Douglas James Henning, magician, producer (b at Winnipeg 3 May 1947, d at Los Angeles, Ca 7 Feb 2000). Doug Henning is credited with reviving the ancient craft of magic in the 1970s, transforming it into Broadway spectacles with Las Vegas-style showmanship. He showed an interest in magic at 6 years old, and by 14 he was performing in public.
Following high school, Henning enrolled in McMaster University in Hamilton with the plan to be a doctor. He graduated with a BA in psychology, which left him with a lifelong fascination with the power of suggestion. He convinced the CANADA COUNCIL to give him a grant to study magic, using the money to travel, and for a while he studied under another Canadian-born magician, Dai Vernon, who was known as the world's greatest sleight-of-hand with cards.
Back in Canada, Doug Henning hooked up with McMaster alumnus and film producer Ivan REITMAN to create Spellbound, billed as the first rock magical musical. It played the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto in 1973 before going to Broadway in 1974, revised and renamed The Magic Show. It was an instant long-running hit. In 1975 Henning was asked by NBC to star in his first television special, The World of Magic, where he recreated Houdini's legendary water-torture escape before a live audience. The annual specials were broadcast for 7 years.
Henning continued on Broadway with Merlin and Doug Henning and His World of Magic, and travelled extensively, playing Las Vegas and Japan. He seemed to make horses disappear while suspended in mid-air on stage, and with his elfish, longhaired-hippy image, dressed in spandex, Henning forever put to rest the image of a tuxedo-clad magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
By the mid 1980s Doug Henning had left magic to concentrate his energies on the transcendental meditation movement promoted by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (made famous by the Beatles) and plans to build a transcendental meditation theme park in Niagara Falls, Ont. Henning also had a brief flirtation with politics, running as a Natural Law Party candidate in the 1993 Canadian federal election. When in 1999 Magic magazine listed the top 10 magicians of the 20th century, Doug Henning was ranked No. 5. He died from liver cancer and entered Canada's Walk of Fame posthumously in 2010.