Sloppy research = bad information

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby JBA Janson » 10/16/01 09:49 AM

Research and recording of Magic History is not an easy task. And the unsuspecting student & reader will often be easily fooled without any immediate way of noticing and correcting the problems.

In 1988 Waters published his 'Encyclopedia of magic and magicians' and in 1990 we had Whaley's ' Who's who in magic'. Both very welcome and needed. BUT - When you compare these for such a basic information as year of birth and/or death, you will be unpleasantly surprised!

Here is just a sample from letters A and B:

magician Waters Whaley
Adair,Ian b.1943 b.1940
Agoston,Chevalier 1821-1876 1826-1897
Albini,Herbert 1860-1922 1860-1913
Balabrega 1857-1906 1857-1900
Bellachini 1828-1885 1827-1885
Benson,Roy ?-1977 1915-1978
Benyon,Edgar 1902-1978 1901-1978
Berg,Joe 1903-1984 1902-1984
Brent,Lu b.1904 b.1903

Just so that you do not believe these are exceptions, here are some from letter H and S as well:

Hades,Micky b.1927 b.1926
Hahne,Nelson 1909-1970 1908-1970
Haines,Ronald 1906-1973 1906-1974
Hatton,Henry 1838-1923 1837-1922
Heller,Robert 1829-1878 1826-1878
Hercat 1843-1914 1843-1913
Herrmann,Adelaide 1854-1932 1853-1932
Herrmann,Alexander 1843-1896 1844-1896
Hughes,Jack 1906-1982 1906-1981
Selbit,P.T. 1879-1938 1881-1938
Stanyon,Ellis 1871-1951 1870-1951
Steele,Rufus 1879-1955 1881-1955
Steranko b.1938 b.1939
Stevens,Joe b.1935 b.1936
Stickland,Wlliam 1904-1984 1902-1984

And believe me there are numerous further examples!

Good English magic historians and lecturers, like Eddie Dawes for example, always have a slide with birth and death certificates, which sometimes US audiences do not appreciate or understand and sometimes make fun of.

This is the background: if you state some facts, you must be able to back it up with credible references or other proofs and if you do sloppy research you end up in a situation like this; two major US encyclopedias on magic history of which AT LEAST ONE must be wrong on many very basic facts!
You shiver a little to contemplate what proof a researcher might have for other statements if a simple fact like year of birth and death is not checked and correct!

Finally - does it matter?

Oh yeah! If we believe that our art and craft is an important, beautiful and successful one - then our past & present magic history must also be researched, written and recorded in a solid and scientific way!!

:)
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Postby CHRIS » 10/16/01 10:36 AM

Jan,

that is exactly why I started the Magic Lineage Project (MLP) at http://www.lybrary.com/mlp/

No individual, even if he collaborates with a few others, is capable to collect all facts and research everything in the necessary detail.

An encyclopedia once written is very costly to correct and reprint. An online project, such as MLP, is much better suited for this task. Changes are quickly done, many people from all around the world can contribute and collaborate, and everyone who cares can read and study the material.

There will be errors, and I am sure that at this point in time there are several errors or inaccuracies in the MLP database. But there is a good chance that somebody knowledgable spots them and sends in a correction. And then it is corrected for all time (until new sources and facts are discovered).

There is no better way of doing it. I hope you continue to contribute to the Magic Lineage Project.

Chris....
Lybrary.com preserving magic one book at a time.
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Postby JBA Janson » 10/17/01 12:45 AM

Chris,
I completely agree with you, that the net is a wonderful medium for starting to accumulate piece by piece a valid data base on for example past magicians. It is easy to update when new and proved facts can be added and there is no deadline for manuscripts , printing etc.
I hope that you will be very energetic in this important task.
Best regards

Jan
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Postby Matthew Field » 10/17/01 11:15 AM

For other examples, I suggest you check out the new Jim Steinmeyer book "The Science Behind Pepper's Ghost & Discovering Invisibility," a combined reprint of two books Jim published in limited editions. In the "Invisibility" section, Jim gives several examples of egregious errors made in the Encyclopedia Brittanica, perhaps to bolster J.N. Maskelyne's claims to the principle used in the Proteus (and later Sphinx) illusion.

