This section is from the book "The Adventurous Life Of A Versatile Artist: Houdini", by Harry Houdini. Also available from Amazon: The Adventurous Life of a Versatile Artist; Houdini.
"For some mysterious reason, surprisingly little attention has been given in the daily papers to a remarkable "scene" at the Holborn Empire last Thursday, when Houdini made a plucky and public-spirited protest against prevailing matinee methods. We must, we suppose, attribute to the present obsession of politics the scant attention given to a very unusual incident, of interest alike to the public and the profession.
"Having received an intimation from the management that, although he was topping the week's bill, his services would not be required at the Thursday matinee, 'owing to the length of the programme,' Houdini expressed himself perfectly agreeable to this arrangemnt, subject to the condition that due intimation should be given to the public that he would not be appearing.
"This condition not being complied with, he took an opportunity of going on to the stage at the conclusion of one of the matinee turns in order to quietly explain the reason for his non-appearance and to show that it was not his fault that he was breaking faith with the public. He did not urge the audience, as was stated in some reports, to stay until he appeared, but said that he assumed some at least had come to see him perform and that it seemed to him such were certainly to have their money back if they did not see him.
"The performance went on quietly until "God Save the King/' when the audience took the matter into its own hands, and refused to disperse, calling for Houdini to appear. After a scene of considerable excitement, 150 persons ultimately accepted the management's offer of vouchers for another performance and left the building, but the great bulk of the audience remained until after the conclusion of Houdini's performance at the first evening house, when they trooped out,, leaving the place only a quarter full.
The queues which formed up for the first house had in the main to be accommodated at the second house, and great difficulty was experienced in controlling the further arrivals for the second performance.
"The audience's just appreciation of Houdini's protest was voiced in the remarks of a Labor leader who helped to beguile the interval between the afternoon and evening houses by making a speech. He said that he had frequently attended such matinees, and had always attributed the frequent failure of some one or more well-known artists to appear to his (or her) personal indifference or indolence, but that now they knew the real reason why the public were disappointed.
"In view of a managerial allegation to the afternoon audience that Houdini was not allowed to appear because he had broken his contract, we quote from a further considered protest with which Houdini prefaced his performance at the first house in the evening. He said:
" 'Before proceeding with my performance this evening, I believe that there is an explanation due to a great many who are assembled here as to the cause of my non-appearance here this afternoon, and if it would interest you to hear, I will explain. I wish to inform you that it is positively no fault of mine, because I was here in the building, ready to work, but the management refused to allow me to go on. I will read a number of letters that I have here, which thoroughly explain the case, and I wish to inform you that I have played a good many weeks on this tour, and never knew exactly where I was going until a few days ahead. I was billed to appear at the Holborn a short time ago, and, without any notification whatever, I was sent to Woolwich, and the public received no explanation why I did not appear here.
" 'Very Likely a great many thought that I had broken faith with the public, and last night I received a letter-dated the 6th-after the second performance (about no'clock) which was 33 hours later than dated, notifying me that my services were not required for the matinee performance/
"Having quoted this letter and his reply stating the condition on which he was agreeable to the arrangement, Houdini continued:
" 'Now, ladies and gentlemen, I wanted to keep faith with the public, and informed the management that I would give the salary that I was earning at the matinee to the V. A. B. F. if they would only allow me to appear, as I knew my reputation was at stake. Being billed, and not appearing, what would the public think? Despite this, I was not allowed to appear, and I trust that those who are assembled here this evening will see my motive in allowing the public to know the real cause of my non-appearance, and that'it was positively not my fault'.
"The first result of this dignified protest was that Houdini's services were, notwithstanding notice to the contrary, requisitioned for the Saturday matinee."
Houdini, in his speech to the audience that evening, was forcible and to the point, informing them that it was the greatest compliment that had ever been paid him-an audience waiting seven hours in a theatre for him-and that he would never forget it-and he never will.
Boston Daily Globe, March 19, 1906.