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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 15th, 2019, 10:29 pm
by Jonathan Townsend
Bill Mullins wrote:It seems odd to me that if this happened as reported at a SAM banquet, full of other magicians, that no one mentioned it at all for decades. ....
Bill, what was written of the occasion and "aftershow" at that time?

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 16th, 2019, 8:21 am
by Joe Lyons
The banquet was written about in the Sphinx the following month. Houdini’s skill with cards was lauded, nothing was mentioned of the fooling incident.
Vernon’s presence was noted, as was Margules’.
It did note that the party broke up at 3:30 am, I suspect the early hour has much to do with the lack of reporting of the incident.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 16th, 2019, 12:09 pm
by Jonathan Townsend
Joe Lyons wrote:The banquet was written about in the Sphinx the following month. Houdini’s skill with cards was lauded, nothing was mentioned of the fooling incident.
Vernon’s presence was noted, as was Margules’.
It did note that the party broke up at 3:30 am, I suspect the early hour has much to do with the lack of reporting of the incident.
Joe, are you working from The Sphinx itself? Was there any followup after the Feb 1922 issue?

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 16th, 2019, 12:27 pm
by Joe Lyons
Jonathan Townsend wrote:Joe, are you working from The Sphinx itself? Was there any followup after the Feb 1922 issue?

Yes, that was from an article in the Sphinx, I am away from it now but I didn’t see any follow up.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 16th, 2019, 12:59 pm
by Joe Lyons
BTW I thought it was the March issue, but as I said I’m away from it just now.

Also Vernon was listed as Verner.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 16th, 2019, 3:34 pm
by Bill Mullins
Billboard, Mar 4 1922
"Programs of the banquet and entertainment recently accorded Houdini by the Chicago Assembly of the Society of American Magicians are not to be bad at a premium. Including Houdini and his charming wife, who always accompanies him on his tours, the party numbered an even 100. After witnessing the show at the Palace Theater, where the king of escape artists and president of the S. A. M. received the greatest ovation ever given a mystery en­tertainer in the Windy City and thrilled with his great act, the scene of celebration was shifted to the Great Northern Hotel. B. L. Gilbert served as toastmaster at the sumptuous banquet. Brief talks preceded the entertainment. Houdini, in the course of his address of thanks, recalled how, back in 1894, he visited Chicago to play a week engagement at the Kohl & Middleton Theater for $15. His present contract with the Keith office is re­ported at $3,500 a week. “ I distinctly remem­ber,” stated Houdini, “ how my good little wife—and what a wonderful wife she has been—remained in the depot then to watch our baggage while I went in search of a room with hot and cold water.” Among the distinguished out-of-town visitors were: Dr. A. M. Wilson, editor of The Sphinx; Sam Margules, of the Pittsburg Association of Magicians; A. Ray­mond, of the Detroit Assembly; D. W. Verner, of Ottawa, Can.; A. M. Plough, of the Phila­delphia Assembly, and John E. Kaiser, and Messrs. Stoneman and Zens from Kenosha, Kan.Those who participated in the magical pro­gram were: T. A. McDonald, W. R. Walsh, Amerein, James C. Sherman, Harlan “ Doc” Tarbel, the Australian Buckleys and Houdini."


Felsman's Magical Review, Feb 1922
"The scene then changed to the Crystal Room of the Great Northern Hotel, where history was made. We arrived at perhaps eleven o'clock, and after the usual preliminary of running a barrage of newspaper camera men and reporters, there came the reception. Our crowd increased to ninety-eight by this time, and this was the number presented to Houdini, Mrs. Houdini, and Dr. Wilson—our guests of honor. . . .Then there was Compeer Alvin M. Plough, representing the Philadelphia Assembly, Compeer A. Raymond, representing the Detroit Assembly, Compeers Kaiser, Zens and Stoneman from Kenosha, Wis., and the Jovial Sam Margules reporting for the Pittsburgh Society and D. W. Verner from Ottowa, Ontario."

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 16th, 2019, 6:55 pm
by Jonathan Townsend
Thanks Bill.
Reading David Ben's account I can almost hear the theme from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly playing in background. In recent magic literature there's a parallel to the Thurston rising cards story. Data or Lore, tall tale or history, it's a good story.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 16th, 2019, 10:46 pm
by Joe Lyons
Bill Mullins wrote:Felsman's Magical Review, Feb 1922
"The scene then changed to the Crystal Room of the Great Northern Hotel, where history was made. We arrived at perhaps eleven o'clock, and after the usual preliminary of running a barrage of newspaper camera men and reporters, there came the reception. Our crowd increased to ninety-eight by this time, and this was the number presented to Houdini, Mrs. Houdini, and Dr. Wilson—our guests of honor. . . .Then there was Compeer Alvin M. Plough, representing the Philadelphia Assembly, Compeer A. Raymond, representing the Detroit Assembly, Compeers Kaiser, Zens and Stoneman from Kenosha, Wis., and the Jovial Sam Margules reporting for the Pittsburgh Society and D. W. Verner from Ottowa, Ontario."


