shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass


barefoot, with a magic lantern

In honor of Teller's excellent Sock Monkey review and Carrie's resulting Teller post, I'm going to offer up one of my favorite anecdotes from the history of magic. It comes from what is quite possibly the best used book find I ever made, one which I highly suggest you seek out if you are interested in the early days of cinema or in the heyday of magic: The Magician and the Cinema by Erik Barnouw. (But I'm going to option it someday, so hands off, okay?) This particular story involves the American magician Carl Hertz, who grew up around a dry goods store in San Francisco, his Russian and Polish parents not having found the gold they expected. In fact, he got his big break performing in 1884 at the Boston One Price Clothing Store in Kansas City, where his engagement was extended after the shop boys went nuts for him. He became one of the best known magicians in the world. I've included some background, but things really heat up in the graph starting "In Borneo." Here's the anecdote:

"He traveled with assistants and many boxes of equipment and a female co-performer, Mademoiselle D'Alton, his Vanishing Lady. Every leading magician at this time had a Vanishing Lady. When hiring Mll. D'Alton, Hertz had her swear a loyalty oath, since she would know his secrets. His memoirs describe the beginning of their relationship:

The oath was duly administered, and the contract signed, and thus Emelie D'Alton became the original Vanishing Lady, and, a little later, to make my secrets more secure, she became Mrs. Carl Hertz.

One of their specialties, The Phoenix Illusion, harked back to Robertson's Fantasmagorie. Mll. D'Alton was a heroine condemned to death and consigned to a fiery furnace. Amid billows of smoke and flashes of red, the audience apparently saw her sink in the flames. A large urn was then brought in. Ashes from the furnace were placed in the urn. After suitable incantations, Mlle. D'Alton rose in glory from her ashes.

In Borneo, during an early world tour, Hertz improvised a variation to solve a crisis. A performance before a native potentate, whose daughter sat at her father's feet, was so admired--especially by the daughter, the princess--that the potentate requested several repeat performances. After the second he announced that his daughter had decided to marry Hertz; the ruler himself would officiate the next day, after the performance. Hertz explained that he already had a wife, but this was not considered an obstacle; the princess said she would accept Emelie D'Alton as her equal. Next day, as told in Hertz's memoirs, A Modern Mystery Merchant, the company decided to reschedule The Phoenix Illusion, with variations. At the crucial moment Hertz brushed Mlle. D'Alton aside and himself plunged into the fiery furnace. Later, amid horror and dismay, it was explained that something had gone wrong. The ashes were not working. Mourning replaced festivity as Hertz's aides carried him from the area in a wicker basket loaded with equipment."

We have no air conditioning. Please, send ice.

worm "Carry Me Ohio," Sun Kil Moon

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