When an affair as large as an Abbott Get-Together is over, the big picture fades and the memories break down into moments of remembrance-mostly happy, some poignant. Like the one we laughed at (at the time) – Greg Bordner going on stage to accept the rejected trick from Karrell Fox, digging out the handful of dollars for the refund. We have watched Recil enact that “magic shop” bit for decades and this time it was his son, while Recil watched from the side-lines. three short weeks later, all the duties, great and small, would be handed over to Greg in fact, while Recil went on to another life. In idle chatter after the show, we agreed that this simple bit of fun made us all feel a little sad, having to acknowledge the changes life brings. We didn’t know the change was so close. with love and affection, we say goodbye to one old friend and welcome another into the long history of Get-Togethers.
The 1981 edition got off to a good start on Wednesday night, with even the oppressive humidity being forgotten as the show rolled. Gordon Miller, traditional MC for Wednesday, trying each year for something new and different succeeded to the point where he won the “Comedy Award”. The old timers in the audience, and there are many of them, enjoyed seeing tony Kardyro and Faye do their vaudeville turn again – – new to the younger crowd. You can’t beat an old pro. Two new young hopeful pros appeared in two different spots on this show, one with vent, one with magic – John and Marien Hopman from Canada. We will see more of these boys. Neil Foster made his appearance to the joy of the audience — my gosh, that boy has a following! The closing act created much interest and discussion in the gab sessions later. – Landis and Company presenting a very unusual entertainment.
For this, the stage was arranged with a special higher level in the middle (which must have put everybody to some effort, putting it up and taking it down). It did make it easy to see every bit of the Landis show, and of course served whatever purpose it was arranged for in the operation of the various illusions. Landis bought the Paul Fleming Show, parts of which were based on tricks of Karl Germain. The resulting Landis show now contains excerpts from the aggregation of wonderful old tricks.
Costuming was opera-like in appearance and added much to the presentation. Landis looked like a Russian monarch out of Romanoff history. Among the many effects presented were the De Kolta Chair, the Germain Rose bush, the Levitation which moved forward toward the audience, the Vampire Illusion – all done with swashbuckling dash and dramatics seldom seen among our current crop of magicians.
On Thursday night, Ralph Marcom was M.C. for a nice evening show of popular figures. This was his first time at a Get-Together. A high spot of the evening was the David Linsell audio-visual “Memories of Get Togethers” which has delighted every magic audience who has seen it. He has years of magic personalities captured on film, colorfully and imaginatively intermingled in this flow of magic history, backed by great music. The audience joins in by murmuring the names of old friends as they appear on the screen – they know them all, and welcome them back. A great idea of David’s and a lovely touch to the Get-Together.
On that show also were the “never-were-better” Conklin family, who did one of their best jobs. Also Mike Younger, an extremely clever young magician who is a consistent contest winner, tony Griffith from England, smooth and audience-pleasing, that attractive couple from Puerto Rico, Abel and Marina Pabon with their excellent magic, and again, “never-better”, old favorite, Harry Blackstone.
On Friday night, Jay Marshall, another old favorite, another old pro, made with the funnies while introducing another smooth bill. Ralph Marcom came back to present his act, Blackstone made a second appearance, Chris Jakway proved once again that Neil foster is the greatest teacher of magic ever, Joe riding did his best in the name of Britain, and Mark and Marlynn Evans presented a lengthy four-people show with small magic, illusions and flash tricks from their West Coast Promotion show.
Friday night had three unadvertised happenings-two good and a third that turned out to be not as bad as it looked at first. No. 1 consisted of a young Jeff Justice from Decatur, Ga. and his friend, Rocky Raccoon. jay Marshall watched Jeff and Rocky lay them in the aisles all over colon and brought him on stage Friday night as a surprise act. Rocky, who is all fur and springs, comes alive in the hands of Jeff. The act is charming-funny, unpredictable and very entertaining. (We promptly invited Jeff to Chicago for October…I mean, Jeff and Rocky).
No.2 has a story also. A group of those magnificent people who bring you the Le Grand David Show back in Beverly, Mass., came to Abbott’s. With their charm and great friendliness, they were part of every magic scene in colon—and one afternoon, ended up at our house on the Island. Cesareo suggested to the dozen or so who were crammed into the living room that they owed me a song or two…especially in view of it being my 50th year in magic. Well, I have never been serenaded by such a great double quartet, plus other voices, backed up by a smiling Cesareo sitting beside me, exuding charisma as only a good looking man with pizzazz can do. While the wonderful songs were going on, another voice joined them – a deeper, but just as sweet a voice. It was Harry Blackstone who heard the music at his house and came thru our kitchen door to check up.
Jay, as M.C. for that night, told the group that they were to do a number on the High school stage. And that is why that line of boys did the song, and ended up with a chorus line bit of choreography, Super! (Need we tell you again, whenever you get to Boston, take in the Le Grad David Show in Beverly, just outside the city.)
