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Dorothy Young Obituary

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Mar 26th, 2011
2011
Mar 26

OBITUARY

Seabrook Resident Dorothy Young Dies at 103, Was Houdini’s Assistant

 

  Dorothy Young, Houdini’s last on-stage assistant, with the magician in 1926 as the “Radio Girl of 1950.” (Dorothy Young’s family)

 

The long-time Monmouth County (New Jersey) resident was one of the last people to have worked onstage with the escape artist Harry Houdini.

 

By Amy Byrne
EATONTOWN-TINTON FALLS PATCH
March 25, 2011

 

She performed onstage with the legendary Harry Houdini, traveled the world ballroom dancing and appeared on a Barbara Walters’ special, but until her death on Monday, Dorothy Young had spent the last three years living quietly in Tinton Falls’ Seabrook Village.

 

Young, 103, who died March 20, is thought to have been the last surviving person to share a stage with the renowned escape artist Houdini.  She joined his troupe as an assistant in 1925 when she was 17-years-old and quickly became known as the “Radio Girl of 1950,” emerging during the act from a large radio and performing a dance routine.   

 

“Houdini told me that he chose me from the more the 1,000 girls who showed up that day because, unlike all of them—I was a quiet, little girl sitting all the way in the back—and because I was shorter that he was,” Young told a gathering of the Daughter’s of the American Revolution in 2008, according to a release from Seabrook.

 

Young, the daughter of a Methodist minister, toured for a year with Houdini and left just two months before his death in October 1926. She married Robert Perkins and had a child shortly after, and Perkins died 13 years later.

 

According to her son, Robert Perkins, Jr., who is 83, Young befriended the matinee idol and silent film star Richard Bennett—who is also Perkins’ godfather—and made her way into some Broadway and film roles, including the Fred Astaire film Flying Down to Rio.

 

Young formed a dance act with Gilbert Kiamie, a New York businessman and the son of a wealthy silk lingerie magnate, according to a report by the Associated Press, and they gained international prominence for a Latin dance they created known as the rumbalero. They later married and remained together until Kiamie died in 1992.

 

Young moved to Allenhurst and later, Little Silver, according to Perkins, who attended Markham Place School in Little Silver and graduated from Red Bank High School in 1944.

 

Both Perkins and Kiamie entered the military during the Second World War and Young volunteered with the Standards Agency at Fort Monmouth, according to the Seabrook release.

 

Young moved to Ocean Grove where she lived for many years working on the oil painting that became her creative outlet of choice for the rest of her life. She also wrote two novels based on her professional experiences.

 

Perkins said his mother had many creative talents—dancing, acting, painting—but “couldn’t carry a tune.”

 

Young became a benefactor of the Jersey Shore Medical Center where she established a chapel in honor of her parents. She also became a donor of Drew University in Madison and helped create the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts at the university. Her donations also made possible the rebuilding of Youth Temple in Ocean Grove in 1977, according to the Seabrook release.

 

Young attended many performances at Drew and one her last was a commemoration of Houdini’s death in October 2008 that featured an inner circle of the magician’s enthusiasts and historians.

 

In 2005, Young appeared in the documentary Houdini: Unlocking the Mystery and was featured on a Barbara Walters special on television about centegenarians in 2008.

 

Perkins said he moved up from Naples, FL to live with his mother in Seabrook three years ago when it became evident she could no longer live on her own.

 

He said his mother’s early exposure to travel with Houdini’s show gave her a taste of a world very different from her beginnings as the daughter of a Methodist minister.

 

“She liked that sort of life,” he said.

 

Aside from Perkins, Young is survived by four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

 

A memorial service will be held for Young on April 16 at 4 p.m. at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Ocean Grove, according to Perkins.

___________________________________

 

Valentino’s psychic message

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on May 26th, 2010
2010
May 26

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

Did Valentino speak from the grave?

 

 

 

  

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Rudolph Valentino. One of the most popular film actors while he lived evidently had aspirations to act on the legitimate stage once he was dead. Yes that is correct, at least according to his ex-wife, Natacha Rambova who made that revelation – and others – three months after Valentino’s death.

 

Rambova, whose real name was Winifred Hudnut, arrived in the states from Europe on November 25, 1926 with George B. Wehner, who claimed he was a medium associated with the American Society for Psychical Research.

 

The essence of Valentino’s revelations concerning his activities since his death according to Rambova and Wehner were:

 

  1. Valentino was a citizen of the astral plane.
  2. He hopes to become a legitimate actor there.
  3. He met Enrico Caruso and heard the late tenor sing.
  4. He visited theaters (on the worldly plane) where his films were being shown and was pleased at the “flattery” he sensed in the minds of the audience.
  5. Everything in the theater, however, seemed strange to him as he could “see through all things.”
  6. His wish was that his will (which left nothing to Rambova) to be carried out as executed and believes it would be done.
  7. He made no mentions in his “communications” of Pola Negri, who had announced at his death that they had been engaged to be married.

 

Rambova explained this last point, apparently to her own satisfaction, by saying that Valentino only “spoke to her of significant things and subjects that mean something.”

 

 

 

 

Wehner explained that while he was at Rambova’s chateau outside Paris he received a psychic message that Valentino was going to die. Later, he said, he received a “spiritual message” from Valentino calling for Rambova. He said she replied by cable and received a reply by radio. All this was, of course, prior to the actor’s death.

 

While Valentino’s body was lying in state in the funeral church here, besieged by thousands of admirers, Wehner said he received a “communication” from the screen star deploring the fact that he had “recognized and spoken” to many of those who filed past his bier, but that they had not known he was “addressing” them.

