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July 16 - 23, 2004
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Blackstone Show Assistant talks...
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Our dear friend, Brennan, is an accomplished artist, and he finally has been pursuaded to get some of his unique artwork out for sale. Since 1981, Brennan has worked exclusively as an artist. He is particularly famous for the gold and silver jewelry he designed for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, as well as its logo. His nclown series and the new Wizards series are my personal favorites, and you can view his work, and make a purchase, on his new website. Check this out..
BLACKSTONE MAGIC SHOW ASSISTANT - EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
As promised, we now proudly present an exclusive interview with Barbara Hudson, a former assistant with the world famous Harry Blackstone Senior Magic Show.
When did you first meet Harry?
In 1949 I went to Harry's show in Oakland, CA. That's the first time I saw him. A week later, I was working for him on the tour. I had stopped over to visit my mother she worked in a restaurant there, Tiny's Waffle Shop.
I'm standing outside and Harry and the others were at intermission and getting some air out there. All of a sudden, I hear Walt Rosener say "Here's one for you!" I didn't know what he was talking about. But, he came over to me and asked if I'd like to go on this tour. He explained that one of the gals had just left the show and they needed a replacement. I said, excitedly, "Gee I don't know. I'll have to ask my boss." He said, "Well, it will only last couple of weeks..." Ended up lasting about 7 months! I never really knew Harry on a "personal" level. He was all business with us.
How much did you get paid as his assistant?
Hardly nothing, Probably somewhere around 15.00/week.
Same as what I made as a waitress, I think. But, you got room and board
everywhere you went. You just paid for your food. Unless we stayed at
the army and navy bases. It wasn't about the money, though. It was like
Did you have an interest in magic before this job?
Just went to see the show. I've always loved the art, music, and theater (entertainment industries). I've always "believed" and been intrigued by the occult and paranormal throughout my life. So, I guess a magic show was an added treat for me.
What did you do to “audition” or for your interview prior to getting the job?
I tried on a costume to see if it fit. And it did. That was about it. It was one that Lucille Ball wore in a movie. I was hired verbally. Rosener told me to go get silver shoes (heels) and wardrobe trunk. That was about it! [giggle]
How long were you with the show?
Until it ended. About 6 months.
How old were you when you first began as his assistant?
I was 22 years old.
How many people were in the show?
4 girls, 4 guys, I think. I have a photo of 3 of the gals.
What skills did you possess that enabled you to do this job?
The ability to walk on stage and smile.
Did you enjoy the work?
I loved it. Just loved it. Like I said. it was like a paid vacation. I got to travel. It was so much fun. Harry Jr. and the gals and I hung out a lot together. When we played Winnemucca, NV, the guys and us gals had to change our costumes in one tent. It was funny. It didn't faze us. The guys were gay anyways. They were a lot of fun. When we were in st Louis, mo. we went with them to a gay club. They used the women's room a lot, so, you never knew who was in there with you, half the time. We could care less. We all had fun together.
How many shows did you do each day? Each week? Each month?
As many as we could. All that they booked.
What motivated you to become a part of Harry’s show?
They asked me. To me it was fun. I wanted to go.
Well, at first, you try not to fall off the stairs in the dark! Changing your costumes really fast was always a challenge. As soon as you got from place to place, you hustled. You get off the plane or train, check in, iron your costumes and make sure they're pretty. That's about it. The rest was a vacation. Best time I'd ever had in my life I think.
the most enjoyable parts of the job.
What theaters did you enjoy playing in and why?
The Geary Theater in San Francisco, CA. I was
born in Children's hospital in San Francisco (6/29/27) and I was proud
to play in my home town. I love the city. Still do. It's such a fun
and romantic place. But, mostly I enjoyed it because my mom and stepfather
(parents) were able to come to see me. Talk about dysfunctional: My
stepfather brought his new wife and
Tell us about a mistake you may have made in the show?
