Dorothy Dietrich

Apr16 cover

A few years ago, I was at a party at Fantasma Magic Shop in New York City. The party honored the performers and friends who were to appear at the following night’s Parent Assembly’s Salute to Magic show. I was standing in the corner (as I usually do) watching and listening to the celebrities when I saw a magician walk over to the people next to me. Those people were Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brooks. The magician kissed Dorothy’s hand and said, “Dorothy, you look exactly like you did on those magic magazine covers in the ‘70s. You are beautiful.” I remember seeing those covers, too. She looked like a living Barbie doll. It was so unusual to see a woman on the cover who wasn’t being sawed in half or floating. Dorothy was getting out of a straitjacket. Dorothy Dietrich pioneered the idea of a female magician during the Doug Henning era, appearing on many magic and variety shows on NBC, ABC, and HBO.

The first time I saw Dorothy live was at an S.A.M. convention at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. I saw Dorothy and Dick in the dealers’ room, but was uncomfortable approaching them. I had nothing to talk about and was not the type of person to gawk at celebrities. After all, she was a big name in the New York magic scene.

Years later, I finally talked to them. It was at a Boston S.A.M. convention. They had just started the Houdini Museum and I introduced myself. We had a nice chat about séances and murder mysteries and my grandfather’s connection with Houdini. They were friendly, welcoming, and charming. She still looked like those magazine covers.

I have written a few cover stories for M-U-M about the unusual back-stories of magicians like Steve Bargatze, Eric Jones, and Mat Franco. At Bob Little’s Super Sunday, Dick Brooks (whose real name is Johnny Bravo) suggested that I speak to Dorothy about a possible magazine story. I mentioned that I only did stories about people who had unusual circumstances in their lives. He told me one story. When he finished, I was interested.
On a very late night last winter, I interviewed Dorothy and Dick about their involvement in recovering Houdini’s lost film, The Grim Game. (You can hear that interview on the S.A.M. website in the Backstage/S.A.M. podcast area.) After the interview, Dorothy told me a couple of other stories about her past. On speculation, I arranged another interview for the next night. The four-hour interview was filled with shock, luck, hope, and joy. I pitched the interview to Editor Michael Close and he agreed to publish it.

Dorothy and Dick are always interviewed together. Their lives are intertwined; they have to do it together. Dorothy tells the stories and Dick adds the footnotes. They never interrupt each other, although they do complete each other’s sentences from time to time. She was very open with me on the lows and highs of her life. She answered every question except two: her age (to me, timeless) and her marital status. Other than that, she told me everything…absolutely everything.

Read the full article here.

Apr16 TOC