It is the stated and occasionally followed policy of Inside Magic to publish letters to the editor. If you have a question for the editor of this esteemed virtual news outlet, please send your comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. While the editor is not always available or conscious, when he is, he is really on his game.
Dear Sir or Madam:
In your most recent blog post, you commented that Harry Houdini was dead. I wondered why you would mention this well-known factoid. Were you just in need of space to be taken up or was this supposed to be real news for the “professional” magician? What was the point? Are there people who think Harry Houdini is not dead? Or were you being metaphorical and saying his legacy is dead? Or, maybe you were saying his spirit lives on but his body is dead and buried? Again, what was the point? Who else is dead that you should tell us about? I subscribe to Inside Magic to get the latest news not the late news. Did you hear that Lindbergh made it to Paris? He did, he flew solo across the Atlantic. That’s all. Pick it up, please.
It has been a while since we commented on the living or non-living status of Harry Houdini but your email reminds us that it is about time to again remind readers that Harry Houdini died at 1:26 on October 31, 1926 at Grace Receiving Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. The cause of his death was ruled an accident resulting from a blow received several days earlier in Montreal whilst reclining in his dressing room. Our thoughts and prayers are with his widow and surviving family. There is discussion of having yearly séances in honor of Houdini and to test the theories of spiritualism against which he fought so valiantly.
The Lindbergh news is not really magic related and so that was probably why we didn’t pick up on it – that is our bad and we accept the blame. Good for him. We hope his experience will be positive for all interested in flying.
Ironically, “Pick it Up, Please” was the title of our first top 100 hit in 1972. It was actually the B-side of “Don’t Litter, Bug!” but got much more radio play thanks to our great A&R man, Zanzo O’Hara. We peaked at 47 with the 45 RPM record and still receive royalties from it. It was sampled on Eminem’s Marshal Mather’s “The Way I Am” track on his groundbreaking “The Marshal Mathers’ LP.” Eminem said he loved the “funk and instructive tone to the bridge on our 45.” That was good enough for us. It was also used as the background sound for a movie about a carnival funhouse that is haunted by bad people. We don’t know why they used it. There was nothing funky or instructive about the scene in which it was used. A woman and man, each younger than 21, get on the ride and look at each other before the cart in which they are riding goes through the front “gate” of the fun house. They never return but part of their clothes return, albeit blood stained.
“Pick it Up, Please” was part of the whole Litter Lyrics Craze that lasted from August 1, 1972 through December 13, 1972. Although it was short-lived and rarely recalled these days, it was an important movement in the industry. We recorded the 45s (there was no LP) in Detroit at Motown Records “Trash Heap” mobile studios – so named for the campaign Barry Gordy and the studio launched to both take advantage of the Litter Lyrics Craze and to clean the city. We actually came up with the beat and lyrics whilst picking up tin cans (not the modern aluminum version; which are much lighter and less likely to cut someone if not properly handled) with Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. We weren’t with them per se but on the same crew. The funk/bass was based on Stevie’s “You Haven’t Done Nothing” that he was working on and would later incorporate the Jackson Five in the song. We went up when he went down but the beats are about the same. We asked Stevie later if he minded if we used that funk procession and he shook his head.
We never spoke with Marvin Gaye but did speak with a guy who did and he said he was a great guy.
Why do you have so many tpyos in your text? Don’t you read what you write?
Excellent point. We really should be more careful. Most of our text is written whilst we are traveling from gig to gig in a poorly suspended circus wagon on a Sanyo MBC 550 (Double Sided Disc Drive) with 256k of memory running the latest version of WordStar 1.25. As you likely know, as you seem familiar with limited functionality in some of the older programs, WordStar 1.25 did not have a spelling or grammar editor. So, what we do, is take the text and translate it through Google into “English” from “Bad English.” We then publish the converted version. Sometimes, we get tired and the road, she is bumpy and winding, and we do not act as completely as we should. We watch the flowers and trees from our path along the freshly hewn mud tracks, practice our back palm and give thanks to the Almighty for all that has been given us. We beg your pardon for taking this respite in our editing to enjoy nature, sunsets, and the gentle rhythm of the wagon as we head to our next performance.
Still, as Hank Aaron once said, “being lazy isn’t a job.”
He was of course correct. We should always strive to do our best, swing for the fences, have abnormally large wrists and forearms, and leave enjoying life to moments when our work is complete.
Thank you for the shame. We needed that. We were starting to feel better and less regretful for those errors made on purpose or by accident. Your note brought us right back to reality. Being lazy isn’t a job, indeed.
Still there is a part of us that enjoys the quiet ride through the meadows and the watching without comment the change of seasons against the setting sun as we head to our next job.
I love your website. I wish there was more about when magician’s died. Could you set up a special page that had the exact time and death (maybe even the cause of death) for every prominent magician? We can start with one, Chung Ling Soo a/k/a Billy Robinson died while performing the bullet catching trick in England. There must be others. We’ll keep reading and looking forward to this feature.
Thank you for loving our website. While the Editor is related to “Tim” he is not “Tim” but the flattery is sufficient to end the discussion right there. Your idea about a special page for the exact time and cause of death brings the shade of concern into our room. Why would you want this? What happened in your life that causes you to want such information or to want this information from this otherwise fun-loving website? Who has hurt you child? Have you lost someone in your family, witnessed such a gruesome and unexpected accident, or do you just love numbers? If the latter, we may reconsider our prohibition and just publish the date of death for those magicians with a prime number in their last year or full date of death.
When we first started Inside Magic in the late 1940s, the world was just coming back to its pre-war state. We had a job with one of the largest magic factories in the Midwest and carried our lunch bucket to the “duck pan” part of the mill where we pressed, turned and finished duck, chick and chicken pan tricks. We had pride in our work and friends. Some of the friends returned from the Great War maimed or psychologically damaged. We vowed we would never celebrate the death of any magician or magician’s assistant. We might mention that it had happened but our site would not be a graveyard for those wishing to visit, honor, or even take vengeance against the dead.
Years passed and the other modern magic newsletters (this was before the web) had in memorial pages listing the recent passing of every magician in every far region of our vast world. We felt their work was sufficient and since our heart was not in discussing the passing of former friends and yes, lovers, we kept to our award-winning stories of interest to the Professional Magician.
So, just as we wouldn’t include information about Lindbergh landing in Paris at the end of his solo trip, we won’t discuss the passing of great magicians. It’s just policy. May we direct you to other sites established for just that purpose, Dead Magicians.com; Magicians who used to be alive.com; and Magic performers who perform no more because they dead.com.