Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Hot for Harry Houdini

Halloween weekend we visited the traveling exhibition at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum called Houdini: Art and Magic. The exhibition is on from October 2, 2011 until January 16, 2012 and well worth a visit.

Harry Houdini (1874-1926) was a Hungarian-born American magician noted for his sensational escape acts. Handcuffs, shackles, straitjackets, milk cans, and packing trunks – nothing could hold the famed vaudevillian who became one of the 20th century’s most legendary performers. With a talent for self-promotion and provocation, this immigrant son of a poor Hungarian rabbi rocketed to international fame and grabbed front-page headlines with his gripping theatrical presentations and heart-stopping outdoor spectacles.

Apparently, he also knew the sex appeal of a shirtless picture or a tight, form-fitting outfit that displayed his compactly muscled physique.
Curator Brooke Kamin Rapaport is quoted that Houdini's success "was a source of enormous pride for the Jewish community. He achieved mainstream acceptance despite anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant attitudes, and his escape from the confinement of handcuffs, chains, packing crates, trunks and boxes had particular resonance for those who sought liberation from political, ethnic, or religious oppression."

1 comment:

James Gannaban said...


Houdini was a childhood crush of mine; I had a hardbound Readers Digest book called "How is it Done?" as a "free gift" for a year-long subscription. Houdini's magic was part of the book and I knew then - I was different.

Thanks for this, guys!

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