Saturday, October 15, 2011

Houdini...Art and Magic exhibition! Escape artist a master showman!

"Houdini: Art and Magic" is attracting the curious at the "Contemporary Jewish Museum" in the San Francisco bay area.

The intriguing exhibition features black and white photographs of the artist, one-of-a-kind art nouveau promotional posters from by-gone eras, personal diaries, theatrical playbills, magic tools of Houdini's mysterious smoke & mirrors trade, steamer trunks designed to create mystifying illusions, straight jackets, and trick handcuffs (about 160 objects in total).

Houdini buffs will be hankering to check out a replica of the master magician's "water cell" in which the clever escape artist performed one of his legendary illusions.

After being bound and lowered into the "torture chamber" headfirst - and submerged under water - Houdini would miraculously emerge moments later unscathed by the near death-defying feat.

In his day, the legendary magician was quite the promoter also, who milked the publicity machine for all its worth.

And, his ballsy bold-faced bravado paid off handsomely, too.

At the height of his professional career, Houdini was a celebrity of high rank, who rubbed shoulders with the tony elite and courted Kings and Presidents!

For magic buffs, the Houdini exhibit is a must see!


Houdini was born in Budapest (Hungary) on March 24th (1874) and his birth name was originally Erich Weiss.

When he was four years old, his family moved to America.

Houdini toyed with magic when he was just a lad.

Surprisingly, when he first tried his hand at the craft, he was not successful right off-the-bat.

According to biographers, Houdini tried every type of magic for about five years - from card manipulations (he was billed as the "King of Cards") - to intriguing illusions -  and run-of-the-mill box escapes.

His one big success was the "Needle Trick", a grisly effect involving the swallowing of dozens of needles and thread, then the regurgitation of the thread with all the needles neatly threaded on.

This effect would be a cornerstone of his act throughout his life.

In 1900, Harry sailed to England without any gigs lined up and with only enough money to survive a week.

However, an engagement at a London theater, his big breakthrough came when he successfully broke free after being wrapped around a pillar and handcuffed at Scotland Yard.

The publicity propelled Houdini into the spotlight and his fame quickly spread.

 Sold-out engagements followed in Germany and throughout Europe.

Over the years, the consummate showman developed quite a few challenge acts, which elevated him to a sort-of cult status and International fame.

In fact, in 1960 Harry Houdini was given a star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The star is located at 7001 Hollywood Boulevard (across the street from Grauman's Chinese Theater).

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