In September 1967, the San Francisco Examiner reported that an old man, over 100 years old, who jogged 5 miles in Golden Gate Park every day, had once been Houdini's assistant. The old guy, whose name was Larry Lewis, told them he had worked for Houdini for 33 years and that "finally, at the Temple Theatre in Detroit, Houdini died in his arms."
Two years later, the syndicated columnist, Paul Harvey, befriended Larry.
"While jogging one day in Arizona I was joined by another jogger, who appeared somewhat older than I yet set a faster pace.
Larry Lewis appears to be 60 or so, yet he is trim, lean, hard--and a delightful companion.
"But where I jog 3 miles three times a week, Larry Lewis jogs 6 miles every day!
"Subsequently I was dumbstruck to learn that this vigorous, athletic man is not 60 years old at all; he's 102! He was 60 when Calvin Coolidge was president!
A SPRINTER AT 102
"Furthermore, Mr. Lewis is not just a jogger, he is a sprinter! He runs the hundred yard dash in 20 seconds!
"In the months since our first meeting, I have shared the companionship of this uncommon man on several occasions.
He is employed as a waiter in the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, probably the oldest gainfully employed person in the United States.
"'Retire?' He says. 'What in the world for?'
JOGGING JUST A BEGINNING
"Yet the work never interferes with his early morning jogging schedule. Rain or shine, between four and 530 each morning wherever he is, he'll be jogging. At home he jogs through hilly Golden gate Park. When he's completed his 6 miles, he walks to his home on California and 12th streets, has fruit juice, freshens up and then, if it's a work day, he walks 5 miles to the St. Francis.
"Larry Lewis gives his spare time to the Boy's Clubs in San Francisco and elsewhere. Recently, when he celebrated his birthday, I sought to learn as much as possible about 'what makes Larry run.'
"He was born in 1867 in a tiny settlement in our Southwest. Later the area became a territory. In 1912 it was given statehood. And the settlement became Phoenix, Arizona.
"Larry had a head start. The English-Russian extraction, his father lived to be 77 and his mother lived to be 90.
Larry, as a lad, ran away with a circus, became an Acrobat, an arialist. Later he became an assistant to the master magician, Harry Houdini. Houdini died in Larry's arms in 1926. At 85, Larry married a second time. On her deathbed, his first wife selected his second. He's still married to Bessie.
"But what of the health habits which keep him so physically fit and mentally alert?
IT'S ALL IN THE MIND
"Let me emphasize that 'mentally alert' part. A centenarian you might expect to be dull if not doddering. Larry Lewis is sharp, alert, has a keen sense of humor, thin gray hair, twinkling blue eyes, pearl-white teeth.
"'When I'm buying teeth, I want the best,' he laughs.
"Diet? No diet. Larry eats anything and everything--but with discipline. 'I always get up from the table hungry.'
"Of course he neither smokes or drinks, but he is not a 'health food addict,' as such.
"'I do drink a lot of water,' he explains. He prefers bottles, 'un-doctored' water. Yet the essence of his fitness appears to derive from that one prescription: always get up from the table hungry.
"It is a bitter prescription but a worthy objective. I'm going to race Larry until I'm 102 if it kills me.
(Hear Paul Harvey daily Monday through Saturday on WOWL radio at 12 noon).
The Toledo Blade for June 26, 1969 reported that "Larry Lewis,
who looks like Jimmy Durante and talks like Casey Stengel, celebrated his 102nd birthday Wednesday by running 100 yards in 17.3 seconds.
"Unwinded, Mr. Lewis called it 'child's play.' The time was 0.5 of a second faster than his time for 100 yards a year ago.
Mr. Lewis, who worked with Harry Houdini for the Barnum and Bailey Circus in the 1880s, runs 6 miles every morning in Golden gate Park
"Then he walks 5 miles to the St. Francis Hotel, where he has been a waiter since he was 80, and walks home after work."
There are still items on the Internet today about the centenarian who ran 6 miles a day, Larry Lewis.
What was true? Nothing he said about Houdini made any sense.
The truth was he wasn't Larry Lewis. The truth was he was Lewis Goldstein, who actually had been an assistant to Houdini and who performed magic himself under the name "Mysterious Brooks." According to his World War 1 draft registration, he was born April 19, 1886 in London.
In June, 1955, Lewis Goldstein was interviewed for an article by Tom Donahue in the Service Workers NYC Local 32B newsletter, titled THE MAN WHO KNOWS HOUDINI'S SECRETS. Lewis said he worked for Houdini on several tours and quit the road when he married his wife, Ida, in 1917. It is a straightforward interview and it is all factual. At the time Lew Goldstein was still part of the magic crowd at S.A.M. Parent Assembly of New York. The Conjurers' Magazine noted his attendance at Hardeen's funeral.
Not 102, but 83 when he ran the 100 in 17.3. His body was working, he seemed very alert but, his mind was slipping away.
I first read about Larry Lewis when I was in Vietnam in 1969. I think it was in Time magazine. A guy told me, "Hey, Culliton, there's something in this magazine about Houdini." I read it. It didn't make sense. I thought he was just a phony. So did everybody else. Milbourne, Bob Lund. I Don't think any of us found out about who he was until after he died. I don't think we could have gotten much out of him even if we had learned who he really was in time to talk to him. I would like to have met him. When I did a play in San Francisco in 72, I lived on California St. a few blocks from California and 12th where Larry lived; and visited the city several times after I returned from Vietnam and before Larry Lewis died.
I have finished my book, and am at the proof-reading, pre-press stage.