“Fifty dollars! What’s getting into Recil? Fifty dollars for what?” Even Recil knows that these were the comments here and there after the Abbott Homecoming 1979 was announced. But nobody stayed away because of it, and as any thinking person can tell you, if you weren’t there – Colon is the big buy in magic gatherings.
The trend now in magic conventions – in fact the only way they can go – is to move into the new hotel/convention center complexes. There are no longer any big old hotels that can accommodate thousand and up attendance. Getting an auditorium close by for the many shows is always a major problem. So the new complexes, built for this purpose, have to be the answer. Even if the registration fee is only $35, the hotel rooms are very costly, and meals within the complex equally so. Restaurants close by keep their rates up, and so it goes.
Only in Colon, out of the whole United States (to say nothing of foreign countries) can one work out a plan whereby meals are relatively inexpensive, sometimes even on a do-it-yourself-basis , Rooms and houses, and even the motels are within reach of the average purse. People drive over in groups, so travel is kept to a minimum.
Only in Colon are two great Bingo parties put on for the ladies. Prizes in 1979 cost over $300 — and no lady left without one. Two paid-in-full registrations for the 1980 Get- Together were won by two ladies who made sure their slips got into the boxes which were offered at the ‘ladies’ activities. Delightful refreshments are served and transportation furnished, even the Church is not far.
A lack of location forces the withdrawing of the very popular Senior Citizen’s Luncheon – after all , Colon’s population the year round is only 2,000. In 1980, a strong effort will he made to re-instate this lovely brunch party.
The 1979 shows were something to talk about. I think Gordon Miller is being missed by show committees around the country — he’s a clever, resourceful magic thinker and he makes the Wednesday night show, year after year. He was M.C. of that show, and began with a bit of nonsense about the back stage fire of last year, when his trousers caught fire from a trick. It was quickly taken care of, but gave Gordon, this year, the chance to say: “Last year I was the hottest act in show business.” This, flanked by two firemen with helmets and extinguishers. Right away, the exciting banners fell down at the back of the stage, all hell broke loose, and another Abbott Get Together was underway. (I think one factor that makes Colon a beloved festival is that it has “tradition.” If something is good, they repeat it . Change is fun, innovation is desirable, but we are happiest with the expected and the comfortable. Those banners should keep right on falling down, twice a year! ) Excellent though the Wednesday night show was with acts like Gordon himself, Jeff Hobson, Vito Scotti and Paul Driscoll and Company – it was John Shirley that brought the audience to its feet with his wonderful marionettes and balloons. There’s something about a real pro! While the audience was on ‘its feet out of admiration, John wowed them still further by filling the auditorium with balloons in his famous “Balloon Barrage”. The second half of the show was a new presentation of Paul Driscoll . This young man from Texas gives a great deal of thought to his performance (or he has a very good professional director). This time it was “magic on the waterfront,” with well coordinated tricks done with fish; well coordinated, appetizing looking girls tossing the tricks around, or catching them in mid air, and a fast moving Paul doing unusual magic. He went to much trouble and expense to create the scene, and he had at least a few props that represented much investment of time and money. I don’t know where Paul wants to go with his magic – but he’s on his way. I wish him luck!
Nobody can say it doesn’t matter if you get to Colon in time for the Wednesday night show, because if you miss that one, you might just miss the No. 1 program!
Except, of course, there was Thursday night. (Jay Marshall had work happen to him and couldn’t come until Friday. When he heard what he missed, he was heart-broken.) If you have never seen Terry Seabrooke, you had the treat of your magic life on Thursday night. If you weren’t there, you missed him again. Of course, he is a certifiable maniac to begin with, which is why he is one of the busiest comedy-magicians in Europe. Nobody I ever saw manages the borrowed and burnt and restored dollar bill like Terry. The fellow whose dollar it was was hysterical . Terry has a voice like none other, and lines that are only Seabrooke’s. it is no use trying to describe it . Spend some money and go see him any place you hear he is playing. They had lots of Terry that night, because he was M.C. as well. Two young men each did manipulative type acts, each in their own original style, and each showed much thought and work by the excellent acts they did. Howard Hale and Greg Schultz deserved the big hands they got.
We’ve all seen mentions of the fabulous Glen Falkenstein in West Coast magic journals, and I am sure others, like myself, looked forward to seeing what this paragon was going to do. As is the case with all mental acts, people later offered explanations that might have been valid, but almost humanly impossible. A small mob of people came on stage, with cards on which were written names, numbers, various dates. Glen was multiple-blindfolded including a metal plate across his face. One by one he repeated back the information off those cards — and you can say you know how it’s done, but the rattling off of license numbers, social security numbers, dollar bill numbers, etc., etc., plus unfamiliar names, addresses, etc., instantly, and without hesitation, impresses the devil out of ME! And you, too if you would only admit it. Never mind the methods – the results brought the house down. (Falkenstein is a little on the heavy side – so he could afford to lose the several pounds that hot stage and his obvious sweating caused him to shed. Colon mystery – why doesn’t the air conditioning work on the stage?)
The second half of that show was an experience not to be missed. Stan and Kathleen Kramien have been on Colon shows before — and one figures a magician has only so many tricks, no matter who he is. Oh, yeah? Kramien must have a magic-mine out there in Washington, with unfathomed depths of magic. In the first five minutes of his show, he whirled thru at least twenty fast moving tricks – without a word, without a lost motion, and with a lovely self-satisfied half-smile on his face. Kathleen furnished a lot of the action, backed up by the rest of the company. It was superb! Jack Gwynne, master of the “when I throw it , you better be there to catch it” school of magic in his hey-day must have inspired the then rising young Stan.
