Houdini Auction: Potter & Potter, Aug. 23, 2014

By Tom Interval

Potter & Potter Houdini Auction CatalogIn case you don’t already know, Potter & Potter is having a Houdini auction on Sat., Aug. 23, 10 a.m., in its Chicago gallery. If you live in Chicago, you can preview some of the items in the days preceding the auction from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST. Featured items include lithographs, broadsides, challenges, photographs, ephemera, Houdini scrapbooks, personal artifacts, handcuffs, magic props, locks, escape devices, and associated memorabilia, such as documents relating to Hardeen (Houdini’s brother) and other magicians and celebrities. To view the auction catalog online (PDF), click on the picture or on the following link:

http://www.potterauctions.com/pdf/Catalog_026_Houdiniana_WEB.pdf

Posted in Art, Auctions, Collecting, Collections, Ephemera, Handcuffs, Letters, Playbills, Posters, Posters, Potter & Potter, Scrapbooks | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Houdini’ Miniseries Photos

By Tom Interval

Here are some promotional photos from the upcoming “Houdini” two-part miniseries, set to air Sept. 1 and 2, 9 p.m. ET/PT on History.

All photos copyright 2014 A+E Networks.

http://www.history.com/shows/houdini

Adrien Brody

Adrien Brody (Copyright 2014 A+E Networks)

Adrien Brody

Adrien Brody (Copyright 2014 A+E Networks)

Adrien Brody

Adrien Brody (Copyright 2014 A+E Networks)

Adrien Brody

Adrien Brody (Copyright 2014 A+E Networks)

Kristen Connolly, Adrien Brody, Evan Jones

Kristen Connolly, Adrien Brody, Evan Jones (Copyright 2014 A+E Networks)

Kristen Connolly

Kristen Connolly (Copyright 2014 A+E Networks)

Adrien Brody

Adrien Brody (Copyright 2014 A+E Networks)

Adrien Brody

Adrien Brody (Copyright 2014 A+E Networks)

Adrien Brody

Adrien Brody (Copyright 2014 A+E Networks)

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A+E Announces Premier of ‘Houdini’ Miniseries Sept. 1, 9 p.m.

By Tom Interval

Adrien Brody in the two-part miniseries, "Houdini," set to air Sept. 1 and 2, 9 p.m. ET/PT, on History.

Adrien Brody in the two-part miniseries, “Houdini,” set to air Sept. 1 and 2, 9 p.m. ET/PT, on History. (Photo copyright 2014 TV Equals)

Today A+E Networks officially announced the premiere of the two-part miniseries “Houdini,” staring Academy Award winner Adrien Brody (The Pianist) as Harry Houdini and Kristen Connolly (House of Cards) as Bess Houdini, set to air Sept. 1 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on History. Part 2 airs the following night at the same time.

You may recall that last September Connolly consulted me and Houdini expert John Cox about Bess’s character. The series was originally set to air earlier this year until the network postponed it.

You can read A&E’s press release below or on their site.

History Premiers Houdini, Two-Night Miniseries Sept. 1 at 9 p.m.

New York, NY – July 21, 2014 – HOUDINI, a new two-night scripted miniseries airing on September 1 and 2 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HISTORY®, is the story of a man who can defy death, but who really was the man behind the escapes? The event miniseries follows the epic tales of Harry Houdini as he emerges as America’s first bonafide world-renowned superstar.

From humble beginnings at circus sideshows to sold-out concert halls, Eastern European immigrant Ehrich Weiss rose to become a household name across the globe – Houdini. Academy Award® winner Adrien Brody (The Pianist) stars as The Great Harry Houdini as he finds fame, engages in espionage, battles spiritualists, and encounters the greatest names of the era, from U.S. presidents to Arthur Conan Doyle and Rasputin. A thrilling ride throughout Harry’s psyche, HOUDINI delves deep behind the curtain into his life through his stunts, his visions, and his mastery of illusion.

Joining Brody is Kristen Connolly (House of Cards, The Cabin the Woods) as Bess Houdini, the love of Harry’s life and right hand when it came to some of his most amazing feats, and Evan Jones (A Million Ways to Die in the West, The Book of Eli, Gangster Squad) as Jim Collins, Harry’s assistant and confidant.

HOUDINI is a Lionsgate/A+E Studios Co-Production. Gerald W. Abrams (Nuremberg, Family of Spies) and Andras Hamori (Sunshine) serve as executive producers of HOUDINI. Academy Award nominated Nicholas Meyer (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution) is writer and Academy Award nominated director Uli Edel (The Baader Meinhof Complex, Hotel Adlon) helms HOUDINI. Academy Award winning veteran Patrizia von Brandenstein (Amadeus) is production designer and Karl Walter Lindenlaub, whose work ranges from American blockbusters (Independence Day) to award-winning art house movies (Black Book) is cinematographer. Dirk Hoogstra and Julian P. Hobbs are Executives in Charge of Production for HISTORY.

