| By Mike Rogers |
On February 8, 2000 the phone lines everywhere were jammed with the recent sad news in magic. The Internet was a beehive as magicians around the world related the news, expressed sorrow, and grieved in numerous missives. Doug Henning left this life the previous day. This column is not intended to relate or revisit the views expressed by so many on February 8, 2000. Doug Henning was brilliant. I doubt that any magician will deny this. His brilliance is mirrored in the multitude of words voiced February 8th. Yet I feel his remarkable brilliance has yet to be reflected. I’ll explain.
I first met Doug Henning in Chicago back in the early 70s. It was during one of the early Frances Marshall anniversary parities. Doug was not yet famous, though he had just completed a tour of several cities in Canada with his partner at the time, a beautiful young girl who went by the single name of Mars. The tour of Canada was quite an accomplishment. Yet that’s not why he was brilliant.
Doug joined Gene Anderson and me for breakfast one morning. He was quite excited about having recently been awarded a grant from his government to study magic for one year. I was impressed for I had never known of a grant being awarded to study the art of conjuring. Yet that’s not why he was brilliant.
Doug headed west and studied for several months under the guidance of Dai Vernon, affectionately and appropriately known as “The Professor.” Choosing to study and learn from Vernon was an intelligent move indeed, but that’s not the key to Doug’s brilliance. Doug later devoted time to learning the adeptness of magic from Tony Slydini, another keen decision. Yet that’s not why he was brilliant.
Before Doug Henning ever became famous he gave to magic one of the most copied patter lines ever used, and it’s still being used today. When you see a magician doing the Canvas Covered Box and hear the line, “One, Two, Three it’s me,” you are hearing the soul of Doug Henning. Yet that’s not why he was brilliant.
He brought two different successful magic shows to Broadway, something even the theatrical experts said couldn’t be done. Yet he did it. It had been tried before without success. It’s been done since, yet no one has pulled it off as Doug Henning did. Yet that’s not why he was brilliant.
He followed in the footsteps of Mark Wilson bringing several network magic specials to TV viewers everywhere. Some feel he opened the door to what we are seeing today, and that may well be true. His programs influenced an entire generation of magicians who might never have been exposed to good magic. Yet that’s not why he was brilliant.
Doug broke from tradition shunning formal attire and conservative grooming, opting instead for brightly colored casual clothing. He often looked as if the only clothing stores he visited might all have been on London’s Carnaby Street. He set the stage for bazaar attire in magic, a trend strongly in effect even today. Yet that’s not why he was brilliant.
Doug Henning surrounded himself with some of the most astute minds in magic as is proven by his close association with Charlie Reynolds. The results were abundant for he grew, climbed, and enjoyed big time success. He did it all, and the word “failure” simply didn’t exist in the world of Doug Henning. Everything he touched glowed with his luster. Yet that’s not why he was brilliant.
Doug Henning did something I’ve never seen another magician do. It might be the one thing that will contribute to his legacy more than anything I have mentioned above, and more than anything we may have read on February 8, 2000. Here’s why Doug Henning was brilliant beyond all expectations.
He had the wisdom to quit while he was at the top.