Houdini's right hand man, Franz Kukol

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

Postby houdini's ghost » 12/05/09 06:42 PM

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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Postby Joe Pecore » 12/05/09 11:23 PM

Here it is if you would like to critique and update: http://geniimagazine.com/wiki/index.php/Franz_Kukol
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/06/09 01:05 AM

Joe,
Turns out, Franz doesn't disappear entirely. The letter Houdini wrote to R.W.G. Vail 9-4-1924 clearly states Franz will personally come to The Roosevelt Memorial Assoc. in N.Y.C. to swear he took the photos of T.R. and HH.
You must tell me what evidence there is that Kukol and Vickery helped invent the Milk Can. Houdini protegee Leonard Hicks says Montraville M. Wood invented the Milk Can. Billy Russell of Batavia, N.Y. said he made a Milk Can from a drawing Houdini made and Houdini signed the drawing and let Billy keep it. Both Wood and Russell have excellent credibilty and in Wood's case, at least, the documentation is there.
You must mention Harry Houdini Kukol born May 24, 1909 in Austria.
On his application for naturalization, Frank lists his occupation as organist (which he was). His WW1 draft registration has his occupation as "asst. mgr. Majestic Theatre."
As to Frank Williamson being Franz Kukol, this is Culliton talking, I don't say this lightly, you can take it to the bank. I wish I could visit Dorothy Young so I could ask her if she has any recollection of the assistant named Frank.
The photos don't lie. Frank Kukol worked the full-evening show as Frank Williamson. Then they both REALLY disappear. So far. I never thought we'd come this far.
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Postby Joe Pecore » 12/06/09 12:08 PM

I saw it mentioned in a couple of places that Kukol helped invent the Milk Can escape, including Whaley's "Who's Who in Magic".

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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/06/09 02:19 PM

You're right. According to Leonard Hicks, Wood came backstage one night and presented Houdini with a method for escaping from a kind of oversized milk can.
But, the Milk Can isn't just a prop, of course, it's an ACT.
Houdini, Kukol and Vickery were the actors. They were all masters of improvisation and of making it look spontaneous every performance.
The rain slickers, the fire axe, the giant stop watch, Houdini's muscles, testing the audience members' ability to hold their breath--that's the Milk Can.
Whaley and you are right, Joe.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/06/09 05:50 PM

From Variety Oct. 14, 1921 Mrs. Franz Kukol of Drelhacken, Bohemia (European continent). Is seeking the whereabouts of her husband, Franz Kukol, believed to be in America. For 14 Years Kukol was with Houdini.
Fouteen years (from March 2, 1903 to April 6, 1917).
I wonder if she found him.
She must have tried to contact Houdini.
Drelhacken, Bohemia--I hadn't seen that before.
In Houdini's 1908-9 diary, he has pasted a photo of Harry Houdini Kukol b. May 24, 1909
Did they abandon that kid. I'd think they'd try to get him to the states. Perhaps they couldn't because Kukol was an illegal.
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Postby JohnCox » 12/11/09 06:30 PM

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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/11/09 09:31 PM

There is some wonderful footage of Franz Kukol in the 1907 bridge jump 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."
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Postby JohnCox » 12/11/09 09:37 PM

Kukol is in Haldane???
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/14/09 10:01 PM

Frank is in Haldane and he is prominent in the Hotel Shelton pool photos.
You know, years ago I was going to write about Collins and Kukol and call the chapter "the Mechanic and the Man in the Crowd."
Franz is in the crowd of committeemen at the Mirror Cuff challenge, for example, wearing a frock coat. While Collins and Vickery are in rolled up shirtsleeves at an Overboard Packing Box Escape, Franz is in a coat, tie and boater hat with a press card in it. The man in the crowd.
Then, Franz has to disappear because he's illegal. He shaves off the mustache, changes his hair style and blends in with the crowd.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/17/09 12:12 AM

I have just posted photos which I believe to be Frank carrying Houdini's coffin, and assisting at the Hotel Shelton Test in a post entitled "funeral" on handcuffs.org.
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Postby JohnCox » 12/17/09 02:44 PM

On your site? Couldn't find them. Do you have a link?
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 12/17/09 03:48 PM

Here you go.

http://www.network54.com/Forum/261154/

John...Do me a favor and send me a link for the Life magazine photos with Tony Curtis.