That’s the exact copy that was in the Sphinx, must be the same author.

Interestingly enough, of the two major magic magazines of the time the M-U-M was edited by Houdini and the Sphinx by Dr. Wilson, Houdini’s former enemy but now great friend. I wonder if they would have run an article about Harry getting fooled.....

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 17th, 2019, 2:11 am
by Paco Nagata
In my very humble opinion, I believe in the Professor's own statement; it happened in 1919.
I believe it took place in an almost secret meeting between him, Houdini, and other few people.
And that would explain the mistery that Bill Mullins was talking about; why wasn't that event widely spread as a gossip.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 17th, 2019, 8:19 am
by Joe Lyons
I am reminded of a line from The Man who shot Liberty Valance : “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 17th, 2019, 10:29 am
by David Ben
I placed the Vernon-Houdini encounter in 1922 as documented in my biography of Vernon for a variety of reasons.

Although Vernon once placed the event in 1919, he also once placed it in 1922. He did say in both instances, however, that it took place in Chicago. During my extensive research into Vernon's life, I soon discovered that he often messed up factual information about his early life. He said, for example, that he spent two years at Royal Military College. I obtained his school records from the institution. He was there six months and left "at his parents' request." He said that he had received medical clearance to avoid fighting in the armed forces in the Great War because of a broken arm he had suffered as a child. I obtained his military medical report from the Canadian Government and although the doctor noted the issue with the arm, the doctor also wrote on the file "no impediment to active military service." It is not surprising that Vernon mixed up dates. He was in his late 70s and 80s when he wrote most about his life, and he did not become that magical cultural icon for the broader community until he was in an advanced age.

So, was it 1919 or 1922?

Well, first I reminded myself that Houdini was a major international celebrity during those years. Vernon had no reputation, except within an extremely small circle of about a half dozen people, until, at least for the magic community, Max Holden started writing about him in the mid-1920s. Houdini and Vernon did not socialize. And Vernon was not part of the magic community. He was also absent from New York for much of the late teens.

I then turned to the various directories that documented Houdini's whereabouts to see when he was in Chicago. He spent time there in 1922, and he was in Chicago to promote the release of his new motion picture. (The banquet in his honour started extremely late at night because Houdini attended the premiere of his new movie.)

I then discovered Felsman's Review, reading the copy about to auctioned at the Swann Gallery auction so many years ago. Near the very end of the piece I read that Vernon, different spelling as cited earlier in this thread, had attended from Ottawa! I've got the two of them together. But there are a lot magicians there, and Vernon doesn't know many of them - not his style - but Sam Margules is there. Margules and Vernon were very close. Margules was also very close to Houdini. That was the bridge.

As Richard pointed out, Vernon was a very secretive guy in the early days. And he did not consider himself a performer. (He became one by accident through the booking agent Miss King, but that was later in the 20s.) Vernon would disappear if a crowd of magicians had gathered around him, and back then, the dinner was not like a magic convention. There were a lot of heavy hitters in the audience - old school - and there was a different decorum. People performed on the platform for Houdini. The amateurs, or other professionals, out of respect, were not going to break out into close up performances to pull crowds to their table. Close up in that style, and grandstanding, didn't come into vogue into later with introduction of more magic clubs, amateurs and magic conventions, the popularization of close up magic through people, as Max Maven has pointed out in other presentations, like Matt Schulien. So, the Vernon-Houdini encounter would not have been seen by many, and certainly would not have been reported.

The magic community also knew that Harry Houdini's statement about not being fooled if he saw something three times was a promotional stunt - although Houdini, himself may or may not have believed it. In reality, it had little weight as Houdini had been fooled by others over the years. Not really worth reporting in a trade magazine.

I don't believe the moniker "the Man who fooled Houdini" really entered Vernon's promotional repertoire until his Rainbow Room and post-Rainbow Room Harlequin performances, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, when a copywriter for the New Yorker wrote a freelance piece for Vernon that was incorporated into his Dale Vernon brochure. It was the writer who wrote about Vernon fooling Houdini.