 

Of course, Pola Negri could not let this pass without responding. She and Valentino’s brother, Alberto, both said that they were not impressed with the “message from the astral plane” which Rambova claimed she received from her late husband.

 

When Alberto was told of her statements, he shrugged his shoulders and said:

 

“I think Rudolph would have communicated with his own brother if he had any message to send from the other side. I never have heard of Wehner nor the American Society of Psychical Research, with which the medium claims to be associated. It always was our belief that someone friendly to all concerned must be the medium through which thoughts after death must be presented.”

 

 

 

 

Pola, who announced after Valentino’s death that they had been engaged to be married, stopped working at the studio long enough to say:

 

“There has been so much trickery in the name of spiritualism that I think only direct contact with the departed one would be convincing. In this particular instance, regarding my own recent loss, I feel that the subject is altogether too sacred to be commercialized, and I cannot help thinking that this publicity that we have been reading is unworthy of the grand dignity of the great beyond.”

 

Jean Acker, Valentino’s first wife also commented by saying that the actor did not believe in spirit messages and expressed the opinion that none had been received.

 

“Rudolph Valentino did not believe in spirit messages,” Acker said. “He was intelligent, and if he had lived the world would have heard of him in other ways. Even if such messages were received, they should have been too sacred to broadcast. “

 

Bess Houdini, whose magician-husband had died only a few weeks earlier, and who also fought against so-called psychic charlatans, spoke about Rambova’s claim:

 

“There is no doubt that Miss Rambova believes the messages to be from Valentino,” said Mrs. Houdini. “I also have received messages through mediums supposedly from Houdini, but those messages were an insult to my intelligence.”

 

“Would a man with the brilliant mind Houdini possessed send such an insane message as ‘I am very happy here,’ and talk about wills? No, Houdini’s message will be worthwhile, and until some medium who claims he or she is favored by our Almighty Father to communicate with our beloved dead speaks those sacred words of our compact, I will be skeptical and promptly consign all other messages to the waste basket.

 

“Miss Rambova also claims that only real love counts over there. What was our love, our Holy love; thirty-two years of love and devotion? Surely, if love counts, I should be blessed with the gift of speaking to my dead. Surely, if any beloved dead speaks to these mediums, who claim communications, he would say that I am waiting to hear and not the nonsense they say he speaks.

 

“I have in my possession a priceless heritage – from my dead – letters; letters that he wrote; fifteen, one each year, not to be opened until his death, letters that breathed love and devotion. They were read by me after we had laid him beside his beloved parents and each priceless gem read:

 

“Sweetheart mine, when you read this I will be at rest, at rest beside my sainted parents. Do not grieve, dear heart, I have just gone ahead and will be waiting for you – yours in life, death and ever after.”

 

 

 

_____________________

 

Rollin B. and Katherine Lane: Hollywood Pioneers

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Jan 2nd, 2010
2010
Jan 2

HOLLYWOOD PIONEERS

Rollin B. Lane, and a little Hollywood magic

 

Rollin B. Lane

Rollin B. Lane (Photo courtesy of Ripon College Archives)

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

While he is not well-known today, Rollin B. Lane was an early Hollywood resident; an admitted capitalist and philanthropist who donated large sums of money for parks, libraries and orphanages. However, if he is known at all it would be for a street named for his mother, and for the home he built a century ago, which is now one of the oldest still standing in Hollywood. One-hundred years ago Lane named his home the “Holly Chateau” but for the past forty-seven years the public has known it by its more celebrated name – the Magic Castle which celebrates it’s 47th year today!

 

 

 

_____

 

Rollin Benjamin Lane was born on May 28, 1854 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the son of Leonard Lane and Olive Pickett. The family home was located on Algoma Street, however his parents divorced (or his father deserted them) and Rollins and his mother moved to nearby Pickett when he was two years old. His maternal grandparents, Armine and Anna Pickett, were pioneer residents of Pickett and Winnebago county.

 

Lane attended school at the old district No. 6 building which was built on land donated by his grandfather. He attended Ripon College and graduated in 1872. Later, he was for five years an associate editor of the old Daily Evening Wisconsin in Milwaukee before settling in Redlands, California in the winter of 1886.

 

There he invested in real estate and owned a 17-acre orange grove. With other investors he established the Union Bank of Redlands, of which he was cashier for five years. In 1890 Lane moved to Portland, Oregon, where he took part in organizing the Multnomah County Bank, of which he was president for three years, selling his interest in 1895.

 

In October 1896, Lane married Katherine Azubah Glynn, a teacher and the author of the fictional, “The Girl from Oshkosh.” Kate was born in March 3, 1864 in Bucktooth, New York to La Fayette Glynn and Mary E. Perry. She was also the great-granddaughter of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the early American naval officer.

 

Lane, an ardent Republican, hastened his wedding to Katherine in order to return to California in time to vote in the presidential election for McKinley. Katherine evidently sympathized and consented to a hurried wedding and the couple left immediately for Redlands. There he purchased a house at the head of Center Street.

 

The Lane’s slowly made their presence known in Hollywood, reportedly moving there around 1902, making friends with influential people of the fairly new community. They attended the formal opening of the new addition to the Hollywood Hotel in 1905. It was during these times that he most likely became acquainted with local real estate icons such as the Whitley’s, Wilcox’s and other Hollywood pioneers.