About HISTORY®

HISTORY, now reaching more than 98 million homes, is the leading destination for award-winning original series and specials that connect viewers with history in an informative, immersive and entertaining manner across all platforms. The network’s all-original programming slate, including scripted event programming, features a roster of hit series including American Pickers®, American Restoration™, Ax Men™, Counting Cars™, Pawn Stars®, Swamp People® and The Legend of Shelby the Swamp Man as well as HISTORY®’s first scripted series Vikings, and epic miniseries and special programming such as The Bible and the Emmy® Award-winning Hatfields & McCoys, Men Who Built America, Gettysburg, Vietnam in HD, America The Story of Us® and 102 Minutes That Changed America. The HISTORY® website is the leading online resource for all things history, and in 2011, the United States Library of Congress selected HISTORY®’s Civil War 150 site for inclusion in the historic collection of Internet materials related to the American Civil War sesquicentennial. http://www.history.com. For more press information and photography, please visit us at http://press.aenetworks.com

About A+E Studios
A+E Studios is the in-house production arm of the award-winning global media company A+E Networks, LLC. A+E Studios commissions, creates and co-produces content across all networks and platforms under the A+E Networks portfolio, including A&E® Network, Lifetime®, HISTORY®, LMN®, FYI™, H2™ and A&E IndieFilms®.

About Lionsgate

Lionsgate is a leading global entertainment company with a strong and diversified presence in motion picture production and distribution, television programming and syndication, home entertainment, family entertainment, digital distribution, new channel platforms and international distribution and sales. Lionsgate currently has over 30 television shows on more than 20 networks spanning its primetime production, distribution and syndication businesses, including such critically-acclaimed hits as the multiple Emmy Award-winning Mad Men and Nurse Jackie, the comedy Anger Management, the network series Nashville, the syndication success The Wendy Williams Show and the critically-acclaimed hit series Orange is the New Black.

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By the Woman of a Thousand Faces

By Tom Interval

Rose Mackenberg, Houdini’s oft-disguised undercover spiritualist agent (a multi-petaled Rose, to be sure) wrote this article in 1929. This is the first of several in a series (the only one I have, unfortunately). In it, Mackenberg writes mostly about Arthur Ford‘s fraudulent claim that he received a secret code from the late Houdini during a January 1929 seance in Bess Houdini’s home. The quality of this scan is not the best. I pieced it together, and not everything is perfectly aligned. However, it’s definitely readable. I’ve also clipped, and slightly edited, a couple of great images from that article (see below).

1929, International Feature Service Inc., Great Britain

Click to enlarge. (1929, International Feature Service Inc., Great Britain)

Mrs. Houdini looking into the eyes of a bronze bust of Houdini

Mrs. Houdini looking into the eyes of a bronze bust of Houdini

An illustrated portrait of the master himself

An illustrated portrait of the master himself

Joseph Dunninger, one of history's greatest mentalists

Joseph Dunninger, one of history’s greatest mentalists

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Did this man live at 278 W. 113th St. before Houdini?

By Tom Interval

David Lubin (1849–1919), merchant, inventor, agriculturalist

David Lubin (1849–1919), merchant, inventor, agriculturalist (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

We know a few things about Harry Houdini’s New York City home at 278 W. 113th St. and even got a glimpse inside last year when the New York Daily News interviewed Fred Thomas, the current owner. For more than two decades, Houdini and his family lived in the 12-room brownstone until the iconic escapologist’s death in 1926. But who owned the home, and possibly lived in it, before Houdini purchased it in 1904?

According to real-estate websites, such as Zillow and Trulia, the 6,008-square-foot home was built in 1890 (five years earlier than what William Kalush and Larry Sloman wrote in their biography, The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero).

The City of New York’s Automated City Register Information System (ACRIS) records for the Houdini property (Block 1828, Lot 59) go back only to 1979, when Marie Hinson (née Rahner), Bess Houdini’s sister, was the owner. Since online city records go back to 1966, it’s unclear why the records for 278 end at 1979. Here’s a screen capture of that search (click to enlarge):

Screen capture, ACRIS property search, Block 1828, Lot 59

My assumption is that serious Houdini researchers and biography authors, such as Kenneth Silverman and Kalush and Sloman, already checked the physical records dated before 1979.* However, neither of their bios—Houdini!!! The Career of Ehrich Weiss or The Secret Life, respectively—includes any information about homeownership before 1904.

Article mentioning David Lubin, a possible resident of 278 W. 113th St. before Houdini

Article mentioning David Lubin, a possible owner and resident of 278 W. 113th St. before Houdini, The Sydney Mail, April 8, 1903 (Source image: Google News archive)

After a bit of digging in the Google News archive, I found an article in the April 8, 1903, issue of The Sydney Mail, which mentions inventor and agriculturalist “David Lubin, of 278 West 113th Street, New York . . .” (see the accompanying image with the relevant line highlighted in yellow; click to enlarge).

