(LEFT) Doug Henning performs The Houdini Puzzle, 1975. (1st World of Magic TV show.)
A FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT OF JOHNNY'S MENTORSHIP WITH DOUG HENNING:
RECOLLECTIONS FROM BACKSTAGE AT "SPELLBOUND"
(DECEMBER 29th, 1973)
by Brian Lumley
The magic world is full of secret connections and unknown paths.
I am not a magician that performs on stage, even though I have. My work is back stage. I knew no magicians before I worked for Doug and did not know John Giordmaine. I met him only once back stage during "Spellbound".
I worked with Doug on "Spellbound" and until the end of his second live special at the end of '76. All the information I have on John Giordmaine is what I witnessed and remember from comments Doug made. . . Reading your website has helped me shake loose some deep memories.
The incident I am going to describe I remember because it was unique. I thought the older gentleman was a family member of Doug's. Doug introduced him but who he was went over my head at the time.
John Giordmaine came to one of the last performances of "Spellbound" at the Royal Alex [Theatre in Toronto]. He was one of the few people Doug let back stage. Doug gave him a tour of the illusions; John looked very pleased with what he saw. Doug thanked him for all the magic and help he had given him. John thanked him, said how wonderful it all was and gave Doug his blessing. It was an important spiritual moment for Doug.
Whenever Doug's magical pedigree was challenged [by other magicians early on in his career] John was one of the first three people [mentors] he mentioned. John Giordmaine was never challenged.
When Doug wrote the letter he thought about it a long time. Dai Vernon knew John had given his blessing to Doug first. We'll think of honour among Canadians here.
Doug definitely saw John Giordmaine as one of his most outstanding mentors and now I see why.
(LEFT) "Here is a bad photo of us in a huddle in the studio on 9th St. NYC preparing for the1st TV special . I am the hippie with the horizontal stripes. Clockwise is Twilla Duncan, Glen Priest then Doug in front of me". - Brian Lumley
ALL PHOTOS ON THIS PAGE USED WITH PERMISSION, COURTESY BRIAN LUMLEY.
JOSEPH GIORDMAINE COMMENTS:
Brian's breakthrough in identifying theolder gentleman and reconstructing what took place backstage at the Royal Alex is a truly magical revelation. His account of Dougs meeting with Dad is as good as it gets.
Brians identification of the older gentleman would never have occurred without the website - before reading johngiordmaine.com Brian had no recollection of having met Dad. . .
Their meeting coinciding with the beginning of Dougs Broadway career and the end of Dads life makes it an intensely moving event.
(LEFT) "Doug always kept congratulatory notes on his dressing room mirror. John G. gave Doug a card of congratulations at "Spellbound". That card and those from Dai Vernon, Slydini, the Larsons, etc. followed him throughout "The Magic Show". Here's a photo from Doug's dressing room at the Cort Theatre, 1976. He would rotate the cards from his wall to his mirror." - Brian Lumley
ABOUT BRIAN LUMLEY: IN HIS OWN WORDS
I was Doug Hennings Illusionary Engineer and animal handler from August, 1973 until the end of December, 1976. Doug and I met sitting on my living room floor on Gothic Avenue in Toronto in the winter of 73. I was not a magician, a stage performer or a stagehand previous to this time.
As part of the cast and crew that worked on stage and off during "Spellbound" I became intimate with the workings and foibles of the illusions. As a "Shadow" moving and manipulating the illusions on stage, I worked the magic back stage as well. I built several of "Spellbounds" illusions including his cat cage, magicians table and fire-bowls.
I followed Doug to NYC and Broadway where he created "The Magic Show". I worked back stage for him on Broadway, during two US multi-state tours and on his first two live TV specials.
My job was to build or modify, rig and customize each illusion to suit the way Doug wanted to perform them. No illusion that was purchased from any supplier went unmodified. There was a custom built illusion made by me on each of his shows that I worked on.
I was also on the team that chose two of his Canadian mountain lions. Rebel and Benji. I managed, trained and handled both of the cougars. I helped choose then trained his tiger Jadu for the 1st Special. I trained his owl on the 1st Special along with his rabbits, doves and runaway parrot. I left the elephant on the 2nd Special to somebody else.
I was privy to and part of several of Dougs life altering events during that time period. This was a time when many of his dreams and plans came to fruition and he had to make many unforeseen career choices. There were times when it all felt like a huge conspiracy. I would say Doug Henning created much of the magical life he lived at that time. Doug made himself who he was, nobody molded him but the people he respected and admired showed him the way. There is ample evidence to show he never forgot his roots. His retirement letter thanking John Giordmaine speaks volumes to me.
My personal philosophy on magic in a sentence is based on a statement made by Fred Kap: At some point you have to decide whether you want to fool the audience or mesmerize them; or perhaps you would enjoy doing both; seize that moment.
- Brian Lumley
YOUR CURATOR CONCLUDES:
And so we have our initial first-person eyewitness account testifying to the powerful and unique friendship and mentorship that existed between Johnny and Doug. Our sincere thanks to Brian Lumley for supplying these important details - the kind that have so far eluded magic history records completely. Doug's letter can now be more readily appreciated.
If you have any of your own thoughts, observations, memories or anecdotes that would help shed further light on the Giordmaine-Henning connection please do not hesitate to get in touch! (Some excellent theories appear HERE.) My email address is on Page Eleven of this site.
Further updates to follow later this summer. Please bookmark and return!
- John Pellatt (May 2015)
Larry Silverman, R. I. P.
We noted, with sadness, the passing of Larry Silverman on February 12th, 2015. He was 85. Former President of the long defunct Society of Canadian Magicians, Larry encouraged this site by sharing his rare video tape of the CBC TV "Telescope" tribute to Johnny; as well as allowing me to unearth back issues boxed up in his basement of the SCM's "Levitator" with key articles about Johnny. Our condolences to his family.
"The first time I ever saw Johnny I must've been maybe ten years old. It was down town at the magic counter in Eaton's Toyland. Behind the counter was this very tall magician showing trick after trick after trick. At one point he gave me a wink. Suddenly he was much shorter. Then he got much taller. Then again much shorter. This happened over and over again. I couldn't figure out how he was doing it. Later I discovered he'd been standing on a large orange crate behind the counter!" - Larry Silverman, from a phone conversation a couple years ago with your curator. Quoted with his permission.