Last weekend, my wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary in San Francisco.
Harry Houdini, probably the greatest magician, appeared at least four times in San Francisco, nearly eight years apart: June 1899, September 1907, November 1915, and March 1923. He was 25 during the first appearance and was not yet famous enough to headline the theater billing at the Orpheum. But by 1907 he was known world-wide. In 1915, for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, he performed an escape from a manacled box lowered into the water at the Aquatic Park. He was also performing his famous Chinese-water torture escape at the Orpheum. But his visit in 1923 was his biggest. At the age of 49 and in front of 30,000 watchers, he performed his famous “escape from the strait jacket while in mid-air” at Third and Market streets. This visit was to be, unfortunately, his last. Before he could return to San Francisco, he died three years later from peritonitis on Halloween, 1926. [sfgenealogy.com]
We had an incredible visit to San Francisco that was very magical. It started with dinner at Pier 39 over-looking the Bay. We then walked around the shops and just happened to stumble across a Houdini’s Magic shop where I picked up a Houdini calendar celebrating Houdini’s 100th Anniversary of the Water Torture Cell; what is really cool about the calendar is that it identifies key dates and events in Houdini’s life.
We also stumbled into a shop at Pier 39 that specialized in displays of famous people signatures. For $9000, you could own the display below which includes signatures of Houdini, Blackstone, Thurston, Wilson and Dornfeld.
We then took a taxi to the Marrakech Magic Theater to see an uproarious one-of-a-kind close-up show in an intimate, historic setting located right near San Francisco’s famous Union Square.
The first thing I noticed when we walked inside the historic building was a beautiful poster of Carter the Great and The Vanishing Elephant illusion.
Of course it made me think of a couple items displayed below that I had seen a few weeks ago at an antique shop (after seeing the acclaimed “Watson and The Dark Art of Harry Houdini” at the Sacred Fools Theatre) in Hollywood with some magic associates.
- A gigantic original Carter Poster from San Francisco
- Spot light from the New York Hippodrome circa 1910-1920 which could have illuminated Houdini and his vanishing elephant
The evening at the Marrakech Magic Theater began in the Sultan’s Oasis lounge where we enjoyed cocktails, a little pre-show entertainment and a meet and greet with magician-owner Peter Morrison. After about an hour, Peter personally took us into the main showroom. The main showroom was an intimate close-up theatre, where Peter put on an amazing 75 minutes of extremely fun and entertaining magic. He made sure to get every audience member involved in the show. I personally got involved in a multi-spectator mind reading prediction routine, where I had to write down the time to check out of the DEVON hotel (I wrote 1:19 PM).
My favorite routines of his were the following:
- Comedy Houdini Escape – where two strong men lock chain handcuffs behind Peter’s back and raise and lower a red velvet curtain upon his command where we find the magician, his suit jacket and the chain handcuffs in humorous positions and poses. Eventually he escapes the suit jacket and the chain handcuffs. Hilarious!
- State of Mind routine – Peter drops four quarters as a prediction into an empty chest given to him by his wife. A spectator throws 4 darts at a map of the United States that randomly end up on four different states. Everyone is stunned, when the spectator opens the chest and removes the four quarters and finds that they are the four randomly selected states hit by the darts. Amazing!
He also performed a very nice rope and ring routine, linking ring routine and multiplying billiard ball routine. I would highly recommend Peter and his show if you are in the San Francisco area.
What a great night of magic!
The magic continued the next morning. We had an incredible breakfast at the hotel and then walked to Ghirardelli Square where they had a “milk can” of chocolate that I just had to have.
Walking through the park on our way back to check out of the hotel, we came across a strait-jacket hanging from a tree. Only in San Francisco!
San Francisco was definitely a magical place to visit!