Born in Poland, Lubin, an inventor of many agricultural contraptions, also lived in London; Attleboro, Massachusetts; Sacramento; and Rome, among other places. Assuming the Mail article is accurate (admittedly, when it comes to newspaper reporting, it’s not always wise to assume), it’s possible Lubin either lived in 278 or at least owned it. If so, Houdini might have directly interacted with Lubin during the property sale in 1904 and possibly enjoyed discussions or correspondence with him since both men had inventive minds (besides creating several original escape acts and paraphernalia, Houdini patented a diver’s suit in 1921).

If someone out there has evidence linking Houdini and Lubin, or any information regarding the ownership of 278 W. 113th St. prior to 1904, please contact me with relevant information and documents, and I’ll update this blog. Thanks!

*If you’re a Houdini buff living in New York and are interested in digging up old property records, the Manhattan City Register Office is located at 66 John St., 13th Floor, New York City, and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Their phone number is 877-254-7234. And if you’d like to share any records you find, please contact me.

Posted in 278 W. 113th St., Bess, Buildings, Family, Homes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Abracadabra Kid Meets Bess Houdini

By Tom Interval

Sid Fleischman and Bess Houdini

Sid Fleischman and Bess Houdini (Photo copyright 1996 Sid Fleischman Inc.)

If you’re a fan of children’s literature, then you’re probably familiar with Sid Fleischman’s work. If not, here’s the scoop: Fleischman (1920-2010) was a Newbery Medal-winning author who wrote children’s books, screenplays, novels, instructional magic books, and a kid’s bio on Harry Houdini. In his youth, he performed magic in his hometown of San Diego, California, and, with a friend, even took his show on the road.

When Fleischman was still in his teens, he met Bess Houdini and apparently maintained a friendship with her until her death in 1943. In his 1996 autobiography, The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer’s Life, he includes a wonderful photo of him and Bess in Balboa Park in San Diego (see accompanying picture). Taken in 1936, the photo shows Fleischman at the age of 16 with Bess beside him signing a playing card. (When I first saw the image, I thought he looked older than 16 but quickly remembered Bess was only about 49 and thus somewhat dwarfed by the young magician.)

Living only a mile from the park, I went there on a few occasions specifically to look for the exact location where the photo was taken. At first, it was a fun game to me; however, after about three or four unsuccessful attempts to locate the spot, I got antsy and finally sent the photo to an administrator of the Balboa Park Facebook page with a request to identify the mystery location. Within six minutes, the (unidentified, yet awesome) admin got back to me with an answer. Fleischman and Bess were standing next to the fountain of the Aztec Woman of Tehuantepec (La Tehuana), located in the park’s House of Hospitality courtyard. I grabbed my camera, headed back to the park, and took some shots of the area where Fleischman and Bess once stood about 78 years ago.

The image that follows is a side-by-side comparison, then and now. Obviously some things have changed since 1936, including some restoration and the addition of a brick foundation under the fountain. However, this is definitely the location. That sculpture, by the way, is by Donal Hord, who created the piece for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. I’ve included a few more images of the fountain, sculpture, and courtyard below.

To learn more about Sid Fleischman and his work, visit his official website at www.sidfleischman.com. To read more about Bess Houdini, check out some of the great articles about her on John Cox’s Wild About Harry blog.

Then and Now

Left: Sid Fleischman and Bess Houdini (1936), Right: The same location 78 years later at the fountain of the Aztec Woman of Tehuantepec (La Tehuana), Balboa Park, House of Hospitality courtyard, San Diego, California (2014) (Composite photo copyright 2014 Tom Interval)

Fountain of the Aztec Woman of Tehuantepec (La Tehuana), Balboa Park, House of Hospitality courtyard, San Diego, California

Fountain of the Aztec Woman of Tehuantepec (La Tehuana), Balboa Park, House of Hospitality courtyard, San Diego, California (Photo copyright 2014 Tom Interval)

Aztec Woman of Tehuantepec (La Tehuana) by Donal Hord

Aztec Woman of Tehuantepec (La Tehuana) sculpture by Donal Hord, Balboa Park, House of Hospitality courtyard, San Diego, California (Photo copyright 2014 Tom Interval)

Fountain of the Aztec Woman of Tehuantepec (La Tehuana), Balboa Park, House of Hospitality courtyard, San Diego, California

Fountain of the Aztec Woman of Tehuantepec (La Tehuana), Balboa Park, House of Hospitality courtyard, San Diego, California (Photo copyright 2014 Tom Interval)

Posted in Art, Authors, Bess, Literature, Sculptures, Sid Fleischman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Breaking News from Queens re Houdini Grave

They’re calling this “an unprecedented act of theft and vandalism.” The news broke this morning. Here’s a quick excerpt, but you can read the full story by clicking on the link below.

Body of Harry Houdini Stolen From Queens Grave

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Grave robbers acting under cover of darkness stole the body of famed escape artist Harry Houdini from an unguarded
Glendale cemetery early Tuesday morning in what police are calling an unprecedented act of theft and vandalism.

The NYPD is hoping the public can help them find three men whom a homeless witness spotted driving out of Machpelah Cemetery’s south driveway
sometime between 3 and 4 a.m. in a dark blue or black flatbed, turning and heading north on Cypress Hills St. …  http://tiny.cc/cbsnews

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