As Max correctly pointed out, Vernon had little respect for Houdini - both as a magician and as a man. As to the latter, Vernon lost respect for Houdini later in the 1920s after Houdini physically assaulted Sam Margules who, by all accounts, was the nicest guy in the world.

And then years later, I acquired a substantial archive of Vernon material from Vernon's son, Derek, that Vernon had kept in the attic in Tuckahoe for decades - leaving it all there in the early 60s when he migrated to the Magic Castle. There, in dozens of pieces, was the photograph of the banquet in Chicago from 1922. I had the photograph restored, and eventually published in Genii. I also walked through the image with Jay Marshall as Jay had a better chance of identifying the people in the photograph more than I ever would.

So, in my mind, as Vernon was not one to keep a lot of material on hand, this photograph - one he may have kept for over forty years before moving West, must have had some sentimental connection to him.

The other elements of the encounter I described in the book were drawn significantly from Buffum's interview with Vernon in the mid-60s.

I imagine that Vernon would have fooled Houdini with just about anything he did with cards. Houdini was not very good with cards. Period. His technique and style of performing with them, although typical of the time, had no subtlety or grace. His hands were not very good. How could they be? I have a few photographs of Houdini in my collection. The one of most interest to me is one where his hands display all the scars of his trade. (The photograph had not not been retouched.) Houdini's hands were beaten up hands, having endured tremendous hardship over many years from meeting every challenge as the Handcuff King. Obvious in hindsight.

Vernon represented, along with a few others like Arthur Finley, what I would describe as a Post-Modern approach to magic, "post" being a recognition of people like Dr. William Elliott, Nate Leipzig, Max Malini and T. Nelson Downs, who came before Vernon, and broke new ground in their approach to performing sleight-of-hand onstage and off. Regardless of whether I position Vernon as Cezanne or Picasso, Vernon clearly benefited from their work, but he also ushered in a new way of thinking about and performing sleight-of-hand, that has resonated more than, I would argue, anyone ever has done before or since, in the history of magic. (That's another long article.) Houdini, no fault of his own - being a huge star with all the demands it took - was not "with it", as Daley might say, with respect to the new approach to art.

There is much more I could say about all of this but I've got books to write.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 17th, 2019, 11:35 am
by Bill Mullins
Thanks, David, for the fascinating background. Often, while the story is interesting, the story behind the story is even more so.

(and why, then, did Vernon not serve in WWI, if his broken arm did not prevent it?)

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 17th, 2019, 11:40 am
by Richard Kaufman
Thank you, David!

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 17th, 2019, 1:34 pm
by Brad Jeffers
David Ben wrote: Although Vernon once placed the event in 1919, he also once placed it in 1922.
He also once placed it in 1917 (the Revelations tapes volume 9).
So, in my mind, as Vernon was not one to keep a lot of material on hand, this photograph - one he may have kept for over forty years before moving West, must have had some sentimental connection to him.
You would think that he would have kept two other items related to this event - the card used in the trick - and the letter he received from Bess verifying that he had indeed fooled Houdini.

In fact, on the Revelations tape he says, "I made him sign the card HH. I still have the card in New York in my trunk."
There is much more I could say about all of this but I've got books to write.
Yes ...
The second volume of the Vernon biography!

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 17th, 2019, 2:17 pm
by Diego
Wonderful information David!

Like many, I look forward to your next volume.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 17th, 2019, 4:48 pm
by Paco Nagata
David,
That's a remarkable background!
I read it carefully and eagerness. I feel privileged for learning so many interesting things about one of my most followed idols like Vernon.
Thank you very much for that post.

In my amateur PDF e-book I gave references only about the Vernon' statement (in the introduction about the ACR), but I should wait to know more about it to give references also to your work on it. I'm sorry for that.
Anyway, 1919 or 1922, what's gives?
The important thing is that something happened around those years to lead the Professor to be know as the man who fooled Houdini.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 17th, 2019, 5:14 pm
by David Ben
Bill

Vernon did technically serve in the First World War. He was pulled out of Royal Military College just as trouble was brewing. Royal Military College was the training ground for Officers for the Canadian Expeditionary Force sent overseas to fight. If Vernon had graduated, he would have been hard pressed not to have been in the first wave of enlistees - and an Officer to boot. Instead, his parents pulled him out, and he took off for New York, ostensibly to the Arts Student League. He was in New York for a couple of years. More troops were needed, however, and Canada initiated conscription. (Quite a controversial subject, particularly in Quebec.) Vernon came back to Canada to join the war effort, and hoped to get into the air force - a new entity that appealed to him. So, Vernon, technically did serve - just not overseas - and received medals (which I own) as a serviceman. The war ended shortly after his joining the military thanks in large part to the Americans who, although a couple of years late to the hostility - as they would be with the Second World War - made the difference, and provided the tipping point to victory.

