Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 6, 1975 · Page 63
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July 6, 1975

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 63

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Charleston, West Virginia
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Sunday, July 6, 1975
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Page 63
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you. But if your wrist muscles and hands are arthritic or limited in strength, better avoid the violin, cello, and similar stringed instruments. But, if you really yearn to play a certain instrument, almost any physical shortcoming can be overcome. What do I want to spend? Good instruments cost real money. Better rent one from a music store for a few months, to.see if it's right for you. If you can't rent, then look for a used instrument; you can save from 35 to 60% of the original cost, and can always trade it in on a new and better one later. Music a generation ago was rough on children and adults who took lessons. But advanced teaching methods today make it possible for you and your children to be playing instruments in a fairly short time. Says Dr. Robert Pace, head of piano instruction at Teachers, College, Columbia University. "The best thing an adult can do to make music is to sit down and play. You should be able to play the kind of music you want to hear, without having to struggle through exercises, theory, complicated terminology, and foolish nursery rhymes in the process. Students now learn to play in half the time required by traditional methods -because they enjoy themselves while learnng." Recently, I met a man on a train who carried a violin case. I thought he was a musician, but he told me he was a salesman of automobile supplies who always took his fiddle on his business trips. "I belong to the Amateur Chamber Music Players of America," he explained. "We have our own headquarters in New York City. The organization publishes a directory listing amateurs like myself in every city. They estimate their musical ability --- A,B, C and D, as in school grades -- and provide their addresses and phone numbers. "Any time I am lonely in a strange town and want to play with a local group, I phone up a member listed in the directory. Usually, I'm invited for dinner and an evening of chamber music in somebody's home." The organization, with 4,000 members in 46 states, included housewives, electricians, salesmen, lawyers' streetcar conductors, airplane pilots, and executives. All officers serve without pay. The office at 15 West 67th Street, New York City, is run on.a modest budget scraped together each year by the amateur musicians who are members of the club. If you've ever hankered to study music but modesty has held you back, now is the time to shed your inhibitions. More families are blowing, pounding, scraping, and singing music than ever before. You may never win fame or fortune with limited musical talent, but you'll be rich in pleasure, self-discipline, and the new friends you'll acquire in the cultivation of a melodious hobby. He was carefully chained and manacled and all the locks were checked. The Man Who Defied Death It was a July day in 1912 and the banks of the Hudson River were packed with excited spectators. Their attention was riveted on a comparatively small but very stocky man who was being prepared for another death-defying feat. All eyes were focused on Harry Houdini, escapologist extraordinary, who had already thrilled vast audiences with his daring open-air and theatrical performances. Every time he appeared in one of his acts his audiences froze with excitement as the seconds ticked away. Every time, so far, Houdini had escaped unharmed. Now the vast July crowd stood on tip-toes as Houdini was carefully chained and manacled and all the locks were checked. Then he was helped into a heavily weighted and rope-bound packing case with a hole in the bottom. The top was slid into position and workmen nailed it on securely.' All was ready . . . The packing case was tossed into the fast running river. Agog with excitement, the riverbank audience saw the case bobbing downstream and sinking lower every second. Then, suddenly, there was a splash of spray and a roar of relief from the crowd. In the middle of the plume of water bobbed Houdini, who swam to the bank for safety. Once again Houdini had cheated death. Houdini, whose real name was Ehrich Weiss, was born at Appleton, Wise., April 6,1874. The son of a rabbi who emigrated from Hungary, Ehrich was. obsessed with show business from an early age and, in fact was performing on a trapeze and giving conjuring shows in a circus at the age of nine. But two years later he was to make a move that was to provide him with the key to success and world fame -- he became apprenticed to a locksmith. After a few years the business closed and Ehrich