And No. 3? Harry Blackstone worked on Friday night on the High School stage, and when the act was over, and he was going to return to the auditorium, he missed the top step of the short flight of stairs. He came down on his knee and for a bit, it looked like something big might have happened. the Colon Emergency Unit (you see them every year out in back of the school, thank God mostly with nothing to do) rushed in and got Harry to the local M.D. The doctor had been phoned to be ready for an X-Ray and a possible hospital trip. The injury was very painful, but those of you who weren’t there will be glad to know that those who were there saw Harry all over the place Saturday night (on crutches) taking verbal “Get Well” messages. (his luck went further. He was to have left for a weekend job on the East coast, but it was part of a series and they were able to move him to another weekend and replace him with another act.) Nobody in the audience was aware that Harry had been injured until the entire show was over.
Which brings us to Saturday night. Everybody’s favorite, Bob Lewis and Ginny acted as M.C. and did the act. he also brought on Randy Brown, that paddle ball expert from Chicago, Dale Salwak, who is another of the world’s greatest teachers of magic, David Seebach and Company with the Sophisticated show they have been travelling around with and featuring a new original illusion.
The evening wound up with Karrell Fox and his wild ones. One offbeat item this year was a MILE of paper coil, which began as a big flat roll, maybe 60 inches across. Todd Karr held it in place, and one of the regulars (those costumes do hide ’em;) began to whip the paper out in the prescribed hat coil fashion. this action lasted all the way thru the second half of the show, with the paper finally winding around the un-winder, and Todd laughing so hard he could hardly hold up the last of the coil. The usual string of lampoons were carried out in fine style by Karrell and helpers but as the years go by, they dribble less milk around the stage, and it has been several years since anybody broke a dozen eggs in Duke Stern style. For a first however, Karrell opened a pillow case and filled the stage with feathers, which they are doubtless still picking up.
I don’t know who to credit with the bit of psychology that evidenced itself during this section of the show, but it was a good idea. On the Lion’s Club matinee, one of the acts was Ken Muzel, magician and puppeteer. He had created a sort of cylinder stage with a play board around the top and himself inside. (Burr Tillstrom of Kukla, Fran and Ollie fame used this type of presentation when they worked our Ritz Carlton Playhouse.) Unfortunately, thru some error in judgment, from the seats in the auditorium, the puppets could not be seen except for their heads. The audience got a little annoyed and showed it. then the tape for the sound and music broke, and Ken had to discontinue, which the audience applauded. Later, after another act, and the tape repaired, ken made a stab at resuming, but he had lost this crowd for good. Now, on Saturday night, he showed up with his truly beautiful animal and fowl puppets, which were carried around by various members of the Fox entourage, and now and then Ken put one into action. He had long since been forgiven for his matinee troubles, and got a good hand from a happy audience. It was a good idea to put him back on in this section and remind people that some days nothing goes right…no matter what.
The other acts on that Lion’s Club Matinee Benefit were Hank Moorehouse and Bob Higa and Company. Hank was there as his first appearance as part of the Abbott Magic Company and bob Higa and Amy are newly returned to Chicago from a long stint in Las Vegas. These people were all very good and very well received. Other daytime activity was the Hank Moorehouse Lecture, the Magic Talent Contest, Vent-O-Rama, the Tony Griffith Lecture, Joe Riding Lecture, Magic Ministers Session.
On Saturday afternoon, a close-up show was held at the high school, with close-up artists featured being Tony Griffith, Joe riding, Abel Pabon, and Mitch Williams. Two Bingo parties with light refreshments were held at the Masonic hall for the ladies, most of whom walked away with lovely new garments for the fall season. On Friday, the Senior Citizens packed the American Legion Hall for their annual Brunch and Fun Affair. The food was excellent, the music great, the talent just right. We were pleased to have Recil and Eda Mae there, and Mary Watson (Monk’s widow) whose many friends were so glad to have her be with them. A nice warm sweater for winter was won by Suzie Wandas Bennett and a handy little picker-upper by William Becker as oldest lady and gentleman present.
Neil Foster conducted the talent contests and awarded the prizes from the High School stage on Saturday. Awards were given to: Matt Jacobson, Tim Balster, Lucy Smalley, William Commins, Chris Collins, Edmond Kuderer, Ray Radelia, and the First Prize to Mitch Williams. Trophies were presented as follows: The Bill Baird Trophy to Neil Foster, the Senator Crandall Award to Gordon Miller, and the Jack Gwynne Trophy to Landis and Company.
Despite the transportation problems around the country, attendance figures were down only slightly for the 1981 gathering. To counterbalance this, Greg and his salesmen reported excellent business in the magic super-market set up in the grade school. Almost immediately after a Get-together, plans for the next one begin to be shaped. for the first time ever I encountered vicious mosquito’s in Colon…a trend I would like to see reversed for 1982. Other than that, we all look forward to same time, same place, next year.