The book is absolutely fascinating reading.

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Postby JBA Janson » 10/18/01 03:55 AM

Problems with magic history.

Referring to my earlier listing of discrepancies between Waters and Whaley regarding basic data on major historical magicians, I would like to further clarify the problems and curiosities the student will meet if he starts digging into this problem!

I have chosen Alexander Herrmann as an example, who was without any doubt one of the greatest magicians ever to tour US during the 19th century and he if of course an important part of any US magic history. What about information on his birth- and death dates?

We now have to expand our available information base and include other sources and their opinions together with the information we have from Waters and Whaley, and we can sort them into two categories – Alexander Herrmann born in 1843 or 1844:

T. Waters, Encyclopedia of magic and magicians 1988;……………….1843-1896 no dates
Henry Hay, Encyclopedia of magic 1940;………………………………... 1843-1896 no dates
Robelly, Le livre d'or 1949;………………………………………………11 Feb 1843-11 Dec 1896
Milbourne Christopher, Panorama of magic 1962;………..…….…..11 Feb 1843-11 Dec 1896
HJ Burlingame, Herrmann the great 1897;……………………………11 Feb 1843-17 Dec 1896

Bart Whaley,Who's who in magic 1990;……………………………….10 Feb 1844-17 Dec 1896
Sidney Clark, Annals of conjuring 1929;………………………………… 1844-1896 no dates
Gnther Dammann, Die Juden in der Taschenspielerkunst 1933;..11 Feb 1844-17 Dec 1896
David Price, Magic 1985;………………………………………………….11 Feb 1844-17 Dec 1896

Of course it is rather remarkable that you have these discrepancies between serious scholars that most likely did the best they could and believed in the information they presented to the public!

So how come? If you go through the 1843 category, you will find that the original source is most likely Burlingame. In his book on page 77 you have a direct quote from Alexander Herrmann, that according to Burlingame was printed in San Francisco newspapers in 1895: “I was born in France Feb 11, 1843, but of German parentage. My father who had practiced medicine in Germany, moved to Paris several years before I was born and became one of the most noted prestidigitators of his time. He had sixteen children, eight of whom were boys…”

So with such a powerful proof, how can skilled researchers like Whaley, Clark, Dammann and Price accept 1844? The best explanation for this can be found in Price, page 82 and I quote: “The year of his birth has often been incorrectly given as 1843. In 1915 his widow, fed up with rumors that her late husband was not even related to Compars (Herrmann), documented his status as the youngest member of the Herrmann family and also affirmed 1844 as the correct year of his birth. Biographical data that Alexander permitted to be printed on his own programs used the 1844 date, and the origin of the erroneous date is not known.”

So here are your choices; 1843 based on information of a direct quote from Alexander himself in 1895 or 1844 based on his widow's documentation! Not an easy choice – especially since you have no further information of what the “widow's documentation” consisted of.

For time being I stick with 1844 based on my evaluation of the exceptional work done by Whaley and Price and the independent early opinion from Dammann, who could utilize Jewish sources. And I also put very high value on their effort to list and describe sources and references.

One curiosity is Whaley's date of Feb 10 1844, which is even highlighted with a (sic), but without any further explanation. All other have the date Feb 11th! It would be very interesting to learn from Whaley, what is behind his date!

If we look at the death data, I am sure that Dec 17 1896 is correct. On the Dec 16th Herrmann had a show in Rochester N.Y. and was on his way to Bradford Penn. in his private railcar. The death, because of heart attack, occurred in the small town of Ellicottville N.Y., however the death certificate was issued in Salamanca N.Y. , which was the nearest bigger town. There is no explanation for the suggested Dec 11th by Christopher or Robelly, so this date can be dismissed - maybe it is even a typo
.
The above is just a small illustration of the problems with any type of historical research – of course also in the History of Magic.

