Dorothy Young

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The Independent Online

Dorothy Young, who died in Tinton, New Jersey on 20 March at the age of 103, was the last surviving stage assistant of the illusionist Harry Houdini as well as an accomplished dancer.

Young joined Houdini's company as a 17-year-old after attending an open casting call during a family trip to New York. She initially sat in the back because she was too shy to step forward, but Houdini and his manager soonnoticed her and asked her to dancethe Charleston. They signed her toa contract, and she persuaded her parents to let her join the stage show.

During her year with Houdini in the mid-1920s, she gained recognition for playing the role of "Radio Girl of 1950", emerging from a large mock-up of a radio and performing a dance routine. She also performed other roles during the tour, which proved to be Houdini's last in the US before he died in 1926, two months after she had left the show.

Young formed a dance act with Gil-bert Kiamie, a New York businessman and the son of a silk lingerie magnate, and they gained prominence for a Latin dance they created known as the rumbalero. They married and remained together until Kiamie died in 1992.

Young went on to act in several films and also published a novel inspired by her career. She later became a benefactor of Drew University, endowing it with a $13m arts centre that bears her name. Several of her paintings hang in buildings on its campus in Madison.

She also attended numerous events at the school over the years. One of her last appearances there was in October 2008 for a commemoration of the 82nd anniversary of Houdini's death that featured an inner circle of Houdini enthusiasts and historians.

Young had a son with her first husband, Robert Perkins, who died after 13 years of marriage.