Thanks,

Kevin
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Postby Pete McCabe » 12/17/09 04:09 PM

You can search through Google's archive of Life magazine photos here or by adding source:life to the end of any google search string.
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 12/17/09 04:54 PM

Thanks. I tried it, but it only comes up with 5 photos. The one I saw had about 100 or more photos from the movie.
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Postby JohnCox » 12/18/09 04:51 PM

Kevin Connolly wrote:Here you go.

http://www.network54.com/Forum/261154/

John...Do me a favor and send me a link for the Life magazine photos with Tony Curtis.

Thanks,

Kevin


Oh dear. My link, which used to bring up the whole batch, now only brings up a handful. Looks like maybe they removed them.

http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q ... rch+Images
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/18/09 04:58 PM

Aw, heck! That was a great batch of photos, and, thinking I had the rest of my life to check them out, I only glanced at them.
Zencat! You spotted Franz/Frank in Haldane yet?
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Postby JohnCox » 12/20/09 12:24 PM

No, I haven't popped in the movie yet. I'll do that today.
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Postby Lee Almond » 12/20/09 06:50 PM

Please forgive me for asking this question.I think the great Houdini was embalmed. Again, forgive me for asking this question. Does the Jewish faith not belive in embalming?
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/20/09 07:30 PM

I think you could find that out pretty easily by using Google.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/20/09 07:30 PM

Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
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Postby Lee Almond » 12/20/09 07:56 PM

Thank you Richard for the link.
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 12/20/09 07:57 PM

I think Houdini was enbalmed. I'm pretty sure he had his mother embalmed too.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/20/09 08:03 PM

Houdini was embalmed as his mother had been. I can't tell you where I learned that and I can't take the time to find the source, but, I was first quite shocked that Houdini's mother's body had stayed in the house for--whatever it was--two weeks without being embalmed. But, I have actually recently read that Houdini wished to be embalmed as his mother had been.
This to me raises the issue again of whether Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weiss was orthodox or reform. Only one of his sons had married by the time the Rabbi died and that son, Herman, married in the Episcopal Church. He didn't live to see three more sons marry Christians and for his wife and at least one of his sons to be embalmed. And that son to sport a graven image on his grave.
I guess Rabbi Weiss would have loved his family no matter what they did.
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Postby Greg Edmonds » 12/23/09 11:36 PM

Pat,

I haven't visited the Genii forum in several weeks, and was immediately drawn to your mention of Kukol's name herein. I hesitate to write anything, and feel foolish doing so, but I read, SOMEWHERE in the relatively recent past, material about Franz and his predicament when WWI broke out. I simply have no idea where I read it, but it was in one of my older resources, as that's where I was looking for facts related to dates and places for the Marie Blood Houdini biography I'm working (very slowly, due to health issues) on.

I just wanted to chime in and say that wherever I saw it, the facts regarding Kukol's transformation into Williamson agree with you. I have thousands of pages related to Houdini, most in books, of course, but also many photocopied original documents, and come to think of it, a few original documents as well, and notes I took when talking with Marie very regularly over a span of about 17 years.. It may have been in one of the latter pages that I came upon this information.

Please note that I've had very little sleep in the last few nights, so I hope you can make some sense of what I'm attempting to convey.

Though we know he observed certain occasions in temple regularly, my understanding, too, is that Houdini did go against orthodoxy, and have both himself and his mother embalmed. I think, and I'm just guessing, that this occurred out of necessity because he was desperate to see his mother's countenance again and knew the time it would take for him to return home with the famous slippers he'd purchased for her.

Greg
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Postby JohnCox » 12/24/09 12:56 PM

Greg Edmonds wrote:...the Marie Blood Houdini biography I'm working (very slowly, due to health issues) on.

