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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?
The Drake
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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.


Greg Arce
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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..

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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?
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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.

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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.
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.
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You have to put Richiardi in there too. To me, he was the best above all the others mentioned above.
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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..."

One of my favorite quotes: "A critic is a legless man who teaches running."
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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
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Henning was probably the most recognized/televised, but greatest...questionable.



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Henning was great, he is sadly missed.
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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?
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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.
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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.... Smile ..
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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
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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
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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.
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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!!!
Bill Scarlett
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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.
Dennis Loomis
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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.
Itinerant Montebank
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