Bart Whaley has a wonderful chapter in his introduction on page 7 called “Adventures & Pitfalls in magical biography”. It is a great read for anyone interested in magic history as a researcher BUT also for the reader of such material!!


:)
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 10/18/01 11:11 AM

I've talked to several professional biographers, including Ken Silverman, about the challenges of writing biographies and histories. Unlike magic biographers, most serious biographers spend 4-10 years writing their books, pouring over ALL available documents, letters, and OTHER books and biographies. Then, if there are friends or relatives of their subject still living, they conduct lenthy interviews. There is, as you can easily imagine, tons of cross-referencing and quadruple fact-checking to do.

Most magicians--at least the ones likely to read biographies of magicians or histories of magic--are CASUAL READERS who seldom care or quibble about dates, chronologies, or having an accurate provenance to consult. I've always found this disturbing and disheartening; however, I've been woefully guilty of making mistakes regarding credits and the provenance of this and that. Few of us have the inclination, luxury, or time to spend 5-7 years writing and researching...which is a pity. All the hasty, sloppy work I've done in the past comes back to haunt me.

Nevertheless, I'm delighted that fellows as caring and conscientious as Jan are on the scene, and is posting on this forum.

I send my deepest thanks to him...and perhaps he will one day write a book?
I hope so...

Onward...

[ October 18, 2001: Message edited by: Jon Racherbaumer ]
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Postby Bill Mullins » 10/19/01 01:15 PM

JBA JANSON Sez:
"So here are your choices; 1843 based on information of a direct quote from Alexander himself in 1895 or 1844 based on his widow's documentation! Not an easy choice – especially since you have no further information of what the “widow's documentation” consisted of. "

Both of these examples should, from a research historian's perspective, be taken
skeptically (in the best sense of the word), since neither are primary sources. The "direct quote from Alexander himself" isn't; the info we readers of the Genii Forum have is Janson quoting a book quoting a newspaper quoting Alexander. The "widow's documentation" is also nebulous; we have Price quoting unknown documentation from the widow (letters? diaries? quotes in printed material?), who presumably was told this by Alexander. Oddly, the closest thing to primary sources mentioned are the biographical data in Herrman's own programs. Not as good as holograph writings, birth certificates, church baptismal records, or census data, but data nonetheless released by the subject, and available to be corrected if he so desired.

Bill Mullins

[ October 19, 2001: Message edited by: bill mullins ]
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Postby JBA Janson » 10/20/01 01:29 AM

The point I wanted to make, was to show, that even for the Greatest of US magicians, who are a major part of US Magic History, we do not have secure basic data and I only used Alexander Herrmann as an example.

Now if we talk about him specifically, we/I DO NOT KNOW if he was born 1843 or 1844! The lacking piece of proof is a copy of a birth certificate. Robelly, who apparently tried to secure such a document, is HINTING in his references that the official records in Paris was destoyed by fire or bombs. However there could still be a copy of this record in the family archives. Maybe it was part of the widows documentation?! Lacking access to such information - WE/I DON'T KNOW.

However you have always the right to lean one way or the other depending on your interpretation and evaluation of work done by different authors in published records. My PERSONAL evaluation is that Whaley-Dammann-Price are GENERALLY more solid researchers, however, of course even they are not even close to 100 %!

I do not agree with Bill Mullins that what is/was printed in a magician's program is even close to a primary source. Could we however find multiple SFO newspapers from 1895 reporting on the same Alexander interview and all giving 1843 or 1844, we are CLOSER to solve this detail.

In my coming trip to LA History Conference in November, I might run into Jim Hamilton, who knows a lot of the Herrmann family and I will ask him about this detail. I will report back on this later, if I get an answer.

Basically I always have an optimistic view, that if a lot of very interested people will keep looking - one day we will solve even such an irritating detail!