 

Meanwhile, Lane continued with his California real estate investments including the San Fernando and San Joaquin Valley’s. In 1907, Lane became one of the backers of the new community of Corcoran in central California. Founded by H.J. Whitley, who also had a presence in Hollywood (Whitley Heights, Whitley Avenue), many of his associates in this endeavor were other Hollywood citizens including General H. G. Otis (Los Angeles Times), Arthur Letts (Broadway Department Store), and Dr. Alan Gardner (Gardner Avenue). Much later Corcoran became the location of the California State Prison, home to a number of notable inmates including Charles Manson, Juan Corona and Phil Spector.

 

Already transplanted to Hollywood, Lane began construction in early 1909 on his elegant Holly Chateau at the foot of the Hollywood Hills at 7001 Franklin Avenue. The original house was designed by the architectural firm of Dennis and Farwell in the French “Chateau” or Gothic Renaissance style and adapted from a residence in Redlands known as “Kimberly Crest” which has been preserved as a house museum.

 

Lane house drawing that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on January 23, 1910 

 

A two-story frame and cement plaster house, Holly Chateau has a large basement and a finished attic under a mansard roof. The home initially had seventeen rooms including a roof garden and sun parlor. The basement contained a laundry, fruit and storage rooms and two large gas furnaces which heated the house.

 

The halls, staircase and library were made of quarter-sawed white oak; the dining room was of mahogany and the den in natural redwood and of Turkish design. The parlor was decorated in white enamel with gold decorations in the Louis XV style, while the balance of the house, including the bedrooms and five bathrooms had white enamel finish. A large billiard room occupied the third floor. Other features included French windows, five or six fireplaces and carved mantels.

 

The Lanes shared their wealth with causes that were closest to their hearts. Because of her interest in community parks, Katherine was known as the “Tree Lady.” Lanewood Avenue (named after Lane’s twice-married mother, Olive Pickett Lane-Wood), in Hollywood, is still lined with large pine trees which Katherine most likely planted since the Lane’s once owned the land.

 

Lanewood Avenue, named after Olive Pickett Lane-Wood,  in Hollywood. The pine trees that line the street were most likely planted by Katherine Lane 

 

She was chairman of the tree-planting committee that procured 360 cherry trees from Japan for planting in and around Griffith Park. Working with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, Katherine is responsible for the planting of the landmark palm trees that line Wilshire Boulevard.

 

Katherine was elected president of the Hollywood Women’s Club and was also the founder of the Round-the-World Club, Lane Tree Club, Perry Art Club and The Juniors, and a member of the Hollywood Club, Oshkosh Club, Ebell Club, Women’s Press Club, Daughters of the American Revolution and Casa Del Mar. She was also the official hostess to the Wisconsin delegates of the 1932 Olympics, which were held in Los Angeles.

 

The Lane’s adopted a son sometime after moving into the Chateau in 1909. The 1910 census does not mention a son, however in 1920, twelve year-old Rollin B. Lane Jr. appears. Some have assumed that explains a $25,000 donation for the construction of a building for the Los Angeles Children’s Home Society, but not much is known about the adoption.

 

Discord came to the Chateau in mid 1923, when Katherine filed for divorce against her 69 year-old husband. In her complaint she charged cruelty and named another woman, asking for $750 a month in alimony. A restraining order was issued to prevent Lane from removing anything from the house. However, after a meeting between the couple and their lawyers, a reconciliation was arranged and Lane returned to living at 7001 Franklin Avenue. However, it appears that Lane atoned for his sins the following January when he took Katherine and their son on a world cruise. This was followed by a tour of Alaska two years later and another world tour in 1927.

 

The passport photo for the Lane’s first world tour. Rollin, Rollin, Jr and Katherine Lane

 

As the movie industry invaded Hollywood, the Lane’s kept their distance and refused to hobnob with the communities new residents. There have been legends about cowboy star, Tom Mix riding his horse down the mansion’s staircase (this story seems to follow him at several Hollywood residences) but it never happened. Also, the story that actress Janet Gaynor once lived at the Chateau are also false.

 

The closest the Lanes came to acknowledging the entertainment industry was celebrating the birthday of composer, Carrie Jacobs-Bond, which was held at the Chateau for several years. Bond, who also lived in Hollywood, was a songwriter probably best known for composing the wedding standard, “I Love You Truly.”

 

It became Katherine’s custom to celebrate Bond’s birthday with a garden party. During their world cruise in 1924, Katherine was on the Indian Ocean and the ship’s orchestra played “A Perfect Day,” – a Bond composition – and being so far from home, it touched her heart and there she decided that if she reached home safely, she would give flowers to Bond, honoring her living presence instead of her memory.

 

One birthday celebration in particular, August 11, 1925, more than 300 people gathered on the Chateau grounds to observe Bond’s 64th birthday. Among those who attended were George H. Coffin, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce; real estate developer, C. E. Toberman; impresario, L. E. Beyhmer, and many others from Hollywood society. While no film people actually attended the festivities (or were invited), telegrams of felicitations were received from Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and “other celebrities.”

 

In May 1929, Rollin Lane presented his alma-mater, the Ripon College Board of Trustees with $100,000, to be used to build the Lane Library. Lane, his mother-in-law, Mary Glynn and Katherine attended the cornerstone laying ceremony in June 1930.

