I remember Harry Blackstone
From “The TOPS Magazine, November 1969, by David Price: “Every magician has his own recollections of Blackstone. Perhaps my earliest such recollection is of being passed in through the stage entrance by the great one himself about ten or twelve times during a single week. This occurred at a time when I could ill afford more than one ticket during the week’s run in Nashville.
Another early recollection is that I was the butt of one of Mr. Blackstone’s favorite backstage jokes. Harry introduced me to an older man with, “Meet my father, Dave.” I shook hands and with a show of inside knowledge said, “How-do-you-do Mr. Boughton.” I had the right name (Boughton not Bouton) but the “father” turned out to be a fellow selling the show a week’s supply of rabbits. After that, I saw many “father” introductions by Harry and in the end was even introduced myself as Harry’s father and who could believe that possible.
Throughout the years, there were many Blackstone shows and I am often asked which show was the greatest. My choice of Blackstone shows is the 1930 edition. Never before or since, or so it seems to me, did Blackstone ever reach such heights. That magnificent opening was never so crowded with so many whirlwind tricks as in 1930. This was before flower darts were used in the opening sequence. The most barefaced production of a stack of bowls I ever saw was performed without anyone in the audience being the wiser. And then, a small goat was produced by the same method. Can an audience be taken in twice in quick succession by the same audacious ruse? They can and they were! Blackstone was a master of bold magical misdirection as all magicians familiar with the Blackstone show will agree. Duck Inn is the prime example. It would take another Alexander Hernmann to equal that trick for pure audacity.
I have long believed that the big levi is the greatest trick ever performed by a magician. I am not referring to just any levitation, an Aga or an Asrah, but the really “big one” where the magician hoists a lady without covering to a height of six feet or more and then walks freely away even walking behind the floating lady. I refer to the Maskelyne-Kellar levitation and Blackstone performed it beautifully. However, it was not in his 1930 show and even without the levi, 1930 was Blackstone’s greatest year.
One of the tricks that made Blackstone great is what some of us called “The Bear Illusion,” Blackstone used it to close the show over a period of many, many years. It was really so strong the nothing could follow it. The curtain HAD to come down.
The effect of The Bear Illusion is as follows: Blackstone showed the big box empty, closed it, fired a pistol shot, and Mr. Whiskers jumped from what appeared to be an empty box. Mr. Whiskers began dancing around the stage and threatening Blackstone who moved to the back of the stage, picked up a shield and hiding behind it began to advance toward the audience. Mr. Whiskers then fired a shot at the shield, which dropped to the stage revealing, not Blackstone, but the bear. As the tempo of the music increased, the Bear and Mr. Whiskers danced together as partners in a ballroom. Then Mr. Whiskers advanced to the footlights, removed his disguise, and was revealed to be Blackstone himself. Impossibility, you say? The audience gasped as Blackstone waiting for the applause, which, after a few moments of stunned silence, came thundering across the footlights. It was sure fire. It always knocked the audience into the aisles, what could any magician do to top that dramatic transformation. It was the greatest change trick that I ever witnessed and will forever remain one of my most pleasant memories of Harry Blackstone, who passed away just four years ago this month.”