So - keep looking :) :)
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 10/20/01 02:09 PM

It's not simply these type of historical details, such as dates of birth and death, that are so elusive. In the world of sleight of hand, if two guys talk about a trick or sleight and have some thoughts during the discussion, sometimes BOTH of them think they created the new variation--THEY cannot tell who thought of what. How do you deal with that? And of course then there are the thieves ... and there are also writers who put incorrect things in print that are later used as factual by others and perpetuate the mis-information. Here I lay my own guilt on the table: I mistakenly credited the idea of holding the hand palm up so a classic-palmed coin could not be seen to Fred Kaps in my book CoinMagic as the "Kaps Subtlety." Of course, it is NOT Kaps' at all, but probably Malini's. In the literature of coin magic, however, everyone now writes, "Do the Kaps Subtlety." It works, because everyone now understands that bit of shorthand, but it's WRONG! Mea Culpa. :rolleyes:
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Postby Guest » 10/06/06 12:36 PM

Greetings, Interesting discussion on research. I just stumbled on this topic and was amused by some of the statements and assumptions. It caught my eye because of the use of Alexander Herrmann's birth/death dates. As many of you know, I have been researching the Herrmann family for well over forty years now! If someone had simply contacted me I could have answered most of the conflicts in the dates. I don't believe I am incommucado.

The dates for Alexander Herrmann are: b. 2/10/1844, Paris, France; d. 2/17/1896, Salamanca, N.Y. The dates for Adelaide Herrmann are: b. 8/11/1853, London, England; d. 2/19/1932, New York City, N.Y. These are the dates on the repective birth and death certicates.

The interesting date of 2/11/1843 for the birth of Alexander as quoted in Burlingame's book based on a newspaper interview of Alexander himself in San Francisco in 1895 is a typo. I went to the original article and it gives the date 2/10/1844.

Regardless of the other dates attributed to his birth, I feel very strongly sitting here looking at his birth certificate, that 2/10/1844 is correct. I also have the birth and death certificates for Felix Kretschmann (Herrmann). I have visited all of their graves with the exception of Compars Herrmann.

I furnished Bart Whaley the information in his book. I would have been more that willing to have furnished the same information to T. A. Waters. Although we had only met casually, his friend and collaborator on the book, Ricky Jay, certainly knew of my research and how to contact me. It is a shame that Waters not only got the birth date wrong for Alexander, but also for Adelaide.

I sincerely believe that if we are going to document our past masters, care and respect must be a part of that documentation.

All the Best,
James Hamilton
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Postby Guest » 10/06/06 12:52 PM

Hi James. Can you help me? I am looking for the date and place of Blanche Corelli's death. I assume Berlin sometime in the 1930s, but have been unable to pin this down. Any help appreciated.
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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 10/06/06 01:08 PM

Originally posted by James Hamilton:
I sincerely believe that if we are going to document our past masters, care and respect must be a part of that documentation.
I agree completely. This is why, as I've been researching and writing my book on Nate Leipzig, I've made a point of getting original documents. In my files, I have birth records from Sweden for Nate as well as his brothers and sister that were born over there, his marriage certificate from England when he married Leila, his death certificate from NY, etc. I've sought out newspapers and magazines from when he was alive -- very often my Saturday mornings are spent in the NYPL Performing Arts division reading through copies of Variety and other theatrical periodicals from the early 1900's looking for any references. I've been able to make contact with three separate family members, who have all provided me with various levels of information (and I've uncovered a few things that they weren't even aware of!). And I've kept quite an extensive timeline of his life to help keep all this organized.

I've also been spending time tracking the history of his routines and sleights. There are some things that are attributed to him which probably shouldn't be, but also things which are attributed to others which likely actually belong to him. There's still a good deal of uncertainty in a several areas, but even then, I'm doing my best to document all the information I have -- if I'm not able to come to a definite conclusion, I at least owe it to future researchers to present all the information I have available so that they can pick up where I left off without having to retread the same territory.