 

 Unidentified woman, Katherine Lane and Rollin B. Lane at cornestone laying ceremony for the Lane Library at Ripon College (Photo courtesy of Ripon College Archives)

 

 Rollin B. Lane laying the cornerstone of Lane Library at Ripon College (Photo courtesy of Ripon College Archives)

 

The year before Lane gave $20,000 for the construction of a new school building and auditorium in his hometown of Pickett, named the Armine and Anna Pickett Memorial School, after his maternal grandparents. Today it’s known as the Pickett Community Center. “It was quite the party when he came back to dedicate it,” said Mary Callies, researcher and treasurer of the Center. “There were endless parties; everyone wanted to be with someone who knew somebody in Hollywood.”

 

Day-to-day life, though slower, continued at Holly Chateau for the Lane’s. Around 1936, Lane became ill and rarely left the house. On August 23, 1940, Rollin B. Lane died of a stroke in a small corner bedroom of the Chateau. He was 86 years-old. Funeral services were held at the Hollywood Cemetery Chapel and burial was in the family plot next to his mother.

 

Katherine continued to live at 7001 Franklin Avenue until her death at the Glendale Sanitarium on December 9, 1945. She was buried at Hollywood Cemetery between her husband and her mother (who is unmarked).

 

 

Lane family marker

 The Lane family plot at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Below are individual markers for  Rollin B. Lane, Katherine Lane and Olive Pickett Lane-Wood (Photos: Allan R. Ellenberger)

 

Rollin B. Lane marker

 

 

Katherine Lane marker

 

 

Olive Lane-Wood marker

 

 

During the years after Katherine’s death, the Chateau was divided into a multi-family home, then it was a home for the elderly and lastly it was altered into a jumble of small apartments. In 1950, Harry Stafford, a stage and screen actor, died in one of the rooms. The Holly Chateau stayed in the Lane family until it was sold to Thomas Glover in 1955.

 

The fate of the house was in question until Milt Larsen, a writer on the NBC game show, Truth or Consequences and his brother William, obtained the house for use as a club for magicians – a long-time dream of their father. After months of restoration, the Lane mansion was transformed into what is known today as the Magic Castle.

 

Forty-seven years ago today (January 2, 1963) at 5 pm, the Magic Castle opened its doors to members. It became a mysterious mansion with secret panels, a piano played by a ghost and weird overtones of magic. The mystifying features of the place began with the entrance, a secret panel known but to members. The “Invisible Irma” room boasts a regular piano and plays tunes at a verbal command.

 

Original posters of Houdini, the Mysterious Dante, the Great Leon, Thurston’s “Wonder Show of the Earth” and Brush, “King of Wizards,” decorated the Blackstone Room, where card tables are provided for sleight-of-hand experts.

 

 

The mansion has been altered since the days that the Lane’s lived there – both inside and out. Street lamps that adorn the driveway once dotted the original Victoria Pier in Venice. Decorative cast iron frieze work on the canopy overhanging the door was part of the entrance to the Masonic temple at Wilshire and La Brea. Paneling in the main dining room was taken from the shutters of the Norma Talmadge Building that used to stand on Sunset. And the chandeliers in the Palace of Mystery once hung in the first Bullock’s in Southern California. 

 

What would Rollin and Katherine Lane think of the transformation of their mansion? The room where Rollin Lane died is now the Houdini Séance room – perhaps one day Rollin will attend (or already has) to whatever goes on there and make his thoughts known. In any event, the only way you can see this magical place is if you know a member. If you ever have the chance, take it. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Special thanks to George W. Siegel, the architectural historian for the Magic Castle and to Bill Goodwin, librarian and Lisa Cousins of the Magic Castle for their help with this article.

 ______________________________________

 

Caryl S. Fleming at Hollywood Forever

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Dec 13th, 2009
2009
Dec 13

HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY

Caryl S. Fleming, an immortal of magic

 

Caryl S. Fleming

Caryl S. Fleming (above) does not find a rabbit in his hat (Photo:  IBM Ring #21)

  

The Magic Castle, located at 7001 Franklin Avenue at the foot of the Hollywood Hills, is currently observing the centennial of it’s headquarters which was built by banker Rollin B. Lane in 1909. To celebrate, I will post a biography of Lane and the history of the mansion on January 2, 2010, the 47th anniversary of the organization’s opening. Today, the last in a series of articles on magic and magicians in Hollywood, is about Caryl S. Fleming, a banker and one-time film director whose true love was magic!

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Since the early days of film, Hollywood has always been the land of make-believe where tricks and sleight of hand are evident in almost every frame. Hollywood has also been a friend to the magical arts – Harold Lloyd was a lover of magic and held meetings in his expansive estate in Beverly Hills. Other Hollywood celebrities such as Chester Morris, Sterling Holloway, Ramon Novarro, Johnny Mack Brown, Gene Raymond, Max Terhune, Bert Kalmar and Edgar Bergen also had an interest in magic.

 

Caryl Stacy Fleming is a name which may not be as familiar to the magically-challenged, but yet he was the major reason for the well-being of conjuring in the Los Angeles area from 1933 to 1940.

 

Fleming was born on October 13, 1890 (although his grave marker reads 1894, official records give his actual year of birth as 1890) at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the son of Frank Fleming and Grace Rosemary Stacy. As a child he moved with his family to Chicago, where his parents were divorced by the time he was 10 and his mother ran a boarding house on Michigan Avenue.

 

It was in Chicago that a family friend — the dean of magicians, Harry Kellar — sparked his interest in magic. He would spend time at Ed Vernello’s magic shop, learning the basics of conjuring.

