Joe Posnanski on Harry Houdini's Enduring Magic

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

This is kick ASS news. I'm Ben Mathis I. I'm Ben Mathis William to kick ASS News Harry. Houdini say his name and a number of things. Come to mind. Escapes Allusions Magic chains safes live. Burials close to a century after his death nearly every person in America knows his name from my young age capturing their imaginations with his death defying stunts and daring acts. One of those kids was bestselling sports writer. Joe Poznansky and now. He writes about the magician and his cadre of Modern Day followers in his new book. Titled the Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini and today Joe Joins me on the podcast to recall delving into the rabbit hole of Harry Houdini. He's legendary life and separating fact from the fiction invented by Houdini and his his followers. Joe Discusses the famous handcuffs that Harry. Houdini almost couldn't get out of some of the most bizarre things. People challenged him to escape including everything from a giant envelope to a giant football and how when audiences began to lose interest. Houdini upped the ante with increasingly more dangerous escapes. He explains why many people falsely believe that the magician died performing one of his most famous tricks. And we talk about the secret code. That who Dini's widow Oh. Bess used to try to make contact with him. From beyond the grave. Joe also gives us entree into the world of Dini super fans from the couple who committed a crime Anton or their hero to the mysterious man who calls himself Houdini ghost plus he reveals. What is like in David Copperfield's private magic warehouse in in Vegas some of the Turner? The century's most bizarre sideshow acts and his daughter's favorite Houdini revenge story coming up with Joe. Poznansky eh in just a moment and Cajole Poznansky is a national columnist for NBC sports and was a senior writer at sports illustrated from two thousand nine. To twenty twelve. He was named National Sportswriter of the a year by the sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of fame and was twice named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors he's the author of four books including the Number One New York Times bestseller paternal and now he's out with his latest book titled The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini. Joe Welcome to the PODCAST. Thank you thanks for having me. Well Joe I have been a magic fan ever since I was a kid performing in my parents backyard so this book was a really really refund read for me but it's a little bit of a departure for you. It would seem because here you are. You're a sports guy and usually there's not much overlap in the Vin Diagram of sports fans and magic agic fans. Where does your interest in Harry? Houdini come from yeah. It's funny leering. You give you that very nice introduction. I was sitting there thinking. Wow how did that guy and bring writing a book about Harry Houdini. There is a little crossover. Okay so for me it. No there isn't you're you're one hundred percent right in fact what are the magicians who's is in the book Joshua J. says that in the Ven Diagram between magic and sports it's him like he's the only person in that little sliver so so you're one hundred percent right but I wanted to write this book about wonder. I had this idea that we you know we used to and when I say we I mean people you know in in. Houdini is time and babe. Ruth's time they used to really enjoy. You know wonder and this idea of this. There are things things that are impossible and beyond belief and so on and you know guy like Babe Ruth was bigger. I think than any athlete could ever be today. Hey you know Babe Ruth used to. They used to tell stories of being on the train and sports writers following him and then in sports writers would be playing cards and Babe Ruth would run through through the train and then he'd be chased by half naked woman with a knife and and the sports writers would like all look at each other and they'd say okay. WHO's dealing next? Because they weren't going to write eight about it you know they weren't going to actually tell anybody and I don't think in the age of twitter at that would play in today's world so so I thought you know there's so much that we've gain but what have we lost and to me. You know you talk about wonder you're talking about magic and you talk about magic. You're talking about Harry. Houdini and and here here we are you know. Today is Halloween so we are you know ninety three years after his death. And here's this guy who still lasts. You know people still care hear about it. Know about and and talk about and You know I I. When I started writing the book I I had a Google News? Alerts set up for every time. Houdini he's name was mentioned in a paper anywhere or online or whatever. The case may be and every single day every single day since I started the book. There's something thing usually ten things or things that mentioned Houdini whether it's in politics and and some politician escaped a crisis or a sports moment where You know quarterback escaped a sack or or just you know life moment where a dog keeps escaping from a yard. Houdini is still so much with us and I was. Why what is it about this guy that that still stays with us? You know so many years later and and so there is. It started in some weird way with sports but but it definitely led to this whole new world that I knew absolutely nothing about which was which was wonderful. And it's funny that you mentioned Babe Ruth because as you know I said that there wasn't much overlap. But in some ways Houdini fans sort of resemble baseball fans in that they never saw him perform live. They probably never saw a movie of his act in the same way that most modern baseball fans never saw ty Cobb or Jackie Robinson play but they love the stories. It's all about telling these legends. Isn't it absolutely right. It's so funny among baseball fans. There's there's the famous called shot that Babe Ruth supposedly hit against the cubs where he pointed pointed In the world series and then hit a home run to the spot where he pointed. And there's like this grainy homemade footage and you can't can't really tell anything it looks like Babe. Ruth is maybe in the in the photo but it's in the so hard to tell and yet that is still a legend that people tell to this day. We we don't don't even know if it's real we don't even know if it's true and in that's the perfect an analogy to to Houdini who did all of these amazing escapes. You know some of them famous in in the way that you know the water