Los Angeles, USA

The Magic Castle and Doug Henning Collecting

My husband and I went to the Magic Castle (a world famous and amazing club for magicians in Hollywood) to celebrate our anniversary. Regular readers of this blog know that we both used to be full-time magicians, but now Geoff focuses on writing.

Since we have been happily married a ridiculously long time, I tend to avoid telling younger people just how long. For this anniversary, my husband has been telling people we have been married the same number of years as Jack Benny was when he died. Most people of a certain age will get it, and comedians, will get it. It makes no sense at all to others. Now you know, maybe.

Anyway, it was a great experience, and here is how my husband describes it on his blog so I don’t have to rewrite it:

The Castle decorates for Halloween every year. This year they returned to a theme that they tried unsuccessfully before- Dante’s Inferno. The picture above is the front entrance, redecorated to look like a portal to hell. They have all of the circles of hell, and every area is dramatically transformed, which is a lot of work considering that there is a lot of space to decorate. They have a great crew of member volunteers and they did a fantastic job.

The reason it failed when they tried it in 2011 was because, with irony lost on no one, that was the Halloween when the Castle caught on fire. For the first time ever, they had to close for Halloween and for awhile after to repair some rather extensive damage.

They had some outstanding performers booked for this week. Belle and I were hanging in the library and we realized we had to dash to make the Palace show. As we were going out the members only door, the librarian, Joe, mentioned that Chip Romeros was the emcee. He is the premier collector of the memorabilia of magician Doug Henning, including owning a great many of his illusions. I made it a point to meet him after the show, and shared with him my tale of literally sneaking backstage (or back-studio in this case) to see the very first Doug Henning magic special, which was aired live. I describe this in my book The Greatest Adventure (available on Amazon.) I had some memorabilia from that show that he was interested in, so he came by the house on Monday.

What I had were signed cards from the various close-up performers that entertained the Mobil executives who, with their families, made up much of the audience. Mobil was the sponsor of the special. Chip did not know about this aspect of the show, the show before the show, so this documentary material signed by the performers was another piece of the puzzle for him. It was cool for me to have, but I believed it really needed to join his collection, which includes items like the ticket for the evening signed by the cast of the show that belonged to Doug’s mom.

My experience at 15 will now become part of this archive on Doug Henning, so in a small way, I get to join the history of Doug Henning. As Chip enthusiastically explains and I fully concur, Henning’s first magic special changed the way people thought about magic and launched a resurgence in its popularity with the public. I believe that Henning had as big an impact on the popular imagination in the second half of the twentieth century as Houdini had on first half of the twentieth century.

This is not the first time some of the items we saved over the years have wound up in a museum. Some of our photographs from our time working in a sideshow went to the Sideshow Museum in Missouri. I checked and thankfully they managed to survive covid.

While Chip was here I got to see some of the items from his collection, including Henning’s diary from the 1970s. He wrote down a lot, even what he had for lunch as he struggled in his early years. Chip had the notebooks where Henning sketched out his ideas for the first special. I am so thrilled that Chip is preserving and archiving this material. It is an invaluable and important part of the history of magic. I am also a bit thrilled to be a part of it.

I am doing tons of shows again and it feels like we are finally having adventures again after being locked down for so long. We are also doing something very fun and interesting tomorrow, and I will tell you all about it in my next blog entry.

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