Excited to hear about this, Greg. Please keep me posted. I'll be happy to help you promote the book on my site.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/24/09 04:34 PM

Thanks to Kevin Connolly I can tell you that Houdini was embalmed at the Hamilton Funeral Home in Detroit.
Referring back to whether Jim Vickery aided Houdini in the development of the Milk Can, that is true in that Houdini developed that effect over years of performance, but, during the season of 1907-08, in the U.S. where Houdini introduced the Milk Can, he appears to have been assisted by Franz Kukol and Frederick George Vickery, Jim's older brother. Jim Vickery joined the act in the fall of 1908 in England.
I expected a flood of messages or posts saying, "I don't see Kukol in Haldane!" or asking me, "is Kukol the guy i the next to the last scene.
I would just post a frame enlargement which shows Kukol, but, I'm attempting a double-blind here.
Has anyone out there--besides me--spotted Franz/Frank in Haldane?
Hey there, Greg,
Keep working at the book. That's all I can say. I hope you do turn up something more on the envanishment of Franz Kukol. I also hope that when you find it, it isn't something I wrote. We all know what I know on the subject because it's in this post and the one on handcuffs.org.
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Postby Joe Pecore » 12/24/09 05:36 PM

I just stumbled across a reference to Frank Williamson in an old Swann's Auction Catalog (Public Auction Sale 1875, October 26, 2000):

70 (HOUDINI, HARRY.) Typed Affadavit Signed and Notarized, by Frank Williamson, testifying that he had attended every Houdini performance in Chicago's Princess Theater since 08 March 1926 and that Houdini did not call Dr. Burgess fradulent, and offering instead a paraphrase of what he heard Houdini say. One page, 4to; with Williamson's Signature and address in holograph
and the notarized portion Signed and with the embossed stamp of the notary.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/24/09 06:23 PM

Kalush mentioned that affadavit to me, saying that maybe he could track down the buyer through Swannn's.
I'd like to compare Frank Kukol's signature with Frank Williamson's.
The George Vickery who was exposing the handcuff act with "Herr Franz Kukol, the celebrsated illusionist" in 1905 was very likely Frederick George Vickery. He is also, probably, the artist who signed the artwork for Hardeen's Monarch of Manacles poster "F. Vickery."
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/24/09 06:39 PM

And Williamson's address!
I wonder who has that affadavit?
That person would certainly be an honored guest on this post.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/30/09 03:20 PM

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 Clbre Houdini Paris - Path (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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Postby terry love » 12/30/09 05:46 PM

On the subject of Houdini's assistants, would anyone know when Vickery died and what he did later in life??
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/30/09 10:11 PM

Harold James Vickery was born Feb 14 (St. Valentine's Day), 1885 and died Nov 5(Guy Fawkes Day), 1954.
I don't know what his job was later in his life, but, he worked in the same warehouse on 19th St. in Union City, New Jersey, where he, Jimmy Collins and two others built the Elephant Vanish, Hello Summer, Radio 1950 and other Houdini props. Houdini rented the building under a false company name and it was kept top secret when Houdini was alive.
Houdini would tell people he had those props made in San Francisco.
His widow Pauline Rey Vickery loaned some family treasures to Milbourne Christopher when he was writing Houdini, the Untold Story and was still expecting them to be returned when she died. The family would still like to have them returned. They were a loan, not a gift.
Vickery was a metal worker, a machinist, and a carpenter. He helped to keep the Voison flying.
Whether or not he was still employing those skills later in life, I don't know.
In the outdoor strait-jacket footage, Collins is in charge of Houdini's ankles, Vickery is in charge of the shoulders and head.
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Postby JohnCox » 12/30/09 10:54 PM

Vickery also worked as an assistant to Hardeen after Houdini died. A photo just sold on eBay of Dash, Vickery, and Douglas Geoffrey with the Milk Can in 1943.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/31/09 01:59 AM

