The major magic conventions: the I.B.M. in San Diego, CA., the S.A.M. in Tampa, FL., and Abbott’s Magic Get-together in Colon, MI., are now history for this year. Attendance was big at all three, with the Chicago area being well represented. Our folks brought back the word that Florida was a mistake for a summertime convent ion, since Chicago in mid-summer has its own ghastly merits.
In Colon the weather was perfect – day after day. Don’t ask me about San Diego. I was there but ill most of the time. I apologize to old friends, whom I merely waved to on my way back to bed. (Why don’t these old people have sense enough to stay home?) Reports from Tampa were that Hank Moorehouse (as show producer) presented some fine entertainment. The Amazing Randi presented a ninety minute lecture – before which he was presented (served) with a suit from Uri Geller who is sueing for 35 million dollars. An Amazinq amount of money – so watch your newspaper for further explanation of the whys and wherefores. You do the watching – that much money is way out of my league.
Upon entering Colon this year we viewed the attractive new village limits signs, with the magic theme used throughout (including the flower beds that surround the signs on the ground). All this plus the official notification that Colon achieved the 1989 Class D State High School Baseball Championship!
Late afternoon saw the first official function of this year’s meeting – the lecture of Peter Scarlett. Peter is a clever gent and pleased the assemblage with both his effects and their presentation. This was a great start to what would be a great week.
An exciting trend at the Abbott Get-together was the use of comedy acts (a trend frequently mentioned in my column). Magic blends in very nicely with this type of entertainment. Starting on Wednesday, we witnessed Gordon Miller, laying down on the job, just prior to tripping the traditional welcoming banners. All this served to introduce that night’s master of ceremonies – Dave Madden. Dave is a television comedian and comic character actor and was credited by Jay Marshall (and many others) as one of ‘the funniest monologists of the week.
Dave is a veteran of such situation comedies as: Camp Runamuck, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, and the Partridge Family.
Dave presented Al Cohen, popular magic dealer from Washington, D.C., in his guise as Pernell Zorch. Right on schedule every right thing went wrong and every wrong thing went worse – to loud laughter and applause. Al proved a hard-working delight, and a true professional, the entire week.
Bill Pack, in hi tramp/magician characterization was next with an act that showed several original touches and ideas.
Brett Daniels had fully intended to debut his new bird act at this year’s convention. After a late Tuesday night rehearsal, he determined that the exotic birds were just not ready for public viewing. So, he loaded up that act, drove back to Wisconsin, re-loaded his original dove act (which he hadn’t performed for over one month!) and journeyed back to Colon. On this night’s show, the “old” act was presented flawlessly and to great reception.
After intermission, Dave Madden ventured forth with an original offering based on comedy mentalism. All the ideas were novel and unique and greatly enjoyed by all the folks invited up on stage and all those who were privileged to watch. Dave said he was nervous-but it surely didn’t show!
Don Jones & Company closed the show with his monster illusion show. All the usual productions, vanishes, transformations, but each with a special presentation setting, complete with a costuming choreography, lighting and sound effects.
On Thursday afternoon, Chris Carey lectured. many of the items were from his first book, “Do The Stuff That’s You. And the bulk of the lecture was from his latest hardbound book “Find The Stuff That’s You.” A large gathering walked away discussing the various points brought out during the lecture.
Thursday nights show was in the capable hands of Peter Scarlett as master of ceremonies (or compeer). Peter’s debonair approach and his unique viewpoint on magic and magicians kept this show moving along at a brisk pace.
The opening act was a distinct novelty. Howard Leikert presented Simply Grand Magic – a magical adventure based upon music. Musical notes jumped from here to there, batons floated, and the bust of Beethoven(?) came to life, kibitzing through part of the act. An act filled with novel ideas.
Peter Scarlett skillfully entertained the audience, highlighted by his presentation of Fogel’s “Cheating The Gallows”. Glen Falkenstein, looking fit and healthy after a life-threatening illness last year, presented his standard act to perfection, concluding with the spectacular X-ray eye sequence. then he introduced Frances Willard (Mrs. Falkenstein) and the two proceeded to present a fast and up to date two person mindreading act. Something not seen here in Colon since the days of King and Zerita! Next up was that suave old master of the feathered variety of magic, General Grant. Mr. Grant proved to be smooth and flawless and eminently entertaining.