Laughing at the girl that had the big june-bug sitting on her in San Angelo Texas when we played outside at the camp. [giggling] The commanding officer had the show outside under these big lights, cause it was hot inside, I guess. So, these great big june-bugs (giant helmet beetles like the ones in Mexico) would get in your costume as you were trying to rush and change into it. Everyone would try to help each other shoo em out of your costume. Anyhow, this girl was terrified of bugs. She was even afraid of a moth. And here's this giant june-bug sitting on her arm as I look over at her across the stage. The look of fear and concentration on her face was too much for me and I couldn't help but giggle.
What would be your most vivid memory of working in the show?
I enjoyed it all, especially visiting with Harry Jr and the gals between shows and on the off hours. But, again, my favorite must have been the Geary Theater in San Francisco, CA and performing in front of my parents.
How often did you rehearse the show?
Very seldom. We just did it. Improv.
What were your favorite tricks in the show?
I carried the lites that he made dance. He made me disappear from the box too. Never got chopped up with the swords, thankfully.
What kind of a man was Harry offstage?
He sort of disappeared. He would go straight to his room. He was with his 3rd wife then. She wasn't friendly to any of us. He wasn't very friendly either. Just business. You only knew his stage personality, really. Afterwords, they'd always disappear. Didn't stick around. She, his wife, wasn't involved in the show much that I could see.
Perfect. Absolutely great. Professional.
What bothered Harry the most?
A bossy wife, maybe. I don't know. Never got to know him.
Ever meet any other magicians?
I did meet Dante. He was retired at the time.
He was in Santa Clara, CA. James Hamilton introduced me to him (Magician
in San Francisco). I have this photo of us standing next to him.His
assistant Moi Jo Montez was there, as well. Her and I spoke some. Not
Don't remember seeing any. We were not really included in the mingling and after work parties. We were all pretty humble. I'm still humble come to think of it.
Tell us about some of your fondest memories of the show and your job.
I loved it all. It was such an uplifting event in my life and really helped boost my self esteem. At first I was bashful. But, you get over that. Just being on stage by yourself seems to make youbraver. After the first couple of times, you're a pro.
What was your favorite cities that you visited and why?
San Francisco, CA. Because that's where I was
born and where my parents were able to come see me. Every city we visited
was wonderful and exciting to me. I'm eclectic at heart. I love to travel
and see different cultures. I've tried to show my daughter as much of
the world as I could, as well. It's a good education. It was a good
education for me to travel with Harry. I
Describe the costumes you wore. How many costume changes did you do in one show?
I can't remember them all. Though they were all
gorgeous. I wore that dress Lucille Ball wore in a movie. I loved the
costume that had a full Indian (Native American) headdress. Such beautiful
feathers that went all the way down to your waist. All our costumes
came from different movies. They'd always play that song when the show
started...I think it's Maurice Chevalier that sings "A Pretty Girl
is Like a Melody..." (Irving Berlin, from the Ziegfeld Follies
Which illusions did you participate in?
Quite a few. As soon as you could change your costume, you were back out there again. I can't remember it all. I carried the "lights" out to him. The ones that bounced around. The sword chopping up the lady wasn't me. All I remember is hurrying up and putting on my costume and getting out there. But, Harry's shows weren't all about magic.
They were a lot like a vaudeville show. In between the magic acts, we'd (the gals) wear fancycostumes and parade around and down the stairs.
Tell us about your meetings with Harry Blackstone, Jr.
Well, to begin with on the train to Washington, he'd do card tricks for us (the gals and me), we'd sit together a lot on the train or plane. He didn't disappear like Harry Sr. He hung around with us. He was only 16 years old at the time and, I imagine, he didn't want to hang out with his "parents" all the time.
Did Harry Blackstone, Jr. hang around with the show? Backstage?
Yes. Back stage. He was always entertaining us behind the scenes.
When did Harry Blackstone, Jr. become interested in magic?
He was already interested in it. I imagine his father taught him a lot.
What did Harry do between shows? What was he life?
Elusive and businesslike. Not very friendly to the help.
Did Harry want his son to take over the show eventually?
Probably. I'm sure he showed him whatever he was doing. Harry Jr. knew so much at 16. He was vibrant and creative.