 

Caryl S. Fleming

 

In 1910 he moved to New York and was educated at Columbia University. He soon found work on the legitimate stage and in early motion pictures. Around 1916 he married Constance Ethel Norton and they had a daughter, Marjorie Gladys Fleming in August 1917. That same year, he was employed by Film Craft Corporation in New York City as a motion picture director. His final film as a director was The Devil’s Partner (1923) which starred Norma Shearer. This was Shearer’s last film before being signed by Louis B. Mayer Productions (later Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios).

 

Eventually Caryl and Constance were divorced and he left for California in 1927 while Constance and Marjorie remained in New York. By all accounts it was a bitter divorce and reportedly he never saw his ex-wife or daughter again.

 

In California, he became involved with banking and was a director of several institutions, while still devoting himself to the organization of magicians. He was president of the Pacific Coast Association of Magicians and the associated International Alliance of Magicians and was a member of more than fifty magic clubs.

 

He was one of the founders and a one-time president of Los Magicos which met on Wednesday nights, sometimes at his Beverly Hills home. Caryl was the perfect host and loved to manufacture gimmicks in quantity and pass them out to his friends. He was a true friend to magicians everywhere and wanted to have the whole world share the fun he had found in magic. A lover of animals and an ardent amateur photographer, he also dabbled in chemistry and developed a rope cement and several chemicals for use in card tricks.

 

Fleming and ess Houdini

Caryl Fleming, 2nd row, far left with glasses. Bess Houdini in center front row. 

 

In October 1936, Fleming attended the tenth, and final, Houdini séance which was held atop the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood. A close friend of Bess Houdini, Fleming sat in the inner circle with her and other distinguished magicians in a final attempt to contact her husband. However, no message was received from the great Houdini and it was announced that no further attempts would be made by his widow.

 

Many individual magicians were helped by Fleming’s counsel and directions. His advice was always constuctive, and usually in a humorous way. When he did not like some part of an act, he would say so and then do everything to help the magician change the act for the better. He was a stickler for accuracy. He credited audiences with having too much knowledge to allow a magician to get away with false claims.

 

On Labor Day, September 2, 1940, Fleming was entertaining at his Beverly Hills home (924 N. Beverly Drive). He was showing some card tricks to a friend, Joe Evedon when he suddenly complained of indigestion. He drank a glass of bicarbonate of soda but said that it didn’t seem to help. Then without warning, he slumped into Evedon’s  arms and died from a heart attack just a month shy of his 50th birthday.

 

Tributes poured in from around the country:

 

“Caryl S. Fleming was the true magician,” wrote Edward Saint, past-president of Los Magicos. “He recognized neither race, creed, nor color; and his magic vision drew no geographical borders. Anyone, anywhere in the world, if they had the love of magic in their heart, Fleming called them ‘brother.’ He was of the world, for the world, of magic.”

 

Bess Houdini wrote:

 

“Marble may coldly mark the name and passing of our friend Caryl, but the memory of his prodigious efforts and intense love of magic, the warmth of his handclasp, and his kindly friendliness is engraved on our hearts as one of the Immortals of Magic.”

 

Fleming’s funeral service was held on September 4th from Dayton’s Mortuary in Beverly Hills. Amidst an array of floral tributes, more than 250 magicians gathered to pay last homage. A Universalist minister spoke first (Fleming’s great-great-grandfather established the Universalist church). Then, Bill Larson (the father of Milt and William Larson, founders of the Magic Castle in Hollywood) spoke to those gathered:

 

“Caryl would have been successful in anything he wanted to undertake,” Larson said. “His achievements in the fields of the theater and motion pictures were pronounced. Retiring, he turned his genius to magic. In a few short years he built, in the West, one of the largest and most prosperous organizations of magic the world has ever seen.”

 

Gerald Kosky then gave the S.A.M. ritual and wand breaking rites. Later Caryl S. Fleming was interred in the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Cemetery.

 

 

Caryl S. Fleming grave

 

 

Caryl S. Fleming grave

 

 

Fleming left an estate worth almost $100,000 to his mother, Grace R. Glaser but bequeathed only one-dollar to his daughter Marjorie, who resided in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania. It was understood that a property settlement, making provisions for his daughter and former wife, was effected when the Flemings were divorced several years earlier.

 

 

Caryl Fleming and mother graves

Fleming’s mother, Grace is interred below him. She remarried shortly before her death in 1948.

 

In 1947, Fleming’s mother, Grace, married James E. Miller. When Grace died just a few months later in February 1948, she left her considerable estate to her new husband. Grace’s secretary, cousin and Irva Ross, Fleming’s fiance at the time of his death, all were named benefieciareis under an earlier will. They contested the new will, claiming that Miller, who also had an alias, had married the wealthy widow in order to obtain control of her property. The court awarded each of the three contestants a specific amount and allowed Miller to inherit the remainder of the estate.

 

The Caryl S. Fleming Trophy for the most original amateur trick of the year was soon created and awarded yearly. In 1938, Fleming had helped charter the International Brotherhood of Magicians Hollywood RING 21 which, after his death, was changed to the Caryl Fleming RING 21 and is still in existence today.

 

fleming-ring21-a 

 

A year after his death, a tribute in Genii magazine memorialized Fleming saying:

 

“Years will pass. But the name Caryl Fleming will remain firmly in the minds of magicians. We, along with hundreds of others of our conjuring craft, will see to that.”

 

I would like to thank Bill Goodwin of the Magic Castle for providing  biographical information on Caryl S. Fleming for this article.

