Dorothy Young, the most long-lived of Harry Houdini's assistants, died on Sunday at 103. As a teenager, Young worked with Houdini from 1925 to 1926. Young went on to dance on Broadway, studied painting, and wrote several books, including Diary Without Dates, Dancing on a Dime, and a booklet titled Touring With Houdini. Later in life, Young became a major benefactor of Drew University whose $13 million gift led to the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts. From Drew University (Wikimedia Commons image):
Young, the daughter of a Methodist minister, joined Houdini’s company as a teenager. While on a trip to New York with her parents, she had read about an open casting call for the illusionist’s act, auditioned and was hired. During her year with Houdini, she played the role of the “Radio Girl of 1950,” which represented a 1920s vision of what radio would be like several decades later.
Young’s fame didn’t end along with her stage career with Houdini. She and New York-based businessman Gilbert Kiamie, who would later become her husband, rose to international prominence as a dance team, even inventing and perfecting their own Latin dance, the rumbalero. As an established dancer, she was featured in many early motion pictures, including the Fred Astaire musical comedy “Flying Down to Rio.” Later, she published a novel inspired by her career, “Dancing on a Dime,” which in 1940 was turned into a movie by Paramount Studios.
As the last surviving member of Houdini’s act, it seems fitting that one of her final visits to Drew’s campus was in October 2008 for The Official Houdini Séance, which commemorated the 82nd anniversary of Houdini’s death. The séance was held in the Dorothy Young Center’s black box theater and featured an inner-circle of Houdini enthusiasts and historians, but Young was the only one among them who actually knew and worked with the magician.
Dorothy Young obituary (Drew University)
In related news, today is Houdini's 137th birthday, a fact that Google reminds us of with today's Google Doodle homepage logo.