Doug Henning

Famous magicians - Doug Henning

Canadian magician, Doug Henning, is as well known for his flamboyant dress sense as he is for his magic. His brightly coloured clothes, thick moustache, long hair and warm smile made him instantly recognisable.

Performing magic, however, was not Doug Henning's initial chosen career - he wanted to become a doctor - his interest in magic was mainly a hobby. But, before starting medical school he thought about making some money performing magic. He persuaded a Canadian government panel that, as magic is an art form, he was eligible for a grant to study with some of the great magicians of the day.

This was the kick-start Doug Henning needed. Along with a friend of his, he assembled a rock and magic musical called Spellbound. Setting box office records, they renamed it The Magic Show before opening on Broadway and running, successfully, for over 4 years.

Doug Henning's World of Magic was the start of his TV career after the NBC television network liked what they saw in The Magic Show. This annual event ran for seven years, watched by millions of people each time.

One of Doug Henning's most famous illusions was the Double Sawing. Two women arrive on stage wearing different coloured dresses, one all in pink and one all in blue. They each enter their own box and are then sawn in half. The great twist here is that the bottom half of one women is put together again to the top half of the other women and vice-versa. When they emerge from their boxes, one has a pink top half but a blue bottom half and vice-versa. Incredible!

There was also Doug Henning's Miss-Made Girl, in which a young women stood in a vertical box of four equal heights of different colours. Blades were inserted between each one before the four cubes were then shuffled. When the fronts were opened up, the girl had her thighs on the top, her midriff next, followed by her head and finally her feet. The boxes were then rearranged and opened up for the girl to step out complete.

As well as great stage illusions, Doug Henning was also very good at close-up magic tricks. One of these was the Fickle Nickel where a nickel coin disappears and reappears in the palm of his hand even though he shows both sides of his hand whilst performing the trick.

In 1987, Doug Henning decided to leave magic behind and concentrate on Transcendental Meditation. It was rumoured that he was to come back into magic in late 1999 but, sadly, he died of liver cancer in early 2000. One of the best, Doug Henning has been an inspiration to many in the business today.