That said, I think it's pretty cool to know that I was born exactly 136 years after Alexander Herrmann.

-Jim
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Postby Guest » 10/06/06 01:40 PM

When I was researching the Percy Naldrett memoir (on and off for 2 years), I travelled all over the country looking for his birthplace. I visited 8 false locations from Manchester to London and Bath to Dover.

I finally located his birthplace...a few hundred yards from where I now live in Worthing, Sussex! In fact, a few doors away from my first Worthing home!!!!!

How about that!!??

Paul Gordon

And, when doing the E.G Brown book, I searched for his grave in England's biggest graveyard. After 6 hours I took a break and sat on a bench...next to the very grave!
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Postby Guest » 10/07/06 10:06 AM

Jan, thank you for starting this thread, and for the passion that you have brought to the discussion. IMHO, some stimulating observations have been made as a result.

I join Jan in wishing for more careful scholarship in the field of magic history. However, it is important to keep in mind the incredible scope of work undertaken by (as examples) Mssrs. Waters and Whaley. Had either conducted de novo research on each of the thousands of people and topics covered in his respective book, wed still be waiting for publication. Knowing Jan, I doubt very much that it is his intent to discredit either of these authors; rather, by his examples he is trying to get us to research, read and think more critically and independently all for the better, I believe.

I have long believed (and I think some of the exchanges here have suggested) that much of the progress in magic history is accretive in nature. Moreover, I think that the quality and degree of such progress in the long run is a function of the strength of the sense of community in our group of historians, collectors, history lovers, etc. It is true that magic history suffers when a researcher does not reach out and utilize the resources available to him or her. But, alas, it is equally true that dedicated researchers are often denied the resources they seek, and this for a variety of reasons, some related to sheer logistics (telephone, travel and other research costs, time constraints), while others relate more to the aforementioned concept of sense of community really, the lack thereof e.g., no help or cooperation because of jealousy, laziness, the researchers lack of status (cliques), etc. Perhaps most sad, there are a few who have benefited mightily from access to other peoples collections, yet who will do little or nothing to help their fellow collectors or historians!

Clay

[to be continued if/as time permits]
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Postby Guest » 10/07/06 10:49 AM

The primary responsibilities of the historian/biographer/researcher is to the truth. Getting to the truth can be a rough road that takes time to traverse. Historical conclusions should almost always be viewed as tenative and the historian/researcher must be prepared to change his or her mind based on the aquisition of more and better evidence.

One of the early things I learned years ago in my last biography was that many celebrities tell stories on themselves/about themselves. The stories are not necessarily history, but "historical," in that they are told as entertainment about things that may have happened, or sound like they happened, or that should have happened.

When I was researching the life of Gene Roddenberry it became apparent that Gene, like many celebrities, had a repertoire of stories he liked to tell. Some had a grain of truth and were "enhanced" from incidents that actually happened. Others were told for entertainment as the truth was rather prosaic.

Sometimes, a story told in fun is later repeated as factual. The experienced researcher learns to spot these, but it can be difficult.

Getting past all that took time and diligence, but I had family members, friends, colleagues, and contemporarily-written letters, contracts, and memos to rely on. This sort of primary source is not always available to the researcher looking at historical figures, especially a group of people like magicians who, as John Booth observed, "Create their own glamour."

Often, contemporarily created material, if it exists at all, is scattered in public and private collections. Digging it out can take time and persistence...and when finally acquired, it can be biased or in conflict with other sources.

And some people just lie. I have recently come into possession of the journal of an old silhouette artist, written in 1916 where she simply lies about things I know through other, multiple souces, to be true. If I did not have the other sources, I would be left with her version of the truth, which is not factual at all.

History is not an exact science. It is an art. Until we have some fantastic device that lets us look at the past like a television program to see and follow historical characters througout their lives, history will remain an art form, done by some better than others.
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Postby JBA Janson » 10/07/06 01:09 PM

I was very surprised to see this thread activated. Good to hear from James Hamilton! I have been looking for you the last few years at our collectors' meetings in Chicago, LA and Boston, to find out more about this matter,but no luck..until now.

