll report back to this thread.

In the mean time, I have done three articles on Doug for MUM and am working on the fourth.

Dennis Loomis
Message: Posted by: joseph (Jun 3, 2009 10:45AM)
On 2006-09-25 22:11, thehawk wrote:
Henning was great, he is sadly missed.

And I also enjoyed watching his beautiful wife/assistant Debby...
Message: Posted by: Dennis Loomis (Jun 4, 2009 03:30PM)
According to my pal Tim Trono at Murphys the new John Harrison book will most likely be "rolled out" at the MAGIC LIVE convention.

Murphys will likely be handling the book and I think that's great news. They are the biggest magic wholesaler and, in my opinion, the best.

Dennis Loomis
Message: Posted by: Dennis Loomis (Jun 6, 2009 10:44AM)
I have one of the uncorrected proof copies of John Harrison's book on Doug: Spellbound, The Wonderfilled Life of Doug Henning. It arrived yesterday and I slept little last night because I couldn't put it down. I owe John an apology for doubting his ability as a biographer. The book is huge, over 400 pages, and just chock full of information from the 40+ people that John interviewed for the book. It is marvelous and a fitting tribute to the man John calls the most important magician of the past 65 years.

The book is scheduled for release on August 10th, but many dealers, including me, will take advance orders. The book will carry positive endorsements from Lance Burton, David Copperfield, and, most importantly, Charlie Reynolds.

Perhaps I will write a full review for MUM... but for now you can put me down as a fan of the book. I am not unbiased on Doug, he was a good friend, but I think I am objective about the book. If you are a student of magic history, or a fan of Doug's it's a must have book for your library.

Dennis Loomis