________________________________

 

Harry Kellar — the Dean of Magic

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Nov 30th, 2009
2009
Nov 30

LOS ANGELES HISTORY

 

 Harry Kellar-portrait 

 

Harry Kellar signature 

…the dean of magic

 

The Magic Castle, located at 7001 Franklin Avenue at the foot of the Hollywood Hills, is currently observing the centennial of it’s headquarters which was built by banker Rollin B. Lane in 1909. To celebrate, over the next couple of weeks I will post a biography of Lane and the history of the mansion and articles on magic and magicians in Hollywood. Today is a look at the dean of magicians, Harry Kellar, who upon his retirement, spent the last fourteen years of his life in Los Angeles and is also interred here.

 

 By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Harry Kellar, known as the “Dean of American Magicians,” enjoyed both public recognition and financial success. His was the largest and most elaborate stage illusion show touring during the late 1800s and early 1900s. He is best known for his spectacular version of the Levitation, in which a girl mysteriously rises up from a couch, floats across the stage to the audience, then disappears into thin air. Upon his retirement in 1908, Kellar chose to spend his remaining years in Los Angeles.

 

Kellar was born Heinrich Keller on July 11, 1849 in Erie, Pennsylvania. The son of German immigrants, his father, Francis P. Keller, had been a soldier under Napoleon. At the age of ten, Harry was put to work and found employment at Carter’s pharmacy on North Park Row. One day, while experimenting with chemicals he knew to be off-limits, he blew a hole in the shop floor. Knowing his father would be harsh with him, he jumped aboard an outbound train and left Erie.

 

Now a vagabond, Harry performed a series of odd jobs and was soon taken in by a minister in upstate New York, who offered to adopt him if he would study for the ministry. However, it was a chance visit to a traveling show that displayed the conjuring of The Fakir of Ava that enchanted the youngster. Kellar later confided to Houdini that he “immediately got the urge to go on the stage… became very restless, bought books on magic and finally left my friend and benefactor.” Harry traced down the Fakir, became his assistant, and began his professional training.

 

After several false starts and some disappointing results, Harry became connected with the Davenport Brothers and Fay, celebrated mediums who were involved with the “Spiritualism” movement. Harry continued with the Davenports for four years as their business manager, learning the cabinet tricks and becoming more expert at them than the brothers themselves. During this period he traveled extensively throughout the United States.

 

Harry reportedly changed the spelling of his name to Kellar because there was another popular magician named (Robert) Heller and wanted to avoid any possible confusion. It wasn’t until 1911 that he legally changed his name to Harry Kellar.

 

 

Harry Kellar poster

 

 

Kellar was famous for his playbills and advertisements featuring imps and devils, implying, without totally stating, that his skills were really powers gained through dealings with dark forces. This enticing idea brought people to his show in droves.

 

In 1873, Kellar formed a partnership with Fay, former partner of the Davenport Brothers, and as Fay and Kellar, toured Mexico and South America, acquiring an extended knowledge of the magician’s craft. Combining Kellar’s old magic tricks with a Davenport-inspired séance, was one of their showstoppers. After a shipwreck in 1875 on their trip to England left them destitute, Fay left the act to rejoin the Davenports.

 

On his return to the United States, Kellar joined Ling Look and Yamadura, billing themselves as Royal Illusionists, setting out on a tour of South America, Africa, Australia, India, the Philippines, Japan and China. While performing in China in 1877, both of his partners died, and for a time he toured alone.

 

For five years beginning in 1879, he traveled with J. H. Cunard under the name of Kellar & Cunard, giving exhibitions in Asia and Egypt. In 1882, Kellar was performing in Melbourne, Australia and met a fan, Eva Lydia Medley, who wanted his autograph. Kellar was smitten and promised to correspond with her while on the road. They exchanged letters for the next five years.

  

Kellar specialized not so much in feats of sleight-of-hand, as in other branches of the magicians art, more particularly those involving the use of apparatus, many of which Kellar was the originator, and are still models in magic today.

 

 

  Harry Kellar poster

  Harry Kellar poster

 

 

One of Kellar’s more popular illusions was The Levitation of Princess Karnac. One version of this was later purchased by Harry Blackstone, Sr., who used the trick for many years. Others included the Vanishing Birdcage, the Vanishing Lamp, and his automation Psycho, which was a popular attraction wherever it played.

 

Kellar returned to the United States in 1884 and began appearing alone and played here continuously. Eventually Eva arrived in America and played the cornet in the show and began learning about magic. They were married on November 1, 1887 at a church in Kalamazoo, Michigan and she continued to play an important role in his shows.

 

Kellar’s strength was his presentation. Over the next twenty years, he became one of the best known magicians in the world and once performed “The Nested Boxes” illusion at the White House for President Theodore Roosevelt and his children.

 

On May 16, 1908, Kellar retired and in a grand onstage ceremony at Ford’s Theatre in Baltimore, removed his cape and placed it on the shoulders of his chosen successor, Howard Thurston. Not long after, Kellar and his wife retired to Los Angeles where his sister Anna Marie lived. They bought a house at 698 Wilshire Place (demolished) and it was here that Eva died sometime before 1910.

 

 

Harry Kellar and Houdini

 

 

At the end of his career, Kellar befriended Harry Houdini, who idolized the elder magician. Houdini was a frequent guest at Kellar’s Wilshire Place home. Much of what is known about Kellar comes through Houdini, who conducted several interviews to help chronicle the history of magic. Houdini, in his fight to unmask fake mediums, once admitted that there was only one man who knew more about them than he did – Dean Harry Kellar.