David

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: September 17th, 2019, 5:23 pm
by David Ben
Brad

Although the Revelations series is wonderful, I try to remind myself that Vernon was around 88 years of age when the series was shot, and there was no one on set who really knew the historical facts of his life. So, there are a lot of errors that have been disseminated. (My mother, who passed away at 91, and was sharp most of her life, thought near the end that she was pitching for the Blues Jays in the World Series, and was angry that they hadn't sent a car for her. When I asked why she thought she would be pitching for the Jays when they had a lot of strong, young arms, she said, "They saw me pitch a game. They thought I was good." So I lost that one.) Vernon was a remarkable man, and he lived an extraordinary life, sometimes a life that sounded too outrageous until a journalist, like Karl Johnson, comes around and proves that Vernon remembered things extraordinarily well. But as he got older, memory does falter, and it is helpful to look at other sources.

Vernon kept very little. Persi Diaconis told us, while filming the interview for Daniel Zuckerbrot's film Dai Vernon: The Spirit of Magic, that he visited Vernon in Tuckahoe just as Vernon was contemplating the trip to California, and Vernon was at the fireplace tossing his correspondence and papers into the fire, not believing they would be of interest. Persi, thankfully, intervened and salvaged some of it, which I understand is now housed in his collection.

David

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: October 6th, 2019, 10:48 pm
by Grippo's Wish
A few weeks ago I found Dani DaOrtiz' version of this effect, based on a concept by Tamariz. Basically, Tamariz told DaOrtiz that Vernon didn't used an actual double back card, but rather, two cards facing together.

Additionally, DaOrtiz says that he has a letter from Howard Hamburg where he wrote that Vernon told him that he used "The Tilt" in that particular effect. As this sounded very strange, I emailed David Ben, who told me that that is wrong.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: October 7th, 2019, 9:55 am
by Jonathan Townsend
Using an impromptu double backer and the Tilt item in that trick make sense, but let's stick to evidence and history from 1922. :)

On the way to 2020 and for fun: Vernon recommended the book "expert". May as well carry a copy with a playing card as bookmark. Shim a few DB cards and put a magnet into the book. So by passing the book over the pack you can pick up the cover card or a small block of cards. Show the selection as the bookmark to close.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: October 7th, 2019, 11:46 am
by Max Maven
Grippo's Wish wrote:A few weeks ago I found Dani DaOrtiz' version of this effect, based on a concept by Tamariz. Basically, Tamariz told DaOrtiz that Vernon didn't used an actual double back card, but rather, two cards facing together.


In this case, Juan is wrong. Back at that time, the Professor had double-backers to match all of the common decks in use, in both blue and red. So, he could (and did) ring in such gaffs when using a borrowed pack.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: October 9th, 2019, 9:38 pm
by Paco Nagata
Many people think that due to the advanced age of The Professor, he spoke not very accurate about certain details of his life... Tamariz met Vernon in the early 80' when Vernon was almost 90. In addition, Tamariz is not English language native, so maybe he misunderstood him in certain aspects.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: October 9th, 2019, 10:49 pm
by Richard Kaufman
It is important to separate the different handlings of Vernon's trick.
The version he showed Houdini used a double-backed card, but did NOT use the Depth Illusion. The latter was added much later, in the 1950s, I believe.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: October 10th, 2019, 7:04 am
by Paco Nagata
Jonathan Townsend wrote:... but let's stick to evidence and history from 1922.   :)

I have corrected that piece of information in my personal book of card magic:
So, instead of,
"... in 1919, as it’s told in the column of the Genii Magazine, The Vernon Touch..."
I wrote,
"... in 1922, according to the great research made by David Ben for "Dai Vernon: A Biography" (Vol. 1)..."
So, I felt relief.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: October 11th, 2019, 6:19 am
by Jack Shalom
Max, Richard... Is there a date on when Vernon figured out the Depth illusion sleight?

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: October 11th, 2019, 9:01 pm
by Richard Kaufman
David Ben knows. There is a letter from Vernon to, I believe, Bertram.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: October 12th, 2019, 12:58 pm
by Bob Farmer
I've seen that letter and it includes illustrations. David would know the date.

Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Posted: October 12th, 2019, 1:27 pm
by Richard Kaufman
I think it is from 1953.