Intermission gave everyone time to prepare for our first act upon returning to the air conditioned auditorium – The Zucchini Brothers. (Note: They are not brothers and they are not Zucchini’s! We think!) Soon the air was filled with balls, clubs, hats, hairdos, gentility, and decorum. Certainly the young lady volunteer from the audience will always remember the phrase – “Penalty!”
Harry Blackstone offered a varied program featuring new effects like the sheet of glass penetration and the balloon suspension and old favorites like the vanishing bird and cage and the exquisite floating light bulb. his usual high standard of excellence was maintained. In addition to the daily lectures, various other daytime activities included sessions for ventriloquists (Vent-O-Rama), magic demonstrations, strolling magicians, the Close-up Show, the Special Benefit Matinee performance and, of course, the hours and hours of gossip and conversation among the widely spread out visitors.
Jim Steinmeyer, once a Chicago resident and now employed as a consultant for the Disney Corporation, attracted much attention at his Friday lecture. He is an excellent speaker, with excellent credentials and is full of ideas. Abbotts used good judgment in having him on the program.
The Close-Up Show is a two-edged sword at the Get-together. Everyone looks forward to the excellent roster of talent assembled each year – and everyone wishes that they could see and hear better at their particular location in the “gymatorium”. all four artists were well received, and they included:
Michael Powers with mostly original card magic, presented in a low-key, self-effacing style. Timothy Wenk is the driving force behind Metempirical Magic (creator of E Pluribus Unum, Peanut Butter & Jelly, and the new Punchline effect). Timothy is living proof that “the mind is a terrible thing to waste!” (But his audiences loved laughing with him.)
Jorg A. Weber of Nurnberg, Germany proved to be a delight with his continental sense of good fun and his immaculate close-up creations. Very novel, very original and very mystifying!
John Carney is certainly well known in magic. His early instruction came at the feet of Fawcett Ross and he later learned from The Professor – Dai Vernon. he has the ability to make the “hard stuff” look easy and effortless and now blends in his own touches of wit and humor.
Friday night proved to be a magic and comedy lover’s treat! Master of ceremonies Mike Caveney had assembled a stellar cast and kept the show moving at a break neck pace.
He first presented Christopher Hart – “The Master Blaster”, “The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n Rolla.” An excellent opening act, full of surprises and action (including an excellent torn and restored sheet of music).
“Hi … I’m Mac King!” This opening line (which proved to be a catch phrase throughout his act), served to introduce a young man who has been working comedy clubs all over the country.
He was heartily applauded for his material – both magical and comedy. you have to see his “paper bag over the head” to appreciate it (and the way Mac King keeps working nationwide you will)!
Tina Lenert provided the biggest transformation of the week during her stage performance. Imagine a dowdy washerwoman who, during a dream sequence, blossoms into Cinderella! And, all this accompanied by small magic effects coupled with impeccable mime artistry.
John Carney joked his way through several audience volunteers and, at the same time, presented several magic classics, including The Miser’s Dream and The Egg Bag. You could see why John works steadily on the comedy club circuit.
The situation in Colon is such that, day or night, people are wandering about, or having meals, or doing magic – and it means that celebrities are easy to keep track of and make contact with. this makes a very attractive situation, as compared to a convention in a big city hotel where one can get lost easily and people cannot be easily located.
After Friday night’s show, the contest prize winners are announced at the elementary School Showroom. This year, in the Junior Contest the winners are: Third Prize – Lindsey Jansen, Second Prize – T.J. Clancy, First Prize – Stuart Beck & Co. The 1989 winners in the Senior Contest were: Third Prize – Greg Frewin, Second Prize – Joe Spiller, First Prize – Mehdi Talki. And, speaking of contests, the ventriloquists (at their Vent-O-Rama) awarded some prizes as well: Second Prize – Helen Hammett, First Prize – Buddy Big Mountain.
The early lecture on Saturday morning was skillfully delivered by young (17 years old!) Roy Davenport of England. That name should sound familiar, as the Davenports are one of Englands (and the worlds) greatest family names. Many kind and appreciative comments were heard following this educational session.