 

Houdini once announced that he would perform the bullet catching feat, which had already killed several magicians, at an upcoming convention of the Society of American Magicians. Kellar got wind of it and fired off a letter. “Don’t try the damn bullet catching trick,” he warned, “no matter how sure you may feel of its success. There is always the biggest kind of risk that some dog will ‘job’ you. And we can’t afford to lose Houdini.”

 

Few men were more stubborn than Houdini, but he was no fool. He knew that Kellar had investigated the stunt himself and assumed that there must be more than enough reason for such strong advice. Houdini quietly withdrew his plan.

 

On September 7, 1917, a banquet in Kellar’s honor was held at the Angelus Hotel on the corner of Fourth and Spring Streets. After the meal, each magician gave exhibitions of their skill. Kellar demonstrated his famous “Kellar Rope Tie” and string tricks, and even those who assisted could not solve them.

 

Two months later, on November 11, 1917, Houdini convinced Kellar to perform once more. The event was an enormous show held at New York’s Hippodrome to benefit the families of soldiers who perished when the USS Antilles was sunk by a German U-boat.

 

After his performance, Kellar started to leave, but Houdini stopped him, saying that “America’s greatest magician should be carried off in triumph after his final public performance.” The members of the Society of American Magicians helped Kellar into the seat of a sedan chair, and lifted it up. The 125-piece Hippodrome orchestra played “Auld Lang Syne” while Kellar was slowly carried away.

 

 

Harry Kellar grave

 

 

At some point, Kellar moved in with his sister Anna Marie Buck at 460 S. Ardmore Avenue (demolished) near S. Normandie and 5th Street. It was here that Harry Kellar died after a brief illness on March 10, 1922. He was interred at Rosedale Cemetery but his grave was unmarked for almost 80 years until 2001 when the Academy of Magical Arts, who are headquartered at Hollywood’s Magic Castle, placed a stone there.

 

 

Click below to view a 16 second film of Harry Kellar with Houdini.

 

 

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Harry Blackstone in Hollywood

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Nov 24th, 2009
2009
Nov 24

HOLLYWOOD-ENDINGS

The Great Blackstone

 

Blackstone

  

Hollywood-Endings tells of celebrities who have died within the environs and boundaries of the community of Hollywood

  

The Magic Castle, located at 7001 Franklin Avenue at the foot of the Hollywood Hills, is currently observing the centennial of it’s headquarters which was built by banker Rollin B. Lane in 1909. To celebrate, over the next couple of weeks I will post a biography of Lane and the history of the mansion and articles on magic and magicians in Hollywood. Today, when magician Harry Blackstone retired, he moved to Hollywood and settled in an apartment just a few blocks from Grauman’s Chinese and the Magic Castle.

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Harry Blackstone, regarded as the last of the great golden-age magicians, and ranked with such wizards as Houdini, Herrmann the Great, Harry Kellar and Thurston, died at his Hollywood apartment on November 16, 1965 after a four-month illness.

 

Blackstone was born Harry Boughton on September 27, 1885, the fourth of eight children of a Chicago florist. In 1897, he saw his first magician – Harry Kellar, doing a rope escape trick. The young boy was captivated and began the slow process of learning sleight of hand.

 

In 1904 he began his stage career, when, with his brother Peter, he appeared in an act called “Straight and Crooked Magic.” Later, he shortened his name and the act was billed as the “Bouton Brothers.” The brothers toured the vaudeville circuit where Harry became the “master magician” of the act..

 

Later, he changed his stage name to Frederick the Great, however, during World War I, that name became unpopular. One day he was standing in front of the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago talking to an agent about changing his name. The agent pointed to the hotel marquee and said: “There’s your new billing – Blackstone the Great.”

 

News that Blackstone and his mahogany magic wand would be appearing brought pleasure to young and old, for Blackstone was a superb technician who could devote a two-hour stage show to nothing but tricks.

  

 

 

 BLACKSTONE

   

 

 

“It (magic) doesn’t need to be sleight of hand. It’s nothing but pure psychology – applied in the right place.

 

“If the leaders of the world would turn their talents to a little more magic, or psychology, there wouldn’t be so much hurt and misery. Politicians are nothing more than magicians anyhow. They put people under a spell.”

 

— Harry Blackstone

 

Blackstone was primarily an illusionist who shunned the use of trapdoors, mirrors or wires. He could saw a woman in half, make her float above ground and then thrust her into a cabinet lined with lighted light bulbs that could pass through her body. He used the same cabinet to cut the woman into three separate but equal parts.

 

In the Hindu rope trick, a boy climbed a rope and disappeared. The dancing handkerchief was just that – a borrowed man’s handkerchief placed on the floor and made to dance to a foxtrot.

 

Another trick was the vanishing donkey, in which a live animal disappeared before the astonished eyes of the audience. Using dozens of rabbits in his act, he once estimated giving away 80,000 of the creatures during his career.

 

When he would dine with friends, he liked to startle them by reaching into the air and finding oranges or bananas there, or by taking a salt shaker and violently pounding it through the table and reaching underneath to bring it up.

 

Blackstone once performed at the White House for President Calvin Coolidge. He stole the President’s fountain pen, pulled a rabbit from the pocket of Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon and palmed the wallet of Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg.

 

“This man’s a magician,” the President dryly remarked. As he left, Blackstone made the pistol vanish from the holster of the guard on duty.

 

Blackstone retired in 1959 and moved to Hollywood two years later. He made two known appearances after that – at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium for a “It’s Magic” extravaganza and was the subject of the television show, This is Your Life, hosted by Ralph Edwards, both in 1960.