Then he slowed up a bit , began to talk and moved into a series of bigger effects, including the Cargo Net. Kathleen became “Alice” for a pretty rendition of “Thru the Looking Glass”. They slid her prone body thru a big round mirror – and again the audience saw an inventive version of an illusion new to them. Men like Kramien inspire the young crowd, who sit there and wonder if they, too can ever be the epitome of the magic showman that Kramien is . Why not… if they work as hard as he does at it.
Friday night followed Thursday like always, with Hank Moorehouse as M.C. Bob Higa did a new act in traditional Japanese costume, very charming and engaging – with the full flavor of delicate Oriental magic. Glen Falkenstein and Frances Willard presented the Spirit Cabinet to the great pleasure of the audience. Last year the Virgils did this famous, but seldom seen trick, and completely won over doubtful spectators to this form of magic. Frances Willard was in every respect as fine a performer as Julie, and the audience could congratulate itself that they have now seen the two women in the world who know how to perform one of our classics. (And it all happened at Colon!)
At this point, Neil Foster showed up — and he gives a reviewer a lot of trouble. What can be said about Neil that hasn’t been said a thousand times? He is magic personified. He is part of the Abbott tradition, he is expected to be on the show, and he never disappoints. He inspires people, he makes them realize what really good magic can be like. And he walks on stage to a big hand of welcome, right from their hearts. I think the people love you, Neil .
This show ended with a presentation made by a modern young group from Colorado – the Foan Family Circus. I t was a mixture of comedy, music, magic and nonsense, and very well received. The participants are all very talented and in many ways. A sign on their table, “Magic, Inc.” was never explained to the audience, but was full of meaning to us. The Foan Family do a wild and hilarious number in which one – man stands behind a table laden with magic. The others sing a parody of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” using “Magic” for “Christmas”. As the magic objects are named in the song, the magician picks them up and shows them and puts them down, but of course “six rubber ducks”, etc., can get awfully confused. Plus the finger chopper into which his finger has to go! For our wedding anniversary, Don Wiberg suggested a group of guests do this routine, with Jay Marshall as the magician at the table. It was a small riot and hilariously funny. Now we had a chance to see the original people and the Colon audience felt just the way our guests did — this is magic burlesque at it s best.
Saturday night was the time of the awards for the many eager young beavers who took part in the contests. It’s fun to see them come forward, all smiles and pride. This year’s winners, with trophies presented by Neil Foster, were: Chris Jakway, 1st place; Todd Simpson, 2nd place; Mike Younger, 3rd place; Mac King, 4th place; Rich Hill, 5th place; Ernie Hampson, 6th place; and Bob Redmond, Jr., 7th place. Stan Kramien won the Jack Gwynne Trophy. Jeff Hobson won the Bill Baird Trophy and The Foan Family Circus won the Clarke “Senator!’ Crandall Trophy.
Gene Anderson picked up the show at that point, acting as M.C. and doing his excellent newspaper act. Since we last saw him , he has done this material as far away as Australia, with many foreign audiences in his future. Tim Wright, Paul Gertner and the Amazing Conklins: All familiar, but very acceptable acts for this audience. Jim Reneaux, who followed them originally was a Michigan boy and often seen at Abbotts. Now he lives in Pennsylvania and is almost a stranger to us. The act, presented with his wife, Joyce, was Jim’s beautifully done work with doves, silks and surprises, and very well received. Karrell Fox sat behind me all week, always with pencil in hand. Now the results of a week of observation were translated into the usual Saturday night jamboree of crazy stuff, aided and abetted by Karrell’s staff of wild men, among them Abb Dickson, Jay Marshall, Dick Oslund, Roy Kissell and others. The make-up and costumes make it hard to tell who takes part, but they keep it funny and fast moving, and wet. Karrell thinks funny – and when I caught him with his pencil, and a frown on his face as he wrote, I knew he was thinking funny and writing it down. Nobody ever sees the hard-working stage crew who toil away back there in the heat – being snapped at by nervous performers waiting to go on – getting sour looks for their attempts to make everybody back stage be quiet – and keeping alert for the needs and running time of the act that is currently out front. Once a year Dorny, master of stage crew par excellence, sticks his head out between the curtains and smiles at the crowd. Bill Smetak, his “right arm” never comes out. But everybody knows they’re back there — the smooth running shows prove it. And everybody is grateful! Thanks, Dorny and Bill. A big show as exciting and worth-while as any I have described took place on Friday afternoon for the Lion’s Club benefit, in their work for the blind. The packed – house saw Harry Blackstone, Jr., as M.C. Bob Mason and Punch and Judy, Earl Ray Wilcox with the great manipulative act, Sandy Rings (bringing tears to every eye, along with the laughter) and De Yip Loo and Company. In case anybody might think magic would taper off with the present generations, let me tell you about three people at Colon who insure the future for us. De Yip Loo introduced a new member of his show, Frances Mei Ling, 4 years old, who did fine in the illusions. Jerry ConKlin and Company carried an infant across stage, marked “New Grandchild”. Behind me all week a super infant sat, never making a peep. This was the Karrell Fox grandchild, who made his first stage appearance at the end of the Saturday night show.
We must not forget the plusses at the Get Together. The lectures included successful club operator, Tom Mullica, always popular Sid Lorraine and the inimitable Terry Seabrooke. Continual demonstrations went on at the Elementary School, the ventriloquists had sessions a t the factory, and the Magic- Ministers at the High School. A close-up show included Tom Mullica, Father Cyprian, Paul Gertner, and a surprise act, Howard Flint.