Here are 3 interesting links, parts 1, 2, and 3 of a Hogan's Heroes titled "Color the Luftwaffe Red." James Mitchell Vickery has a guest-star role as a Luftwaffe colonel.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gA5lZ_Lp8lU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0fz9hv8xR0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gg5N1f1AvcA
Jim Vickery's son was an actor. He starred on the soap opera "the Secret Storm" in the 60s. He was married to Colleen Dewhurst and later Diana Muldaur. He died in 1969.
Jim Vickery and I acted on different episodes of Eischied (he was in the pilot) and McCloud (on which Diana Muldaur co-starred with Dennis Weaver).
I met Diana a couple of times while she was staying in Laurel Canyon while shooting McCloud. Jim Vickery was at their home in Pacific Palisades (too far to commute to Universal Studios). She mentioned her husband but never by his full name. I think I might have said something if I'd known her husband Jim's last name was Vickery.
I feel as if I just missed him.
Jim Vickery was with Hardeen from Houdini's death (starting in 1927) through the Million Dollar Pier period (1933-), then, things got slow. Hardeen didn't make the kind of money Houdini did and couldn't pay the assistants as well as Houdini had. Things got pretty rough for Hardeen in the late thirties then came Hellzapoppin which rescued him. Jimmy Collins worked on Hellzapoppin. Apparently, Jim Vickery did not.
Vickery did help Hardeen on Parent Assembly and Magicians' Guild shows and special performances until Hardeen died in 1945.
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Postby terry love » 12/31/09 04:49 PM

Thank you...extremely interesting. Does any one know much about Houdini"s house in recent years. Is it the same as when he lived there or has it been remodeled? Are there films or photos of the inside? It was interesting to look at it on Google earth.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/31/09 06:30 PM

I've been in Houdini's house twice, in 1976 and 1994. In the first visit, I really only saw a front sitting room. The brownstone was divided up into apartments and I would have been intruding on people if I saw more of the house. In 1994, a man named Fred who told me he was the contractor, but, I think, was actually the owner, let me and my son walk around the downstairs. With all the draperies removed, you could look from the front room to the back of the house. Big, beautiful place, but, very much changed since Houdini's time. The oversized bathtub with "HH" spelled on the black and white tiles, Fred told me, was long gone.
I didn't get to look for secret panels or 1920s style "bugs."
Fred said they were gone. I'll bet there are still secrets in that house.
Then, Of course, there is that farmhouse in Connecticut that was later owned by Robert Vaughn and 2435 Laurel Canyon where the Houdinis lived 1n 1919 and Bessie and Ed Saint lived in 1934-5.
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Postby terry love » 12/31/09 08:45 PM

I'm sure there are still secrets in the house left by Houdini, just waiting for a group of magicians and psychics to discover them (now that's a reality show I would watch)...Do you think that any of Houdini's movies may have had scenes shot in the house? It was recently brought to my attention that a trunk packed full of Houdini items including letters, keys, and handcuffs sold at a flea market outside of New York a couple years ago for $1,000.00...Has anyone heard about this and what the contents were...
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Postby Leonard Hevia » 01/01/10 01:23 PM

My brother visited L.A. about six months ago and bought a copy of Borislav Stanic's Los Angeles Attractions. It's one of those pocket tour guide books, but nicely produced with color photos and descriptions of every noteworthy place to visit in Southern California. The Magic Castle is listed with a photo, and so is Houdini.

Stanic wrote this about Houdini's house in Laurel Canyon:

"The northwest corner of Laurel Canyon Blvd and Lookout Mountain Rd was once occupied by a log cabin owned in the 1920s by legendary cowboy star Tom Mix. Frank Zappa, the bandleader of the Mothers of Invention, lived in the house from 1966 to 1968. Across the street, at 2398 (now 2400) Laurel Canyon Blvd, once stood a 1920s Italianate, 40-room mansion where the magician Harry Houdini is believed to have lived at one time. Today, only the steps and the servant quarters remain on the grounds, which are reportedly haunted. Both the Mix and Houdini houses burned down".

I don't know how accurate that is, because Stanic also writes in the Palace Theater entry that Houdini "caused a sensation" there with the sawing in half illusion, complete with an ambulance waiting outside. I don't think Houdini ever performed this.
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Postby Leonard Hevia » 01/01/10 01:40 PM

If you log on to www.houdini-lives.com and click on galleries, you'll see a slide section on Houdini's New York. The photos were taken in August 2005. There are lots of photos of the brownstone house from the front and rear. The front porch displays a small red plaque honoring Houdini. The house is currently a kind of apartment building. The Shelton Hotel, the cemetary plot, Mrs. Leffler's boarding house and the east side apartment building Houdini lived in during his hard times are also in the slide section.

The Shelton Hotel, the site of the famous coffin pool miracle has now become a Marriot. No photos of the pool--if it's still there.
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