 

 

1749 N. Sycamore Avenue

1749 N. Sycamore Avenue, Hollywood where Harry Blackstone died in his apartment on November 16, 1965. (NOTE: This is a private residence. Please do NOT disturb the occupants)

 

Harry Blackstone moved to 1749 N. Sycamore Avenue, apartment 19, in the heart of Hollywood, just a few blocks from Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Magic Castle, where he reportedly made appearances during his last few years.

 

During the summer of 1965, the 80 year-old Blackstone took ill and spent a month in Good Samaritan Hospital. On November 16, he died in his N. Sycamore apartment, apparently from pulmonary edema. At his bedside were his wife, Elizabeth, and his manager Charles McDonald. His son, Harry Jr., also an accomplished magician, was on tour in Florida.

 

There was no funeral, however his body was cremated at Hollywood Cemetery and his cremains sent to Colon, Michigan where a service was held. Harry Blackstone was buried at Lakeside Cemetery in Colon.

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Colleen Moore on Magic in Hollywood

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Nov 19th, 2009
2009
Nov 19

CELEBRITY FIRST-PERSON

Magic — one of filmland’s chief sources of pastime

 

Colleen Moore

 

The Magic Castle, located at 7001 Franklin Avenue at the foot of the Hollywood Hills, is currently observing the centennial of it’s headquarters which was built by banker Rollin B. Lane in 1909. To celebrate, over the next couple of weeks I will post a biography of Lane and the history of the mansion and articles on magic and magicians in Hollywood. Today is a commentary by film star, Colleen Moore that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on November 27, 1927.

 

By Colleen Moore
Los Angeles Times
November 27, 1927

 

I never realized until I became interested in the art of magic how many other persons in the screen world are also fond of sleight of hand. I supposee it remains one of the most fascinating hobbies in existence and once you become more or less familiar with it you realize what a widespread thing it is.

 

I heard the other day that the Prince of Wales is intrigued by it. When he was in Canada not long ago (Max) Malini, the well-known magician, was in his party. Royalty has always been prominent among the devotees of legerdemain.

 

Int'l Brotherhood of Magicians

 

I wonder how many know that  there are a number of magazines devoted to magic? There is one magazine called the Sphinx which seems to be read by magicians everywhere. The Linking Ring is another. In England the Magic Wand and the Magician lead the field. In these, new tricks are described and the activities of magical societies are announced.

 

Everywhere there are organizations of magicians. The Society of American Magicians, of which the late Houdini was president, has a membership of 1,500, with branches in all the big cities. The International Brotherhood of Magicians also has a large membership. There are two societies right in Los Angeles — the Los Angeles Society of Magicians and the Hollywood Mystic 27.

 

I have discovered that among others Harold Lloyd, Neil Hamilton, Raymond McKee, King Vidor, T. Roy Barnes and Burr McIntosh are interested in the practice of conjuring.

 

Colleen Moore

 

I am told that throughout the world there are great magical repositories where the apparatus is manufactured and sold. There is one in Los Angeles that turns out beautiful illusions, as well as smaller tricks and it is like an Aladdin’s palace of wonder.

 

For the person who does not boast some other accomplishment, such as singing or instrumental music, magic is a wonderful form of social entertainment. Nearly everyone enjoys books on the subject and I can assure you that there is a lot of psychology involved. One’s wits are increased and observation developed. I am sure a great magician is a wonderful psychologist.

 

I wonder how many outside the art realize that one of the world’s greatest magicians lived and died in Los Angeles. I refer to Harry Kellar, known as the dean of American magicians. For years he was one of the foremost exponents of the art, a rival of the late Alexander Herrmann and succeeded by Thurston.

 

Thurston

 

I don’t expect to become a profound student, but I do find a lot of relaxation and amusement in the art, which has as one of its slogans, “The closer you watch the less you see.”

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Celebrity Recipes…Harry Houdini

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Oct 29th, 2008
2008
Oct 29

CELEBRITY RECIPES

Harry Houdini

 

 

 

BREAD-AND-BUTTER CUSTARD

 

Three large pieces white bread — buttered. Cut in quarters, and line an enamel pie dish with same. Prepare custard of two eggs, one cup granulated sugar, one quart of milk.

 

Pour custard over bread and butter, and bake it in moderate oven forty-five minutes.

 

“I happen to have a weakness for sweets, and this one you will not find in any other cook book.”

 

— Sincerely yours,

Harry Houdini

 

  

ONLY  2 DAYS ‘TIL HALLOWEEN!

_________________________

 

Houdini’s Star Repaired…

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Oct 24th, 2008
2008
Oct 24

Houdini’s Hollywood Star Repaired

 

.
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 23 (UPI) — Harry Houdini’s cracked star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame has been repaired and was unveiled 82 years after the illusionist’s final performance.
.

The square honoring Houdini was damaged the night of Halloween 2000, exactly 25 years after the famous magician’s star was first unveiled.

 

The newly restored marker was unveiled this afternoon courtesy of the Academy of Magical Arts in association with The Magic Castle.

 

Expected to attend the re-dedication were actor Neil Patrick Harris, illusionists Penn & Teller and Siegfried Fischbacher, actresses JoAnne Worley and Tippi Hedren and Magic Castle co-founder Milt Larsen.

 

Among those who contributed to the restoration are top magicians such as David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, Lance Burton, Tihany, Marvyn Roy (Mr. Electric,) and Siegfried and Roy.

 

The Magic Castle, a popular magic club, said it will hold a reception after the unveiling.

 

Houdini died on Halloween 1926 at age 52.

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