torture salary or the MIRA cops might be famous and so many of them mm-hmm which he did one time in town because the towns you know carpenters decided to build a box that would hold houdini prisoner or in Chicago Kaga. They put him inside a football to try to get out of this. So all of these wonderful things that were one time only for a very small audience comparatively speaking thing and yet we're still talking about it and I think that was the it's the power of escape. It's the power of his showmanship But I think it's also just our hunger anger for for these kinds of wonderful stories and mysteries like you mentioned in. It's interesting that he's become such a part of our culture because it's not like there weren't other famous magicians Russians in Houdini zero like Howard Thurston and Keller etc yet. Somehow no one outside of hardcore magic fans remember those names or even other celebrities of of the day like Al Jolson. But everyone's still knows Houdini. It's exactly right and you as a as someone who has you know has had a life interest in magic knows that not not only was there Thurston Kellar and and and so many others. They were better than Houdini. You know I mean. Houdini was was not a great magician. Addition an escape artist he was he was a showman. He was someone who who kept finding new ways to sort of pare escape in danger and and he captured the imagination but he wasn't a great card magician or a great sleight of hand magician or someone who did these wonderful illusions the way that that Thurston dead and yet he was so good at building the legend of himself building this larger than life figure that he has blotted all all of them out and blotted out many magicians today. Like if if you ask somebody who's the most famous magician in the world they might say David Copperfield and they might say David Blaine. They they might say Penn and teller and that's about it or they're going to say Houdini because because even now he he still manages the sort of blood out all the other the competition and and somehow be at the top which you know knowing who Dini's ego and ambition and drive would undoubtedly hardly make him very very happy and have to imagine that Houdini must have been a difficult subject to look into because there are so many different versions of the man so many rabbit holes roles and stories that turned out not to be true or can't be verified. Did it make for frustrating research process. It's interesting because I write about a guy named Ken Silverman. Who wrote I think what what most people inside of magic would still consider the the the best Houdini biography ever? You know the one that that really tried to separate fact and fiction and myth and truth and all of these things. I came at it from a very different perspective which made what what would have been a frustrating thing. If I was trying to write a straight biography of Houdini. That would've frustrated me to no end like you hear this great story and and okay. I'm writing at Minot. No it wasn't wasn't true but for me. The the lies and the myths and the misdirection. It was part of the story. You know I it was it. It was fun for me to find out. This is actually true because because even though it wasn't true it's a story that that built his legend built historian and my book is is really about. You know wonder today and and what. Houdini teaches us about that. And about all of these people whose lives were were altered by him and changed by him and inspired by him and so so all of these great stories like one of my favorite points of the book is. There's a very famous story of Houdini performing for the czar in Russia right And and supposedly he said you. Can you know. Ask Me for anything and as I said can you make the bells of the Kremlin ring again. They have not wrong for more than a century. Can you make them ring again. And Houdini went to the window and did did some sort of Majesty Hocus pocus move waved of anchor. Jeff and the bells of the Kremlin rang and a story. Is that Houdini. He's wife. BESS had a little air gun that she shot at the bell to make them ring again. It is entirely untrue. From from the very beginning of the story he did not perform for like nothing about that story is true. But that story was invented by Orson Welles the the the the great film director so too so on the one hand. You're like Oh that can't tell that story and then on the other hand not only can tell it but I can tell that Houdini you you know his his power was so great that he inspired one of the Great Film Directors of All Time Twenty five years after who staff to invent this beautiful story of Houdini fooling the the czar of Russia. And it's it's you know that that to me was so much. Fun was not only getting into the mess because I tell them you know as many of them as I can in this book there but I'd never tell you you know that I tell you right away. I never tell you that it's the truth. I always say you know this. This is this is mythology and that actually very interestingly for me as a writer for you as a as a creator it offered an opportunity to do something which I've I've always wanted to do which was try to write magically try to create a little a little allusion a little magic trick. There's there are a couple of chapters in particular that I love because there's a there's a there's a beginning there's a middle. There's an just like the great magic trick. There's there's suspense expense. And then and then what you think is real and then what is actually real and You know Houdini was the ideal subject to try that kind of writing. Yeah Yeah. It's amazing that Houdini wasn't just reinventing his own story but now he's inspired other people to reinvent his story and I think I remember that story of Tim Making the the bells at Saint Basil's ring from the Adrian Brodie mini series on history channel. So that's totally untrue and yet included in the movie movie Yeah and I and I understand it because it's such a good story that you want to film it. You WanNa put it on you know and they did include it as as included a lot of other myths by the way and then minister is but it's but it's wonderful to see and you know to have not only you know his wife and and his friends and other people sort of invent these legends about him like the probably. Everybody has heard the legend that houdini would get Outta straitjackets by dislocating dislocating. His shoulder. Right that is. That's like a big Houdini. It's totally untrue. And and but it was. It was something people said while Houdini meaney was alive and Houdini loved it. He loved that people because he didn't actually come