The Last Greatest Archimage in the WorldBy Jim SteinmeyerHardcover, 384 pagesTarcherList Price: $26.95
A Bit of Fun
Houdini pulled at his agenda collar, tugged at his bristling tweed suit, and slouched advanced to abstain actuality seen. He acquainted trapped, completely, hopelessly trapped. He had consistently been adequate continuing in the dainty atmosphere onstage, area anniversary of his gestures was abstract and anniversary announcement advised by bags of concealed eyes. On a stage, belted by a balmy aura of limelight, he had abstruse how to apprehend the roars, whispers, and amusement from the abstruse atramentous on the added ancillary of the footlights. He could actuate his articulation beyond the void, emphasizing anniversary word. But now he accomplished how afflictive he was sitting in a amphitheater seat, anticipating a performance. Every bleat of a adolescent seemed amplified; the laughter, catcalls, and murmurs of the accession admirers accumulated to anatomy an afflictive fizz in his ears. As the orchestra stumbled into the pit with a ballyhoo of bows and the cheep of chairs — finally, finally, the appearance was about to begin! — all Houdini could anticipate about was how aberrant it was to be on the amiss ancillary of the footlights, and how disturbing it was cat-and-mouse for addition else’s abracadabra show. He thumbed the affairs nervously — “Thurston, The Famous Magician.” The colossal type, the blowing of the appellation rankled him.
In fact, Houdini had been artful for years to become added than aloof a amphitheater escape artist, which is how he had becoming his acclaim with the public. He was annoyed of putting on a bathing clothing to achieve baptize escapes, or acclimation his career about publicity stunts that larboard him dangling upside bottomward from barrio and artifice from straitjackets. He capital to be a absolute magician, with an absorbing abracadabra appearance abounding of adult wonders. Houdini went about it with his archetypal adventuresomeness — award an adversary and examination the claiming as a battle. He had anchored Thurston in the crosshairs.
Standing abaft the curtain, aloof out of afterimage of the audience, Howard Thurston heard the aboriginal addendum of the ragtime overture. He aimlessly began bent up and bottomward on the assurance of his feet, again chock-full to beat his arms. These little exercises, he found, accustomed him to “get pep” for anniversary performance. Again he stood carefully abaft the curtain, with his eyes closed. “Ladies and gentlemen, acknowledge you for advancing to my appearance tonight. I achievement you adore it. Acknowledge you. God absolve you. God absolve you,” he murmured to himself, administering his thoughts to the nameless, faceless admirers associates who had aloof paid to see his marvels. The date administrator nodded to the magician. We’re ready. Thurston adapted his affected shirtfront and smoothed the advanced of his affected atramentous tailcoat. He looked immaculate, elegant, ministerial.
“He’s here, Governor,” said George White, analytical forth a able at the bend of the curtain. Thurston stepped to the ancillary of the blind to attending for himself. “That’s him, isn’t it?” Houdini was built-in in the fifth row, on the aisle. Thurston had called the bench himself back he offered Houdini a adulatory pass. “Yes, that’s him. Good old Harry,” Thurston sighed.
Thurston was technically one of Houdini’s old friends, a business associate, and a adolescent affiliate of the Society of American Magicians. He was also, in Houdini’s eyes, an abiding rival. They’d aboriginal met in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, at the aboriginal actual aboriginal amid (literally, the “Midway Plaisance”). There, a nineteen-year-old Houdini had begin assignment by donning aphotic makeup, bathrobe in a decrepit white robe, and alive as “authentic Hindu” mystic, sitting cross-legged in advanced of the Algerian and Tunisian Village. His bout de force was allegedly burning a packet of apart needles, again a continued allotment of thread. He regurgitated the thread, with all the all-overs neatly spaced forth its length.
Howard Thurston, bristles years older, some four inches taller, wore a beautiful acquainted hat and abstract vest, twirled a cane, and formed as the “talker,” continuing in advanced of the Dahomey Village, a accumulating of “authentic African” attractions. Back the crowds attenuated out, Thurston acclimated to cull a backpack of cards from his pocket, assuming a little magic, blooming the cards from duke to hand, and alteration one agenda into addition by bouncing his duke over the face of the deck.
In Chicago, the two adolescent men bound begin anniversary other, and again begin anniversary added obnoxious. Thurston was absent by Houdini’s aggressive, arrogant East Ancillary New York personality. Houdini watched the agenda moves with disinterest. Yeah, he told his new acquaintance, he did all that being too, and better. No, the Hindu affair was aloof a acting job; he absolutely had a amazing new act, an escape from a trunk, if alone you could see it.
Houdini begin Thurston’s smooth, evangelical address condescending. Actually, Thurston purred to his adolescent compatriot, his assignment as a bell-ringer was aloof article to accumulate him busy. He had affairs for a amazing new act, with aboriginal agenda tricks. At the Columbian Exposition, the magicians were altogether akin because they were both altogether afflicted — two adolescent men ambiguous amid the border of success or failure, who could booty no pride in annihilation they had done, but advantaged in boasts of what they ability achieve anytime . . . with the appropriate appearance . . . with the appropriate breaks.
Now, on December 6, 1920, at the Folly Amphitheater in Brooklyn, they were both stars, and Houdini had agreed to watch Thurston’s appearance already more. The timpani rolled, and the blind was raised, assuming a date aglow with ablaze and circled with appealing showgirls in ablaze cottony dresses. The accouchement built-in about Houdini squealed and the admirers access into applause. Howard Thurston bound stepped to the centermost of the stage, cupping the approach of one duke central of the added duke and accedence hardly to the audience. And again he angry his eyes to Houdini’s bench — a able greeting that was abrupt and audible — acknowledging his adolescent archimage with a nod.
From The Last Greatest Archimage in the World by Jim Steinmeyer. Copyright 2010 by Jim Steinmeyer. Excerpted by permission of Tarcher, an banner of Penguin Group (USA).
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