The Special Benefit Matinee (a charitable fund raiser for Abbott’s co-sponsor The Lions Club) featured Jania Taylor, a young magicienne who specializes in sleight of hand magic. the audience warmly applauded her skill and artistry.
Chris Carey fronted The Fun Factory Show (direct from Six Flags Over Georgia amusement park). This is the show he created for the theme park market and he was ably(?) assisted by Bugs bunny and Daffy Duck. Chris is an accomplished children’s entertainer with lots of great routines and clever ideas and the audience quickly got into the swing of things.
The Saturday night show started out with an echo from the past – a pitch! No, not the Candy Pitch made famous by Percy Abbott at the early Get-togethers, but Hank Moorehouse with a pitch offering Abbotts Big Box Of Terrific Tricks (A.B.B.O.T.T.), a magic set. The sales were frantic and fun as several purchasers discovered a cash refund hidden inside their package!
Karrell Fox (supported by helium balloons) assumed control of the stage (as he has done for so many years here in Colon). Karrell has more appearances and more consecutive appearances in Colon than any other performer, and it’s easy to see why. He has a very relaxed style and always something novel and original in the way of effects.
Roy Davenport exploded onto the stage with his manipulation act. Roy works at a MTV-like pace, all the while performing difficult sleight of hand effects. He certainly gets high marks for dynamics and enthusiasm.
Glenn Falkenstein and Frances Willard presented the Willard the Wizard Spirit Cabinet Act, as only they can. This act provides a charming and nostalgic interlude on any program, on a theme seldom seen. Another fine (and entertaining) choice for this famous convention.
Karrell Fox, assisted(?) by Abb Dickson attempted (on several occasions) to cause some milk to disappear – but the milk only went to waist (Abb’s).
With all the acts listed this far, and with all the credits, you would have to admit that the convention sounded like a huge success – and it was. But wait – we haven’t even begun to mention the creme de la creme – Paul Daniels! He held down the featured spot on the Saturday night roster with only three tricks – but hundreds of situations, routines, humorous interludes, gags, bits, laughs, and more laughs. He is recognized as Englands top entertainer in his field and he proved this to the Colon audience. Away from the performing stage, in the showroom or at a house party he is, at once, surrounded by anyone within hearing. He is just bursting with old memories, stories, bits and pieces about the people he’s known and the places he’s been. Treat yourself to a session of Paul Daniels if you get the chance. He lives in England but he’s bound to come this way again.
And then to cap off this nights entertainment, the audience was treated to Brett Daniels presenting what he calls “The Most Dangerous Act in Magic.” he successfully evaded a falling bed of spikes, caused an assistant to remain suspended on the point of a sword, exchanged places with that same assistant in a Substitution Trunk and, finally, escaped from the Water Torture Cell to thunderous applause – and all this at a breakneck pace!
After the Saturday night show, everyone assembles in the Showroom for the presentation of trophies and awards (plus last minute purchases and good byes). this year, Harry Blackstone received several honors. Flanked by Society of American Magicians officers Margaret Dailey and Al Guenther he accepted his official notification of his Life Membership in the S.A.M. and also assumes his new position as “Ambassador Of Magic” for the S.A.M.
In addition, Harry accepted the 1989 Dragon Award, presented by J. Marberger Stuart and Marjorie Stuart. Previous winners include: Petick & Mia, Marvyn & Carol Roy, Mark Wilson & Nani Darnell, Duo Absolon, and Chuck & Jan Jones. The six requirements that must be met to win the Dragon Award are: Drama, Romance, Artistry, Glamour, Originality, and Necromancy. All of these criterion have been more than fulfilled by Harry and Gay Blackstone.
Winner of the Bill Baird Award (for excellence in manipulation), was (for the second year in a row), Brett Daniels. Winners (a tie for the first time in history) of the Senator Clarke “The Senator” Crandall Award (for excellence in comedy) were: Mac King and Joel Hodgson. Winners of the Jack Gwynne Award (for excellence in showmanship and presentation) were: Stuart and Lori. The MacDonalds were working an engagement this evening and picked up their award the following week. So, another Get-together takes its final bow!