up with that somebody else did and and they said. Is it true Mr Houdini that you escaped by Dislo. The escape by dislike any of your shoulder and Houdini was like I'll never tell right. I mean he'll he he just played it off and and yeah I mean he created so much of his own myth but he really did inspire other people to add chapters to it and and some of the most famous chapters are not Houdini inventions engines. There there are other people who came up with now. I WanNa talk about Houdini. Early days. you say in here that he overlapped with and worked with a lot of sideshow performers early on and some of these acts are pretty funny. What were some of your favorites? Well my favorite one is is one that again. Maybe a myth but it's one that Houdini specifically really Talked about and that was a woman whose entire act was getting bitten by rattlesnakes. And and that's wall. She would do. She would like go on stage. She I have the rattlesnake Like a rabbit and kill it like that was that was like to sort of like the this is a rattlesnake and then the rows think would bite her and she'd be fine and like she would do this multiple times and I thought well that's first of all. Well what a talent right now yes to to be able to get bit by rattlesnakes continuously But that's that's where he was. That was the world that he lived in. You know he lived Dan the world where they would have cowboy ban the the cowboy who can play piano that would be an opening act or Houdini would open for him. I I mean. This was at a time when Houdini was was was really unknown so so he would do these things for people who had odd. You know the the bearded lady and the giant man and you know these kinds of sideshow performers but also all kinds of weird. I mean it was really fun. My one there's A. There's about a two page section in the book that you've you alert alluded to where I just listed off a bunch of these you know wonderful crazy the yodelers and and and and people that You know one person like there was somebody he got into a fight with that. We bought a gun. I mean this was it was such Chubb Ragtag Dangerous. You know world that he lived in and he was making no money and he was just basically trying to figure out how to how to you you know even stay on the road because he he had one great track which has metamorphosis where he would he would have a partner who will get locked into the trunk and and tied up and then and then put in a bag and then put in a trunk and then Houdini would say count with me one to throw no. Houdini would with start in. Excuse me he would start in the trunk and then his assistant would go kalemie. One two three and on three the assistant would disappear and Houdini would would appear in in their place and and and you know it was a big Big Hit for a while but you need more than one trick to sort make a living at this thing so tried all kinds of stuff. He tried comedy. He tried music he was he was trying to be an actor. I mean he tried all sorts of stuff because he he was running out of Running out of real estate I guess on on his on his magic stop until the point where he almost quit where in eighteen ninety eight. He tried to sell all of his secrets secrets and and nobody bought. And that's that's where he was. He was at a point where he was a magician. WHO nobody even wanted to secrets? And and and Surrounded by all of these sideshow performers. So then what was the big break for Harry Houdini to but but the biggest break for sure was very shortly shortly just months after he. He put out his Cadillac to sell all of his tricks. He he went back on the road. And it was kind of finishing out a couple of of you know Previous engagements and he was in Minnesota. And a man named Martin back who was a a big a big guy in Broadway. I mean in Vaudeville advil. At the time he he was someone who owned who the orpheum circuit there were theaters called orpheum which they're still signed today. And I think there's still a Martin Beck Theater on Broadway. Isn't there that that is correct later. On after after the whole Houdini Seen Martin Beck built the biggest brought Vaudeville stage in in in history on in New York and you know it was the palace theater and it was gonna be this this larger than life thing and to this day There's there's a Martin Beck Theatre in New York. So he was. He was a big guy he was still he was still a developing. You know he wasn't. He wasn't the 'cause later he become the biggest guy in Broadway but he was still big and he came to see Houdini and thought he saw something. He was as a talent scout and he was a very talented guy and finding new acts and he. You called. Houdini went to dinner with Houdini. And Bass's wife and said I'm going to be with you. Drop the magic. The magic is not working for you. Do you your birds and your cards and nobody cares. Everybody does that but stick with the handcuffs stick with the escape like that is your ticket get is is people are so taken by your ability to escape from any situation. That's your future and Houdini rebelled at that. At first he was a big big magic fan. You know his name is he named himself after after the Great Magician Robeiro don where he added an eye to the end of O'Donnell and became Houdini so he he didn't WanNa do it at first but then he realized I have no money. I've jobs it's Martin Beck. And he he started to do it and almost instantly became a bit of a sensation. Which is you know just tells you that? He was obviously very good at what he did and he was great showman and he just needed a break and Martin becky from the break. The second one is is about a year later after a very successful tour on on Vaudeville. He went to England. Basically with nothing no bookings No reputation he went to England because he'd seen a couple of other people make it big there and through. His sort of personal genius is his ability to to promote himself like nobody ever had and And a few good escapes. He became the biggest thing in Europe and then came back to the states. And and you know at that point became you know maybe the biggest star on Vaudeville and I think that this is the time when he gets introduced to soar Arthur CONAN doyle right. It is right around that time crowds of kind of surprised to read that. You're not very interested in Houdini. Later battles to expose the phony spiritualists than his relationship with doyle. Why not what's not to love about that and yeah I do love it? I just don't love it the same way that I love the magic. You know the to me. The the the point of this book was always about this about wonder. And and you know I talk about the spiritualism of bit and a little bit about his his fight with Arthur Conan conon doyle and and you know Dini's the very famous Time that WHO that Arthur CONAN doyle's wife did a seance to try to connect Houdini with his late mother. Who is his his life and you know she was? She was the most important person to him in his life right and and and then she wrote this long letter that she said was from. Houdini is mother and it had a cross at the top of it and who. DV A a father was rabbi so basically putting across on the top of a rabbi's wife. Is Houdini thought. Wow this isn't super real. And and undoubtedly had some impact on him and his later fights with with spiritualism but I I wanted to tell some of that story. 