My question to you - where did you find the birth certificate for Alexander?

Best regards

Jan
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Postby Bob Farmer » 10/07/06 02:58 PM

On the Harlan Ellison-Star Trek controversy:

I'm not exactly sure of the dates, but I was a big science fiction fan in the 60s and one of the best books of that era was Harlan Ellison's collection, DANGEROUS VISIONS.

When Star Trek hit the TV screen I thought it was a dumb, badly written and badly acted show (my opinion hasn't changed).

It had absolutely nothing to do with what was going on in scifi at the time and seemed like a throwback to a 50s b-movie -- especially compared to Ellisons work.
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Postby Guest » 10/07/06 06:16 PM

Harlan's anthology, Dangerous Visions, was published in 1967 and celebrated the "new wave" of SF. Many of the stories could not have been produced for televison of the day given their content and the cost to produce.

Harlan, considered by some to be an excellent editior, brought out Again, Dangerous Vision in 1972. The third book in the series, The Last Dangerous Vision, was supposed to be published the following year, but has yet to show up.

The Wikipedia states the following about this last publication, now 30+ years late:

Originally announced for publication in 1973, other work demanded Ellison's attention and the anthology has not seen print to date. He has come under criticism for his treatment of some writers who submitted their stories to him, whom some estimate to number nearly 150 (and many of whom have died in the ensuing three decades since the anthology was first announced). In 1993 Ellison threatened to sue New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA) for publishing Himself in Anachron, a short story written by Cordwainer Smith and sold to Ellison for the book by his widow, but later reached an amicable settlement.
British SF author Christopher Priest critiqued Ellison's editorial practices in a widely-disseminated article titled The Book on the Edge of Forever.Priest documented a half-dozen instances in which Ellison promised TLDV would appear within a year of the statement, but did not fulfill those promises. Ellison has a record of fulfilling obligations in other instances, including to writers whose stories he solicited, and has expressed outrage at other editors who have displayed poor practices.
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Postby Guest » 10/07/06 06:26 PM

The volume of subjects in Whaley and Waters books, could preclude verifying EVERY detail, thru vital records and other sources...although those books were done without the benefit of internet, that we have today.

Waters loved to say how Whaley's book was filled with errors, and yet he rehashed previous errors from other sources as well, and now,others rely on them.....
I asked Waters about leaving out Kreskin, from his "Encyclopedia", and he said, "Kreskin, isn't a magician". Elitist snobbery, won over noting the most successful, best known mentalist of this generation.

David pointing out the entertainment value of a story, taking precedent over veracity, is called, "Cutting up jackpots".

That misinformation is repeated by succeeding "sources", is why the researchers/writers on "Jeopardy" must verify their material from THREE different sources, before it is approved to go on the air.

The author of "A Pictorial History of the American Carnival", also required 2-3 sources, before printing more "jackpots", that couldn't be verified.
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Postby Guest » 10/07/06 07:44 PM

Just a word of caution about sources some might think to be reliable.
My work involves me in research (not magic oriented). Recently I had occasion to consult the US Census reports for an individual> The 1900 census showed he was at that time 29 years old. The 1910 showed he was 32 years old. The 1920 showed him as 50. And the 1930 said he was borm in 1872. Now these were not typographcal errors of a transcriptionist. I was wqorking of photocopies of the original report. So, dont rely on those reports when you are doing your research
Guy Thompson
Desert Deipnosophist -- AKA tonga
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Postby Guest » 10/07/06 10:02 PM

Sometimes misinformation is purposely given to Census Takers, Social Security Adm., and others.

Houdini states the United States is his birthplace on his draft registration forms.

Radio Mentalist, "Rose Dawn", gets younger thru the years, as she filled out different Govt. forms.