went to New York to find employment as a tie cutter. It was there that he came across a copy of "The memoirs of Robert-Houdin", a work regarded as the magician's bible. He studied it with great care, added an "i" to the master's name to become Houdini, and set out as a professional entertainer traipsing the rounds of America's beer halls and "dime museums." Success did not come easily, but after many months of touring - often giving .as many as 20 perform-' ances a day and earning only $12 a week -- he finally gained recognition after an ingenious publicity stunt in which he escaped from a Chicago prison. His jail break-out won him banner headlines, top-of-the-bill work and big money. In 1900, he sailed for England, but Londoners tended to ignore his skills. Then a publicist named Harry Day took an interest in him and introduced him to C. Dundas Slater, manager of the old Alhambra Music Hall. Slater threw down a challenge to Houdini: if he could escape from Scotland Yard handcuffs he would book him. The three men went along to Scotland, Yard together: Houdini was duly handcuffed and within four seconds he was free. . And that was the making of Houdini. Soon Londoners were flocking to see him - and he was taking home $5,000 a week for the thrills he gave them. His fame spread world-wide. In Holland, in 1902, he was manacled and chained to the sails of a windmill. But within moments he was facing one of his first brushes with death, for the sail broke and he was almost crushed. The following year he was in Russia, meeting an even stiffer challenge. He had to escape from a giant, zinc-lined prison carriage of the type used to transport prisoners to Siberia. The doors were solid steel and the padlocks were specially, designed by locksmiths to make Houdini's escape even more difficult. Still he freed himself. Always devising even more hair- raising feats, Harry Houdini nearly came to grief when he performed before thousands of Bremen people who lined the ribbon of ice that was the River Weser. They stood in amazement as the short figure walked across the ice to a hole cut just large enough to allow a man to slip through into the water. Houdini stripped to his bathing trunks, then a squad of German policemen moved in to manacle . him securely at wrists and ankles with police regulation handcuffs. As he cried farewell to the onlookers, Houdini was carried to the hole and pushed into the icy waters. Houdini had promised to display his lightning powers of escape. Within 30 seconds, he claimed, he would be free. But the 30 seconds ticked by without any sight of Houdini. He had disappeared from the view of the officials who stood around the hole. Forty seconds, passed. A man collapsed with.heart failure and two women fainted. The atmosphere was electric, and beneath the ice Houdini was fighting for his life. He had escaped the handcuffs within seconds, but he had not bargained on a swift current carrying him yards downstream. A strong swimmer, he clawed ferociously at the water in search of the opening. After what seemed like an eternity, he suddenly saw the window in the ice, and with lungs almost bursting and his leg muscles seized by cramp he grabbed at the jagged edge of the hole, breaking the surface literally at the last gasp. That fearful experience lived on with Houdini, and he claimed it even flashed through his mind on the occasion when he was freeing himself from a padlocked straight jacket as he hung upside down from the cornice of a New York skyscraper to win a $1,000 bet. That he had been able to perform such stunning feats was due not only to his compact, powerful and supple frame, but also, as he himself claimed, because he was prepared for all eventualities when he embarked on a project. Indeed the very manner of his death'proved how right he was in that assessment of his power." In September, 1926, he went to Montreal to lecture members of McGill University on spiritualism and its illusions -- a v topic that he had studied in depth and which prompted him to condemn mind readers, mediums, and others who claimed supernatural powers, as being charlatans. After the lecture he invited a number of students to see his show and visit him in his dressing room. They did so, and while in the dressing room one of the students asked Houdini if he would feel a sharp blow to the stomach. "Not if I'm prepared for it", he replied. Suddenly, without any warning, the student landed two blows in the pit of Houdini's stomach, and he doubled up in agony. He remained in pain for several nights. But the show had to go on and he even travelled to Detroit to perform. It was there that he collapsed on stage, was rushed to hospital and died a few days later from a gangrenous appendix and advanced peritonitis. In the end, death had cheated Houdini's guard. :19?5-A CHARLESTON:.. V.A w · · · · '· ' .- : !· j n.--L , .· . t .j.

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