'cause it's important but I didn't I feel like for me because this is such a personal book and and and it's such a such a fun opportunity to to tell great escape stories and tell stories stories about magicians today and magic today and all of that that I didn't want to veer too far off course and I felt like spiritualism was just a little bit out of bounds for me. Well the Houdini was a consummate master of publicity and he had this thing where he would invite the police or lock makers or everyday people in every town that he visited to actually challenge him to escape say their local jail or safe etcetera. What were some of the more exotic challenges that you love? Oh I loved so many of them because every town was different you know he he would like he would go to Pittsburgh and then the Nurses Association would had an escape where they tied hide him to a hospital bed right. So it's like you would go to a beer You know a a place where a beer distributor wanted to put him inside of milk canned filled with beer a year and he would go to mention the football that he had to escape from in Chicago and and You know everywhere he went. It was something different and and and and you know. His only sort of exception was that he said you had to give me twenty four hours with whatever contraption you you built or whatever handcuffs you plan on using so that I can. You know. Make sure that they're legitimate. Of course what he was saying was so that me and my team can configure out how to get out. I mean right so so lots and lots of boxes. That was the big the big thing people would create boxes and they would do super long nails. AOL's so that there was no way for him to hammers way out or they would you know put inside of a glass case. He was put inside of an envelope was put inside of a mail bag. I mean it's so it's so funny to think that you know something like this could survive now but but there he was and it was very personal. That was I think a big part of his of of his huge success was this was. This was before everything right as before radio much less television or or any kind of social media so so he came to your town. It was a big deal especially after he got six was successful and then he would say hey be near the newspaper office office downtown at noon and I'm going to hang upside down from five stories above the ground and escape from a straitjacket and it's free it's totally free. It's just come downtown. And thousands and thousands and thousands of people would come and they would see Houdini do that and of course you know. This was all promotion for people to come news shows. But that's why more people saw Houdini than anybody of his time because he would come and not just perform warm on stage which was one thing but he would do. These bridge jumps where he would jump into the river off off of bridge while wearing handcuffs or he would do this buried alive escape or he would do this You know. The the upside down Straitjacket escape and that was just to promote the name of Houdini and and so you know he he. He was undoubtedly seen by more people than ever. I think any performer had ever been seen before. We're going to take a quick break. And then we'll be back with more with Joe Poznansky when we come back in just a moment. Today's episode is brought to you by Kronos. Kronos knows that for many organizations maintaining a modern workforce of hourly full or part time workers can be a challenge orange. This is especially true for human resources professionals working hard to attract and retain all of the best talent that's why Cronos puts HR payroll erol talent and timekeeping on a single cloud based platform. It's one is specially designed to give. 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That's AV A. L. A. R. A. dot com slash kick have Lara tax compliance. Done right and now back back to the show and I wanna ask you about. Probably his most difficult challenge a newspaper man in the UK challenges him to who escaped from the specially designed handcuffs called the mirror cuffs. which supposedly no-one could get out of what made these especially difficult and to this day I guess no one knows how he escaped them? What's your best? Guess yes. Well it's it's a super fun part of the buckets. It's like a whole section of the book right. I go through people's theories so these handcuffs. The story was that this this this this reporter at the Daily Mirror. That's why they're called the mirror. Cops went all all around the country to find these most inescapable handcuffs and found a locksmith and in Birmingham who said that he had taken five five years to build these handcuffs. That could not be packed and cannot be escaped from and the thing. That's that's sort of unique. There's a lot of still exist there in David Copperfield's for Field Private Museum in Las Vegas. So they I've seen them. They're beautiful their one piece but the thing that makes them special is it takes a long key probably ably eight inches long to open them and in order to open them. What you have to do is you have to put the long key into this big? Lock this side lock and then you you have to turn it like five or six or more different ways you have to. It doesn't just turn and open. You have to turn and then turn it back and then turn it forward and turn it back and there's no way to pick them especially. There's no way to get the the pick into the lock while you're handcuffed by them because it's because it's such a long key so this was the challenge and Houdini made a very big deal about not wanting to take it and then he went on the stage and was on stage and he. He went behind his his curtain. He had a little place he called. It goes box and try to get out. He came out and everybody cheered and he was still had the handcuffs on and so he explained he needed some help needed to see some light or something and then he went back in and then came out and everybody cheered and Lisa. My