Lasco - "The Female Houdini"


The premiere of Houdini’s serial The Master Mystery was shown on November 18, 1918 to a sellout crowd at Boston’s St. James Theatre. This was Harry’s Hollywood movie debut.  Each of the 15 episodes featured Houdini escaping from various life-threatening situations: being restrained at the bottom of an elevator shaft with an elevator car rapidly descending, being strapped into an electric chair, being snared in coils of barbed wire. All were filmed close-up with no cuts, to reassure audiences that no trick photography was used. This thrilling adventure even included the first robot featured in a movie. The serial opened to good reviews and was shown all over the world.

To publicize the film, Houdini made 15 personal appearances in theaters in the Boston area in a single day! This was preceded by extensive publicity using billboards, newspaper advertisements and flyers. Building on this promotional effort, one enterprising theater booked Lasco “The Female Houdini” as one of its vaudeville acts. She performed four times a day, with The Master Mystery shown at the end of the vaudeville portion of the bill. 
Norwich Bulletin, March 1, 1919
Lasco was from Newark, New Jersey and lived within walking distance of the Majestic Theater (later the Savoy) on Springfield Avenue. By January 1914, she was doing a full escape act, billed as Lasco and Company. She escaped from handcuffs, convict belts, straitjackets, mail pouches and a Russian torture board, but did not do any challenge escapes.  A company of several people assisted her, providing comedy and keeping the audience's interest from lagging during and between escapes.
  
Courier News, Dec. 1 1916
Lasco and Company mainly toured North Eastern states, playing small-time vaudeville theaters. They toured until the summer of 1917. However, Lasco reappeared in February 1919 to perform at the Auditorium Theater in Norwich, Connecticut. As discussed above, this was during the showing of the sixth episode of The Master Mystery. The local paper reported that “She does some thrilling escapes and closes her act by escaping from the straitjacket, which was originated by Houdini.” When and where Lasco and Company performed next is not known. They may have played other small theaters in the New England area. What happened to her after this is a mystery.

References
Master Mystery Episode 6 Poster, www.popcornposters.com
Boston Post, November 17, 1918
Milbourne Christopher, Houdini: The Untold Story, Crowell, New York, 1969
Kenneth Silverman, Houdini!!!, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 1996
Norwich Bulletin, February 27 and 28, 1919, Norwich, Connecticut
Clarence E. Blair, “Remember When,” Genii, March 1970
Winston-Salem Journal, January 18, 1914, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Utica Daily Press, September 2, 1916, Utica, New York
Rome Daily Sentinel, October 26, 1916, Rome, New York
Courier News, December 1 and 6, 1916, Bridgewater, New Jersey
(references are in order they were first used)

Gary Hunt Copyright 2018

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