From Win Scott Eckert's Wold Newton Universe website:
On Historical Figures:
As frequent site visitors can tell, the guidelines for this site are in a state of evolution. Therefore, regarding the use of historical personages as crossover links, in the early days of this site, I often used a fictional character meeting an historical character as a way of linking in different fictional characters. After a while, though, it became obvious that certain historical characters made this problematic, Adolph Hitler or Jack the Ripper being two prime examples. Who hasn't met them in some fictional tale? Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that no more fictional characters should be added on that basis, although I will not retroactively exclude characters previously brought in that way.
A side rule to this is that fictional descendants and/or relatives of fictionalized versions of real people can be used to make additions to the Wold Newton Universe, because this type of crossover is not as over-utilized as the fictional-character-meets-real-person scenario.
An example of the fictional relative crossover is a character on the television program Alias stating that he is the great-nephew of Harry Houdini. Since a strongly fictionalized version of Houdini exists in the WNU, this brings in Alias.
Furthermore, if an historical person becomes a character in a fictional series, that is the Wold Newton version of that person. Therefore, the "Mark Twain-as-a-sleuth" series of mystery books will come in through a meeting with Inspector Lestrade, because this is not "our" universe's Mark Twain, it's the Wold Newton version of Twain. The same goes for Harry Houdini's numerous appearance in the Newtonverse.
- Win Scott Eckert
(The link to Win's fantastic website can be found to the left, Toob Believers.)
In celebration of Wold Newton Day today, our "As Seen On TV" showcase features an historical figure related to one of those aforementioned "characters"......
AS SEEN IN:
AS PLAYED BY:
Theodore Hardeen (March 4, 1876 – June 12, 1945), known simply as Hardeen, was a magician and escape artist, best known as Harry Houdini's brother. Hardeen usually introduced himself as the "brother of Houdini." He was the founder of the Magician's Guild.
Hardeen was born as Ferencz Dezso Weisz or Weisz Ferenc Dezso in Budapest, Austria-Hungary, and went by the name of Theodore Weiss when the family was living in Appleton, Wisconsin. He was known as "Deshi" and later "Dash" by his parents.
It was Hardeen who first conceived of escaping from a straitjacket in full view of the audience — a concept fully used by Houdini and generations of performers since.
Will Goldston, English stage magician and editor of the Magician Annual, wrote that:
Hardeen learnt his business from Houdini, and he learnt it well, as no man could have failed to do with such a master. But the natural ability was always there. Even if Houdini had not existed to point the way, it is quite likely that Hardeen would have become an escape artiste. I have seen him perform several times, and have marvelled at his achievements. The huge chains in the cartoon are hardly an exaggeration of those from which he breaks loose. The handcuffs but a simple thing compared with those with which he is used to toy. Hardeen, like his more famous brother Harry Houdini is a great favourite in the magical world. He is a man of considerable culture and one of the best raconteurs I have ever met. Like Houdini, he is willing to expend both time and money freely to further the cause of magic. Both the amateurs and the professionals of our number regard him as a friend. And the general public regard him as a brilliant artiste and a thrilling entertainer. After his brother's death in 1926 Hardeen played the vaudeville circuit, doing many of Houdini's routines. From 1938 to 1941, Hardeen was featured in Olsen and Johnson's Broadway revue, Hellzapoppin, and during World War II he performed for the troops (as his brother had done during World War I).
Planning on writing a book about his brother, in 1945 Hardeen went to New York's Doctor's Hospital for a simple operation. He unexpectedly died of complications while recovering from the procedure. He was 69 years old.
The image of Hardeen related in Wikipedia and by Mr. Goldston clashes with his portrayal in 'Boardwalk Empire'. In 1920 Atlantic City, he's seen as being somewhat incompetent, a mere shadow of his famous brother's legend as a performer. This was probably tweaked so that it could serve as a mirror to the relationship between Nucky Thompson and his brother Eli.
It may not be the actual truth, but it must serve as such in the TV Universe because that's what was broadcast.....
Whether 'Boardwalk Empire' ever makes it into the Wold Newton Universe is up to Win. But it's certainly a strong part of the 1920's era in Toobworld!
[My thanks to Win Scott Eckert and his WNU colleagues. Sometimes I dedicate an Inner Toob post to somebody I know. Today that "honor" goes to Win.....]