legs are hurting me. And so they bring him a pillow to to stay in the thing and he goes back in any comes back out a third time and says I'm very rewarm. Can you unlock the handcuffs. So I can take my jacket off and and the the guy reports no. I'm not going to do that. You know you've seen them leap lock. You've never seen them on locked. I'm not going to give you that. And Houdini. Without even hesitating sort of reached into his coat pocket with his teeth and pulled out a a penknife and started like pulled his coat over his head somehow and slashed with his penknife and the toward the jacket off of his body. Wow using this pen knife. which itself is an amazing magic trick by the way and the crowd goes crazy just crazy and this has been forty five minutes already of of nothing happening essentially so they go absolutely crazy and then twenty minutes later he came out and he was free and the place went? You know insane and they carried great him on their shoulders and he talked about the greatest thing he'd ever done. And the you know the mirrored the Daily Mirror reporter conceded defeat and it was this big moment and it was and it was played up quite big because because it was a newspaper reporter who issued the challenge so So all the fleet street papers were there and it was. You know it's it's it's it's by far. I think the most recorded of all of Houdini he's Trucks and yet as you mentioned hundred fifteen years later or so. We still don't know we don't know how he did it. Everybody in magic has a theory about it and I write about a bunch of those different theories and then and at the end. I couldn't help myself because this book has as it doesn't reveal. How did things and if people want to know how he did things there you know there are plenty of places places out there you can find how he escaped from the Milken or whatever But I had to throw my own opinion so my own opinion not to ruin it for for people but is that the whole thing was a setup by any yeah and and that he he. You know quite brilliantly invented wanted this story and but there's there's a there's there's only one way that I could see how he pulled it off which is more interesting to me than the fact that it was a sad upper Nada setup There's only one way I think he could have pulled off and I'm not gonNa tell people that hopefully they'll read the book and and see how. How did it at least how I think? It's hard to imagine people today sitting in a theater and waiting while someone behind a curtain tried to escape something for forty five. You imagine it. Ah That's one of the wonderful things about Houdini to me is everything he did. If you take two steps back it's ridiculous you know what I mean. It's like in the moment but here here. He comes out and he goes look. This is a water torture. Sal that I built myself and I invented and now I'm going to go in and I and I'm going to escape I'm like well of course you are. You build the thing I mean. It doesn't that doesn't seem to make a Lotta Sense. And and this was exactly the same thing he would come out with handcuffs. He'd he'd never would do handcuff escapes in public. He would always do them in his little in his little box. So could you imagine today he like somebody saying okay. I'M GONNA escape from handcuffs. Hold on I'll be right back and then you go into a box. And then he'd come out and handcuffs off. I mean that would not exactly play and and it's you know there would people would wait for twenty minutes half hour forty five minutes an hour you know and some of these escapes staring at nothing just listening to a band play music and just staring at a curtain hoping you'll come out and and yet the tension was so thick and the the nerves were were so frayed that they're all kinds of stories of people in the crowd crying just so they're so freaked out that he's going to die particularly with the water illusions that he was going to die or he wasn't going to get out there they were going to see the one time that Harry Houdini failed and and And he really played up on that. And that's not working today now. Yeah and I guess it's around Midlife. When he starts to worry that his star is fading and that's when he decides to literally we started escaping death with the water torture cell and other tricks? That you've mentioned tricks where he would die if he couldn't escape and they become increasingly more and more dangerous ece. There's almost a certain level of madness to this now. Oh absolutely there's madness and and and it's and it comes from a place of madness. which was that people? Were going to forget him The people are GONNA lose interest in him the that that was his sole fear. You know I mean He. He was not afraid of pain and he was not afraid of of Of of you know these these dangerous things that he did but he was afraid people are going to forget him he was afraid he was not gonna be famous anymore. He was not going to be have money anymore. I mean He. He grew up with nothing and he was so fearful that time would move on and he would end up being back where he started and so yeah he he you know they're they're wonderful wonderful as far as interesting Diary things that he would write he would say you know th they didn't show up for me and Saint Louis. Is this the end of Houdini. You know you would he he would have these very you know. I mean. There weren't public his diary. But he's very outward feelings of fear that that his time was going to pass and so he did he said okay. So what I need to do is this is turned in danger. You know because escaping from handcuffs while extraordinary you know. In in in in that time there was no threat you know there was no. It wasn't like he was gonNA stay in those handcuffs forever so he started with water and you know water was a very big thing. He was a swimmer He he really even before for. He started doing these kinds of escapes. He was fascinated by how long he can hold his breath. I mean this was a big part of his athletic talents and so he the milk was first where he just filled up at Cana. A milk in with water and he would go in and they would put the cover on after they filled it up to the top open and he would escape from from from the milken and then and then he had to do it upside down so that it was from the from the water torture. Sal But but as you said it's like all of these other crazy things the bridge jumps where he would you know jump into in a cold lakes cold rivers while wearing handcuffs officer being in a box or or whatever the case he he was you know buried alive bury me alive. He had he really did. Keep pushing the envelope because every moment he was like