What is your favorite memory of working with Harry?
entire tour was such a fun trip for me. I remember Pocatello, Chicago,
Texas...from one place to another...Vancouver, Seattle, Canada, Ludvig,
Enid OK,Denver...When we played at the Geary in San Francisco, we did
extra things we didn't get to do on the tour to extend the production
because the Geary wanted longer shows. We used different boxes (the
kind you disappear from). We did a lot to make the people happy there,
Did Harry meet with fans after the shows?
I'm sure he did. We were never aw part of any of that stuff.
Did you have any responsibilities when
No. Just hang up your stuff and go back to the room.
When did you leave the show and why?
Because it ended. Too bad.
When was the last time you saw or spoke to Harry?
That was it. After we made that movie in Hollywood, after the show ended in 1949/50, that was his last go around. We all wound up in Hollywood and went our separate ways from there. Shame. Harry Jr. and I never saw each other again until much later...
When was the last time (if ever) that you spoke with Harry Blackstone, Jr?
In 1992, when he played in Cupertino, CA at the De Anza College, I did get a chance to speak with him a little back-stage. He'd just lost his son, I think. That was a terrible thing to have happen to him.
he played in San Jose, CA in the 80s, I followed the crowd to get an
autograph. I'm a humble sort. I was hoping to get a chance to talk a
bit. He always called me by my maiden name. Barbara Hudson. He lit up
when he saw me. He looked up and said "Oh! OH!! Oh!
What type of work did you do before joining the show?
I was a waitress. I'm a survivor. You do whatever you can to survive. After the show, I took ballet. I waitress-ed all my life after my husband divorced me. I was just laid-off recently. No one wants an old gal around anymore...
Describe your relationship with Harry, Harry’s family, and later with Harry Blackstone, Jr.
Harry was strictly business. We respected him and worked hard for him. But, that was about it. We didn't know much about each other beyond that. Perhaps it was something else that kept us apart...
Harry Jr. was the limelight of the trip. Even
when we were in Canada, and we all went horseback-ridding, he entertained
us with his expertise at making a horse do amazing tricks. He was out
of the academy at the time and may have learned this there. It seemed
He impressed me so much I was elated to be around him and he enjoyed knowing that he had a fan in me. He liked my company, as well. I don't think there was a lot of love in his family, like mine. So, we bonded that way. We were loners together. And it really helped at that time to have each other's friendship. He didn't really have anyone else to hang around with besides his father and not so friendly step-mother. He loved my company. He looked forward to seeing me and would light up when I walked in the room. Since the men on the tour were all gay, he didn't seem interested in hanging out with them. So, he hung out with the gals instead. He was just a kid, 16. No kid wants to hang around with a bunch of old people all the time. That was no fun. He had such a personality. He was a sweet man. So talented. He never failed to impressed me. And he was good looking: tall and handsome and fun to be with. So, naturally, one thing led to another and late one night (somewhere near Missouri, half way through the tour), I snuck into his room...
Well, someone must have clued in Harry Sr. Because after that, towards the end of the tour, he separated us. He didn't seem to want Harry Jr. and I to hang out together anymore. He made him stay in his hotel room and kept him busy. So, he didn't get to hang out with me and the gals after that.
At the end of the tour, we all went back to Hollywood and separated. I went back to Oakland and told my friend Helen at the time, "Let's move to Hollywood!" And we did. I had a taste of it and wanted more! At first I didn't get a job right away and I talked Helen into going with me to get free ballet lessons. She joined me and quit shortly after. Not her forte I guess. But, I stuck with it. It was fun.
Any other thoughtr about this special time in your life?
sad that Harry and I didn't get a chance, because there was something
about him that I was drawn to. We were drawn to each other. I wanted
to learn from him. He fascinated me. He was so talented in so many ways.
Too bad. Sad. No childhood, really. I don't even know
Well, there you have it. A fun read, a revealing chunk of history from someone who was there. As Harry (Jr.) was my dearest friends, I particularly enjoyed hearing about Barbara's memories of him. I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did. Drop us a note with your comments.
Cheers, and magically yours,
Disclaimer:The opinions expressed in this or any of our columns represent the opinions of the writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Magic Web Channel or it's Esteemed Panel of Magic Advisors. (The lawyers made us say that.)
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