By Tom Interval
Blogcast #10 is live! This one’s about a man who claimed he was Houdini’s assistant for 33 years, but I cast some doubt on that. It’s based on a blog I wrote a few days ago, but these blogcasts are a bit easier to digest. I’ll also be posting this on SoundCloud later tonight.
I grew up in San Francisco and Larry Lewis was a familiar local celebrity of sorts. Always good for some extra copy when the newspapers needed some.
That he was a long-time waiter at The St. Francis Hotel, which at the time, was considered among the top if not the top hotels to be at.
i first heard of Larry Lewis when he appeared on a benefit show for the San Francisco Boy’s Clubs, which he was a strong supporter. This was probably 1965/66 at The Marines Memorial Theater on Sutter Street. After several musical acts, Lewis was introduced and he did a couple of effects with cards and then went into the audience looking for a volunteer and picked me, and had me follow him back on stage.
I remember he did one effect with a deck of cards, and then another involving changing/multiplying dollar bills, and he sent me back to my seat.
He then asked for two adult men to volunteer and he then did the 75 foot rope tie escape. While he was being tied up, the announcer told the audience that Larry Lewis had worked with Houdini and were good friends until his death.
Quite a sight seeing this 90+ year old man in a business suit standing with rope tied to him from head to foot, but he escaped quickly to a good round of applause.
He then asked for two other men to come on stage and then brought out a straight jacket, that I think he said was from Alcatraz Prison. (Alcatraz had been closed just a couple of years earlier.)
They strapped him in, and Lewis said the jackets from Alcatraz were especially formidable, so he would show how he would use a wooden chair to give him the help he needed to escape. He knelt in front of the chair and used the seat of the chair to force his arms over his head and a corner of the chair to undo buckles.
He then struggled as he pulled off the jacket, slamming it to the floor, to great applause… I noticed many in the audience were shaking the heads in wonderment of the spectacle of watching this elderly man apparently use amazing strength and skill to escape from the restraint.
I followed occasional stories that appeared thru the following years about Lewis. I also remember him on Johnny Carson’s show, where he talked about his good friend, Harry Houdini, who died in his arms, on Halloween.
He was apparently an avid runner who did it before it became popular.
Diego: Thanks so much for your memories about Larry. Interesting how he used a chair to escape from the straitjacket! Also, I wish I could find a clip of his performance on Carson or on any other show.