okay. People are going to grow used to this. They're going to tired of this. And what my next chapter. What's my next chapter? And he took that all the way to the end of his life. Yeah and a lot of people think that he actually died performing one of those tricks the Chinese water torture cell. But that comes from the Tony Curtis Houdini movie right. That's not true true. Yeah that's right you talk about legend and and how other people added to the legend. So the the movie the Tony Curtis movie in Nineteen fifty. Three three called. Houdini where Tony Curtis played. Houdini and Janet Lee Played His wife and she was his real wife. It was a big deal and it was a it was a big deal. In two the different time periods. It was a big deal in the fifties when it came out and then in the seventies had a second life like as it became the every Sunday you know it would be on television division basically and and so it it is really really influential and the director producer. Both of them. I thought that the way he really died. Which of course after getting punched in the stomach and and and having seitis and all of that that it was not worthy of hero as big as Houdini like I think the the line was you know Houdini was too much was too much of hero to die by getting punched in the stomach so they had him die in the water torture cell and for years and years and years ears. Everybody thought that's how he died. I mean it was it was pervasive. Yeah the one of the people I talked about in the book is a guy named John Cox. Who is the leading? Probably the lead leading. Houdini expert I think in the world And John Fell in love with Houdini after watching that movie but he soon found out that wasn't now he died and he he felt it was his personal mission in life to tell people that Houdini did not actually die in water torture. Solid people would argue with them. It's no no. That's exactly how he died and he used to carry a book around with them to show people that Houdini did not actually die in the water torture cell so so yeah that was You know yet. Another of the incredible myths that Houdini not invented did not create That that lived on way past in and here we talking on Halloween. The anniversary of his death For ten years. After Houdini died his wife. BESS would hold a seance and try to contact him from beyond the grave. Right as we mentioned. There were a lot of fraudulent mediums. So how would she know of. Houdini had really tried to contact her from the great beyond. Well she and and Houdini had created a code they. They called the Houdini Code that there were certain Series of words that he would say eh and and then he would say A Roosevelt believe. which was you? Know the the Related to the song that they that they share and and basically he. Houdini said if this is the code then you will know. It's me you'll you know because he knew you that that people were going to try to fake. You know Houdini coming back. He was so related to spiritualism and so on and so forth but then the whole thing kind of fell apart art because a medium did come back with the code which you know we later found out was essentially given to him by Bass and and the whole thing kind of turned into a a sad little moment of time because best came out in public and said Oh this is this is the real story. Houdini really has come back and then later that she had to say okay maybe not fair. Well the guy she we believe again. You might have one of the many things that you don't know. She definitely like them a lot. She definitely thought of him as a handsome handsome conman Whether or not they were actually having affairs is Is Up for debate. Eight but but But definitely some weird stuff but best the thing. This is a hugely important part of this story. I think if if ended up in for Bass those ten fifteen twenty years. After Houdini died he might very well have been forgotten. I mean he was very very famous and and and and a part of the language and all of those things but you know people fade. I mean the most famous people of his time like you mentioned Al Jolson and you know even Charlie Chaplin who who had such a long stretches is very much. You know In the background now Buster Keaton guys like that and and so she was relentless about her publicity relentless about the Houdini out relentless about getting a book written about him she was very much involved often in getting. The movie made So she she was someone who kept pushing and kept pushing and and I feel like she definitely bridged a very big gap and to until the movie came out and the movie was was very successful for about twenty years and then a whole bunch of other people took over and and and Dan continued to this day to to share his story. yeah and I WANNA talk about the Houdini fans in the time. We have left because this book is as much about them as it is about the man himself south. One one couple that you run into or Dick and Dorothy Dietrich who are too hard core fans. They built a Houdini museum in their hometown. And I gets the even committed a crime to honor their hero right. Yes that is correct. I'm actually going the the Houdini Museum in Scranton Pennsylvania which has no connection action whatsoever to Houdini other than I guess he he performed there maybe but that's their home town. They this Dorothy is actually kind of a legend understood her own right she is. She is a magician And you know in the seventies she. She got quite popular she. She was the first woman on television to to saw man in half. She kind of turned that all around she. Did the bullet catch she. Did you know various upside down straitjacket escapes. And she's actually the person that the Islah Fisher character in. Now you see me is based on so so she is. She has a real a real background in magic and then her husband Partner Partner Dick Brooks is this. You know very fascinating guy who also has had a long life and magic and they love Houdini. I mean love him obviously enough afteh build a museum in his honor and and yeah they what what happened was at Houdini gravesite. There is a bust of Houdini. He's had and Dan has been there since the beginning except every Halloween usually although it could be any time of the year people come in and they would steal the boss or they would or they would vandalize underlies the Boston. It got to the point where they basically said okay. You know what we're taking the bus away this is. This is only hurting so for many years is there was no Houdini. Bust at the at the place and and Dick. Dorothy did not like that and they did. They broke in to the cemetery and and put their own bust in there. They had specially made