Houdini assistant dies at 103

Dorothy Young of Tinton Falls became famous for her stage career with illusionist Harry Houdini. Photo via Wikipedia.

When Dorothy Young of Tinton Falls was on a trip to New York with her parents in 1925, she read in Variety about an open casting call for illusionist Harry Houdini’s act.”Girl Dancer wanted for Broadway show to tour the United States,” read the advertisement. Young, the daughter of a Methodist minister, auditioned and was hired at age 17. “Houdini had been famous for 30 years, but he had always longed to star in his own Broadway show and tour the United States,” young told an interviewer. “And that’s where I came in.” Houdini’s assistant died in March 2012 at 103.

She spent a year with Houdini, playing the role of the “Radio Girl of 1950,” which represented a 1920s vision of what radio would be like in several decades.

In a 2000 interview at her home in Ocean Grove, Young recalled the audition. “I went to the Longacre Theatre up at 48th Street and Broadway, and when I arrived the stage was full of girls auditioning. I saw two men down in the Orchestra viewing the audition. I had no idea who they were. One was Houdini and the other was his manager, Mr. Smith. I was about the last one to audition. I did a Charleston. And they chose me right away and took me over to their lawyer over on 44th Street. I called Mr.s Houdini ‘Mrs. H.’ Sometimes an interviewer would say to me, ‘When you are so close, why do you call her Mrs. H?’ I said a 17-year-old girl is not supposed to call a mature woman by her first name.'”

Dorothy Young with Houdini in 1926. Photo courtesy of Dorothy Young’s family.

In addition to her work as stage performer and dancer, Young was a skilled artist. She exhibited her oil paintings in New York and Florida galleries. In 2003, Young donated more than $10 million to create the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts at Drew University in Madison.

Houdini died on Halloween in 1926. His wife died in 1943.

Young lived for decades more, dying in March 2012 at a retirement home in Tinton Falls.