The beloved Gold Coast wedding celebrant, renowned entertainer and only woman to escape from Houdini’s famous Water Torture Escape, Helen Coghlan joins Get it’s Kathleen Loxton to talk weddings, work and what’s next
An extraordinary talent from a young age, Helen started out as an assistant at her father’s (the famous Arthur Coghlan) magic and Illusion show, the largest production of its kind in Australia. However, it certainly wasn’t the career Helen had planned once she finished school. “I actually wanted to be a hairdresser when I left school, but I couldn’t get an apprenticeship anywhere. At that time dad needed a new assistant in his show, so I thought I’d do that until ‘something better came along’. I loved it so much I decided it was more fun than becoming a hairdresser. I never looked back,” said Helen.
At the age of 15 Helen quickly became a top entertainer in her own right and has won many awards, including Australia’s Junior Magician of the Year, a Queensland Variety Wallace Award and several awards from the Australian Convention of Magicians. Since then, she has been voted the most popular female celebrant on the Gold Coast (ABIA awards) and been appointed an International Women’s Day Leadership Award Ambassador. What does Helen say about finding this success? “It sounds especially cliché, but be yourself, don’t try to copy anyone else. Find what you like doing and find what you’re good at. Hopefully these will be the same. Work hard. A wise person once told me, ‘If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.’ Ask yourself, ‘What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?’ I love this saying. Also, if you’re ever in a position to help someone, do it. It’s a great thing to do and will make you feel so good.”
While Helen’s career has had, and will have, so many notable moments, one moment in particular that was unforgettable was the time she became the only woman in the world to escape from Houdini’s famous Water Torture Escape. This involved Helen escaping from a tank full of water while in shackles and being filmed, and if that wasn’t enough? She was upside down the entire time. Recalling the moment Helen said, “The escape itself was pretty scary and, being an underwater escape, there was no room for error. I had practised holding my breath in the bathtub at home for two minutes, but it’s completely different between holding my breath in the bathtub and holding my breath while hanging upside down in a giant tank on live TV. Because of the size of the tank, it was something that wasn’t able to be set up until the actual day of the escape, which meant I was unable to practise beforehand. I had to try to remain calm. I remember being extremely relieved once I had escaped.”
Recently, Helen’s magical career has been just as busy, as she joined the world-renowned magicians Penn & Teller, performing in Las Vegas, America. “Performing with Penn & Teller was such a fantastic experience! They are icons in the magic world, so to have the opportunity to work alongside them in their Las Vegas show was definitely a dream come true,” Helen divulged.
Today, Helen continues as one of the most celebrated wedding celebrants and civil celebrants on the Gold Coast. “I always thought that being a wedding celebrant would be fun, so when the opportunity arose about ten years ago, I thought I’d try my hand at it. I love it! I really enjoy meeting so many wonderful and unique couples and hearing their stories. I’m kept really busy and most of the weddings I get are through word-of mouth, so I must be doing something right!” said Helen.
Of her current lifestyle, Helen explained, “My days are definitely never boring, and quite often my best friend and I talk about living in ‘bizarro’ land. One minute I’m performing in Vegas, the next minute I’m emptying the dishwasher! I never know what my days will hold. I just jump out of bed and go with the flow.”
So, what does the future hold for the enchanting Helen? She would love to continue her success with magic. “It’s always been a goal to perform in Las Vegas (it doesn’t get much better than that!) and I’ve been able to fulfil this a few times now. It’s so important (and also exciting) to always have a goal to work towards. I think one of my goals at the moment is to try to fool Penn & Teller again! The new season starts airing in the US in June. Stay tuned!”
Helen is also at the early stages of organising a large magic convention, which will be held here on the Gold Coast later this year. Now that is sure to be magical!
Photos by Natasha Crow Photography Website: simplymagicceremonies.com.au