Friday, May 5, 2017

Henry Gordien

Henry Gordien passed away at seventy-seven on February 9, 1967 in Maple Grove, Minneapolis. He was active in magic for well over fifty years. He specialized in presenting assorted effects including producing bowls of water filled with gold fish, a production of a live rabbit, a torn and restore newspaper effect, the ever popular borrowed bill in lemon effect, and a featured effect that seemed almost common place in his time and that was threading over a dozen needles after swallowing them which he called the “Hindu Needle-Eating and Threading Trick”. Another magician made this trick popular and his name was Harry Houdini. When the opportunity appropriate, Houdini would mention that he purchased the original needle trick from Gordien. 

Gordien invented a card rise effect using this, a concealed
gramophone motor affixed with suction cups.
When asked if he even performed escapes, Gordien would inevitably bring up something that happened to him in his youth that would change his ideas of presenting the tricky ones. The stunt he was referring to was an escape from hanging. He would mention that, "I almost broke my neck". In 1929, Gordien created an effect he called "The Passe-Passe Salt Trick". Harlan Tarbell admired the feat so much and dubbed it the “Salt of Gandhi”. And told other performers that Gordien’s new effect with a handful of salt was a knockout. He would include a touch of mentalism with members of the audiences. His performance was often quoted as, "Most mysterious and bewildering, but highly entertaining."

He was from the old school of theater. What that meant was, if you witnessed a performance of Henry Gordien and it was in an outdoor venue, you would not have to worry that you were going to miss anything he was saying during his act. Gordien had a voice that could be heard anywhere. He was responsible for assisting a number of young magicians on their introduction to magic. Performers like Jay Ose and Eddie Tullock were among those who Gordien worked with and guided them on their road of legerdemain. He performed for Woodrow Wilson, played the Orpheum circuit, vaudeville, various conventions, carnivals, civic clubs, and lodges.

At the end of career, fate turned on his man who gave so much to others by weaving a story around one of his many magical effects. Gordien was diagnosed with throat cancer and his larynx was removed in early 1966. Even after this traumatic setback, Gordien allowed the surgery to heal and then continued to perform his shows in pantomime. He was able to keep most of his bookings through the Christmas season.
Henry Gordien left his mark with his fellow performers. His demeanor, his humor, and his love of the art of magic can still be found in the magic magazines of the past and in books like Greater Magic. When he passed away in 1967, he left his widow and two sons, Henry, Jr., and Fortune. Fortune had the love of magic too, and he held the world discus-throw­ing record for nine years. He repre­sented the United States in the Olympic games three times.

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