I’ve been lucky to have seen two of the Twentieth Century’s great magician/illusionists, one of them twice. Mark Henning and David Copperfield pretty much ruled the magic superstar roost back in the Nineteen Seventies to the Nineties.

They couldn’t have been more different in look and presentation. Henning was the geeky, long-haired nerdy guy in a gold lame suit with his beautiful wife performing as his assistant. He came across as the genuine article, a guy who seemed to honor and do homages to the magicians he’d been influenced by such as Harry Houdini.

Copperfield was more the rock-star–very flashy, handsome and tuxedoed with super-model types as his assistants. Copperfield went for the big illusions. And I mean big like making the Statue of Liberty or an elephant disappear. And he did that on stage –in the middle of his act, he showed a film of him performing those illusions. Now he did do smaller versions of that illusion live but paying to see a film was kind of disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong, Copperfield was great but Henning was more personable with the audience, intimate. He did a sleight-of-hand performance with members of the audience coming up on stage to observe the card tricks he was doing with all that being projected on a big screen for the rest of the crowd. You couldn’t tell how he was doing those tricks. It was like seeing real magic. Very cool. He’s the one I saw twice.

One of Henning’s most impressive illusions was one originally done by Harry Houdini called ‘Metamorphosis’. I’ve included a link below to a video of him and his wife performing that. Pretty incredible and probably accomplished with amazing speed, timing and agility, all of which, done right, are magical in their own right.

Henning’s wife’s wrists are handcuffed. She’s placed in a large sack which is tied at the top. She’s then put in a large wooden chest which is also latched and chained up. Henning stands atop the chest and pulls a rectangular screen/curtain which is lying on the floor around the chest up to his neck, completely concealing the chest and all of his body except for his face. He counts to three, pulls the curtain up to hide his face, the curtain falls and his wife is standing atop the chest, free of all her bonds.

The chest, still chained, is unlocked and the person in the bag is now Henning, wearing different clothes! Simply amazing. And he did it faster than Houdini had done it!

Sadly, Doug Henning died of cancer several years ago and David Copperfield was a suspect in some kind of sexual assault case. Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Chris Angel seems to be the most visible magician/illusionist around these days and he’s good too.

The magic in my books is real, at least as it applies to the stories and milieus I’ve created. But watching true masters at their art, even when you know it’s a trick, is something really remarkable.

Doug Henning’s Metamorphosis

Larry Ivkovich’s website ~ http://inkfish1.wix.com/larryivkovichauthor

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