And you know they were caught. They did get caught and and the the the secretary of people let them do it. Because why wouldn't you at that point but that was that was their plan was to to seek really go in there and and return this Houdini bus due to the gravesite right. And there's also this elusive figure that you're sort of chased throughout the book Who Bills himself as Houdini? Ghost toward the end. You finally meet up with him at the Magic Nick Castle in La. What's he like? He is a true character just say his name is Pat Colloton and he is an actor was it's an actor and it still does some acting who had a very rough? You know you went to Vietnam and came back and like many many who went you. Know didn't find signed the same life for himself when he came back and acting jobs. Hard to come by and and he always loved Houdini and decided to start going around the country. Doing Lick circuits talking about Houdini. Doing a few of Houdini tricks called himself. Deans Ghost and as time kept going on ended on he. He started becoming this very. I mean legendary. Houdini expert and he put out these very odd but but but super interesting books about Houdini about his life about his secrets. And and they're they're impossible to get their impossible to find I only printed a few copies of each. And they're like these little bits of gold inside the world of Houdini and and and yeah. I felt like it was really important. Talk to him. He did not want to talk. And then I kind of warm down. I guess and and was able to meet with him at the Magic Castle L. A. which is this wonderful wonderful clubhouse of magic and And I wrote about him and I wrote about him. I think quite lovingly I I you know really moved by his story. Rian his life and his energy and his passion by we'll tell you he hates the book. I mean hates the your book. Yeah Oh hey why I mean I. It's it's why is a very difficult thing to come by. You know it. It says what are the most dishonest book ever written about. Houdini and I'm like well what's dishonest about. I can't tell you so and I think in a way that that that I I mean. Of course I wish he would liked it. I you know I. I've worked very hard to to make him come alive in and I wish you would have liked it but in a way it's better that he doesn't because he's there's so much of Houdini in him and there's no doubt my mind. Houdini would not like the book not because of of anything specific in the book but because he didn't write it you know what I mean. It's not it's not Houdini. Yeah and nothing nothing. Houdini hated more than imposters. Anybody trying to make a dime off of his name was was enemy number one and so you you know in a way. I kind of appreciate the Patrick. You know I think Patrick's like hey. I'm in this book but I didn't write it so I I understand that and I still love the Guy I I still love the guy now. If there's anyone who might be considered the successor to Houdini. I suppose it would probably be David Copperfield. You say in here that Copperfield in Houdini are nothing alike and entirely. Like what do you mean by that. Well there nothing alike in the way they perform their nothing alike in the way that they act. I mean they're they're very very different people. David Copperfield didn't even come from magic. You Know David Copperfield right was a prodigy right but he he love Broadway. He loved songs he loved movies. And and he you know he made his career on sort of building. Magic through those was things through the Lens of Broadway or or you know music and you know. Houdini was totally different in that way and they were totally different personalities personalities. David Copperfield is not the the bully that Houdini was or or you know he's not the they're they're just different. But then you step back and okay. David Copperfield changed his name. You know he's a young Jewish kid who fell in love with magic changed. His name became the world's biggest magician. And and there's a relentlessness to Houdini and Copperfield. That I don't think anybody else has because I think you can make pretty good argument in the magic world that the guy who was the direct descendant of Houdini is actually David Blaine right. David Blaine as does escapes. Right and crazy stunts and all all of this but copperfield works so hard even now use a billionaire and he owns like seven islands. And yet you go to Vegas on Christmas Week. He's doing three shows a day Christmas week. Wow in why in a what is it that drives and I. I thought to myself if I can figure out what it is. The drives David Copperfield to do that at a point in his life when he is you know the most successful guy I can figure out. Why Harry Harry Houdini when he was the most famous magician escape artist performer? Maybe in the world why he still despite despite you know being an agonizing pain refusing to to get off the stage in Detroit Because the show must go on and so so so to me that there's a connection there that that is obvious you know the the two guys who changed their name and became world famous magicians. And then there's some drive and ambition that those two people have that I think is is less obvious but but every bit as interesting. Yeah I can definitely see that connection of that need need to constantly be one upping yourself and doing something new to keep people interested because it makes me think of you know when he vanished a jet and then after canister jet he had take the statue of liberty disappear. It's just getting bigger and bigger. Yeah it was it was. It's an endless. It's it's you'll never do. I think in magic. You'll never do the perfect perfect delusion right you'll never there's always something better something bigger something better something more amazing something more impossible and I think both of them have been searching. I don't think both of them live on the stage in a way that's different. From the way they live the rest of their lives. And then there's just something else that's very difficult difficult to capture about both of them. You know I think. Houdini spent his whole life building. Houdini making Houdini something bigger and grander than anything. That had ever come before him. And I think there's a little bit of an Copperfield too. I mean he's he's he's got this incredible Museum Private Museum in Las Vegas which was kind enough to let me tour and and you know it's it's it's a magic trick all its own. I mean it's it's the most extraordinary thing it's like walking into his mind and you know he loves that it's beautiful. He loves that and then and he's performing you know a completely new act in Vegas which involves an alien and