One Texas magician, stated on every Govt. form he filled out, that he was a "Hindo", rather than state he was an, (believed by some) African-American, (in the 1930's) not wanting more troubles in his life.
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Postby Guest » 10/07/06 11:43 PM

Originally posted by Bob Farmer:
[QB] On the Harlan Ellison-Star Trek controversy:
Oddly enough... that episode was on TV tonight!
:D
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Postby Guest » 10/08/06 12:50 AM

Originally posted by Bob Farmer:
On the Harlan Ellison-Star Trek controversy:
When Star Trek hit the TV screen I thought it was a dumb, badly written and badly acted show (my opinion hasn't changed).
Enough people have a different opinion for it to be one of the most valuable franchises, if not THE most valuable franchise, in show business.

The fans parted with over $7 million dollars at the recent auction of authentic memorabilia. Someone paid $570,00+ for the model of the Enterprise from Next Generation.
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Postby Bob Farmer » 10/08/06 07:01 AM

David, I wasn't commenting on Ellison's failures as an editor, or Star Trek's popularity. My post was solely to quality. That Ellison's contribution had to be re-written by Roddenberry says to me that it wasn't dumb enough for Star Trek, not that Roddenberry was the superior writer.

The original Outer Limits and the original Twilight Zone were light years ahead of Star Trek in every way.

I will admit to really liking the movie, The Wrath of Khan -- but that was written and directed by a very talented fellow who managed to overcome the many limitations he was working with.
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Postby Guest » 10/08/06 09:35 AM

Bob,

When someone writes for series television, it must be to the format of the show. It is far different from writing for chapter programs such as Twilight Zone and Outer Limits, even though they had severe budgetary production limitations that constrained the stories. The original story that Ellison wrote was not to the format of Star Trek and it needed to be re-written. That is a fact of life of series television and Harlan was not the first writer whose work was re-written to format by Gene or other writers or story editors.

Gene did not dumb down Harlan's script, as you suggest, he rewrote it to conform to the show's format, over a weekend, something few in the industry could do, then or now. As I said, Harlan couldn't or wouldn't do it. He could not produce the product he was paid for (in the jugement of the Executive Producer and others on staff) and so it was re-written. That is the reality of the business of writing for television.

By the way, the re-written script, not Harlan's original, is the script that won the Writers Guild award, voted as such by other writers, so it must have had some merit in the eyes of Gene's contemporaries. That is the particular show that is one of the two or three most popular in the series.

It is also important to note that Gene did NOT demand credit or payment for re-writing the script when, by the rules of the Writers Guild, he easily could have. Harlan's name alone remains on the credits, a kindness to a young writer which Harlan never forgave. Harlan sniped at Gene for years and then, when Gene was dead, published his whining as though it were some great crime against art. It wasn't. It was simply the business of television.

I was in A.E. Van Vogt's house when a multi-page fax from Ellison came in, a "now I've got you, you son-of-a-bitch" screed about a story they wrote "together" years before than had been reprinted in France. Harlan was screaming for his money, about $12, as Van told me.

You don't like Star Trek. Fine. Not everyone does. It was the first adult sci-fi with continuing characters as opposed to the Outer Limits and the Twilight Zone which were chapter programs without a single unifying universe and continuing characters. It became popular in syndication when the college kids caught what Gene was saying.

Since you mention The Outer Limits, Ellison's script for that program was also impossible to produce and was changed significantly by Bob Justman who re-worked it so it could be produced. Bob later worked for Gene on Star Trek. Bob could read through a script and almost instantly tell if it would run long or be over budget. He was invaluable and Gene knew it. When the Next Generation started, Bob was one of the first people Gene hired. When the Next Gen was picked up, Gene walked into several offices (Bob's included) and, without a word, dropped $5,000 bonus checks on the desks.

Oddly enough, you don't hear Harlan screaming about how his Outer Limit's script was changed.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 10/08/06 09:37 AM

My wife and I love the original Star Trek. We watch it whenever we need a break and a chuckle.

I watch Twilight Zone and Outer Limits late at night ... alone.
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