Doug Henning and Phil

Once, many years ago, Doug Henning, the first celebrity magician in  50 years, came to Montreal to perform. At that time a customer, who was an ardent magic collector and a friend, was dying in the hospital. The friend’s wife phoned Phil and asked if there was any way for Doug Henning to come and visit her husband because it would mean so much to him. Phil said he would try. Prior to Doug’s arrival in  Montreal, Phil called some contacts he had in LA. He finally got in touch with Doug’s road manager who told him Doug was on the road and asked Phil why he wanted him. Phil asked him if Doug could find some time while in Montreal to visit a fellow magician in the hospital and told him of the situation. Oh, no, was the answer. Doug has TV interviews and press conferences and he doesn’t have time for that.

At least Phil tried.

But as fate would have it, when Doug came in to do the show he was coming from the States and and at that time it was  difficult to bring live stock across the border. Doug’s 6 ducks were left at home. A few days before Doug’s arrival in Montreal, Phil got a call from Doug’s  tour manager asking him if he could get 6 ducks for Doug’s show. It just so happened that a fellow magician and magic dealer in Montreal was also a zoo keeper. Go know! Phil called this magician  zoo keeper who told Phil to come on down and pick them up. Phil picked up the  6 ducks and brought them to the theatre. The manager looked at the ducks and said, “This will never do. These are brown ducks. Doug uses only white ducks.”  “Okay, said Phil, I’ll bring them back.” and so he  did. A couple of days later we came into the shop and the phone was ringing off the hook. It was the tour manager and he was desperate. “Could you please bring back the brown ducks! Doug doesn’t care what colour they are. He just wants ducks!” So Phil went back to the Zoo, picked up the ducks, brought them to the theatre and dropped them off. While Phil was standing there dusting off the feathers and waiting for the “OK”,  Doug called out.

“Is that the fellow with the ducks?”

His manager said yes.

“Where is he?” asked Doug.

“He’s just leaving.”

“Well, didn’t you invite him in?


“Well, invite him in. ”

So he invited Phil in and Doug thanked him profusely for bringing  the ducks and offered him tickets for the show.

“I already bought my tickets.”‘ replied Phil.

“Well, take them for friends or something.”

Phil gave the tickets to “Magic” Tom Auburn and his wife.

While I’m here, I would like to ask you for a favour. ”  Phil told him the story about his hospitalized friend and asked Doug if he could possibly find some time to visit him.  Without any hesitation Doug  said he would be at the hospital at 2:00 pm the next day. Phil called his friend’s wife to tell her. She offered to pick Doug up. No, he would go himself. And he did and stayed for well over an hour and spent time with our friend and wrote him a wonderful letter while at his bedside, and entertained the staff as well.

When anyone speaks of Doug Henning this is what I think of. There is a fascinating book, “Spellbound”  on Doug Henning’s life, his rise to fame and his experiences which is an exciting and worthwhile read.


Filed under Doug Henning, Magic, Phil Matlin

3 responses to “Doug Henning and Phil

  1. Paul Kruse

    A happy ending! I would have wanted to strangle Mr. Henning’s road manager! Doug was my hero when I was a kid. He inspired my love for coin magic when he did did close up on his television specials. The “vanishing nickel” (which I bought at Perfect Magic years later) blew my mind when Doug performed it. I also believe I first saw the “coin roll flourish” (I think David Roth calls it the “steeple chase” (sp?) on a Doug Henning TV special. Though I am merely a collector of magic, I’m happy to say I can do the “steeple chase” both forwards and backwards and with either hand. I’m obsessed with that flourish! Now I shall return to my work on the classic palm lol 🙂
    I’m so glad Mr. Henning was able to visit your friend in the hospital. It is sad that Doug passed away far too soon. Thanks for sharing this story an bringing back memories of the amazement I felt when watching Doug Henning perform on TV!


  2. Evelyn Matlin

    Glad it brought back good memories. Doug did die far too soon and so did our friend. By the way, thank you for filling in the blanks. I was killing myself trying to remember the name of Vanishing Nickel.


  3. J.R. Ferland

    And a dream come true.. Nice story Phil. Thank you 😉


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