and so on trying to find new ways to to to push magic and I think that they connect that way. I think they connect and that there was never enough. There's there's always something more and they're never gonNA stop chasing and I'm so jealous that you actually got to visit his warehouse because David Copperfield. He has this almost legendary magic collection that I think is the biggest in the world of private collection that he houses in this warehouse in Vegas and in my imagination. I'm sorta picturing something like the closing scene from raiders of the lost Ark or. Something is that about right and what kind of stuff that is about right. It's it's the most extraordinary place I've I've ever been in. Its own way you walk in. And there's a perfect representation of his father's store men's store in New Jersey. It's it's exactly you know shirt for shirt like Like that Men's store in New Jersey. And then you go to the back and my time because I think he's changed a lot you go to the back and you pull a tie and the whole back wall opens up and then and then you're in the world's is greatest collection of intrinsic quist dummies. Because he started off as a ventriloquist. Wow and and it's creepy and weird but but interesting and then you walk into one of the world's largest Broadway collections because of his love for Broadway and then a huge movie collection whereas all kinds of all kinds of posters sisters but also you know bits of sets from different movies and then the magic is you know. It's it's beyond belief. I mean from from the world's most extensive of Magic Library to posters and and and and props of every great magician you know through through route's two centuries and then on top of that. He has the world's largest Houdini collection which is which is the most cherished part of all so he has the water torture cell and he has the mirror coughs and he has all of these handcuffs and keys and posters and letters and everything else. It's the kind of place where at some point the producer. His producer took me to a back room where he was gonNA show me some other things and it wasn't for public view is just like a little back room. There was a couch there and a table. Just ratty old little place And a lamp and as we're leaving the showed me the letters he wanted to show me. We're leaving you said whole field. This and he reached buying a lamp and pulled out an academy award. And I'm like what. And he handed to me and he said feel heavy. This is is this really heavy. Like it's amazing that they're on stage and the Handyman Oscar and and and it's so heavy I can't believe more people don't drop them and I'm like Oh that's interesting. Yeah and and then he puts it back behind the lamb and we get ready to leave. That's it like the this is. Nobody will ever see Davis. It's nothing and so we're walking out and I said well you guys you question. He's like. Yeah who's Oscar. Is that back there in the middle middle of nowhere behind a lamp and he says you know what I don't even know and go back and he pulls out the Oscar and it's the Oscar of that Richard critise he's won for directing Casablanca. Oh my God and I thought the the directors Oscar for Casablanca The one of the great movies ever made is like in this storage room in the back. I mean that's that's the kind of museum this place says it was. It was dizzying. Absolutely Disney what before we go. I know that you've apparently passed down your love for Harry. Houdini to the next generation in your family you say that your daughter shares. You're interested in Houdini and particularly Houdini. Revenge stories right. It is true my oldest daughter who gave me the hardest time during during this book because she just constantly was. I feel like we're haunted by this guy. This guy won't go away and and and and you know but but it all along sort of showing little interest in a little A little bit of fun and and and Kinda getting into it a little bit more and more and more and you know but she's still never stop giving me a hard time about it but then I started telling her Houdini revenge stories and you know my favorite one is he was on and to our and and he he heard about a guy who called himself Cla Pini and who is doing his act and it's so enraged them that he went to the head ahead of the tour and said listen. I'm taking off the next three days. I mean they'll deem you never did. I said I'm taking off the next three days. You'RE GONNA have to cancel those shows or I'll do them at the end but but I'm leaving and he laughed and he went and found this very by the way. Let's say very obscure magician mission escape apologists. who was doing no business? You know he was. He was nobody but he went there. Dressed up like an old man and then Clinton I need you know did his his bit and then he said. Is there anybody in the audience. Who wants to challenge me and Houdini comes out dressed up like oh man when he walks with a cane and he says I they WanNa challenge you and and he pulls out these handcuffs and he puts them on companion as soon as he puts them on he tears off his is his costume and says the audience go home now for no man who Harry? Houdini locks in a chains ever escapes and everybody goes crazy and Capino is finished and of course he couldn't get out and and that's the story. It's so of all of the Houdini stories that I told my daughter. That was the one that she the law like. She'd love like tell me more revenge stories by Houdini so so she like the dark side of Houdini. Yes well again. The book is called the life and afterlife of Harry. Houdini Joe Poznansky. Thanks so much for talking with me thank you. This was great. Thanks again to Joe Poznansky for coming on the PODCAST. Quarter his new book. The life and afterlife of Harry Houdini on Amazon audible or wherever books Sir sold he brought with him at Joe Poznansky dot com or on twitter at at J. Poznansky folks. I've been a small business owner the for just about twenty years now so I know how easy it is to waste a lot of time trying to keep up with taxes and tax laws are so complicated at the end of the day. You still might like get it wrong so stop wasting valuable time worrying about your sales tax returns and focus on the things that you actually love about running your business with a little help from from avalon. Cavallero simplifies sales tax compliance with real time rates and automatic filing their software seamlessly integrates with the systems. You're already already using so it couldn't be easier go to avalon. Aba L. A. R. A. DOT COM slash kick to learn more have a larum tax compliance. 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