Abbotts 32nd Get Together 1969
by John Braun
They've done it again! Yessir, Recil and his staff have staged a Get-Together that TOPS all the others, and that's SOMETHING, for over the years we've seen Get-Togethers we felt just COULDN'T BE topped! The weather was just right the week of August 17th - cool nights and warm, sunny days. Those who made a vacation week of it in cottages by the lake had good fishing and boating; there was something for everyone - the Vent-O-Rama, a Lecture for Magi-Ministers, interesting lectures for the magicians, excellent stage shows, special events for the ladies; there was good magic aplenty, and fun - REAL FUN!
Programmed festivities began Wednesday evening, August 20th, at the High School auditorium with a welcome by Recil Bordner; Wilma Rench at the organ (her 18th year on the job!), and Abbott's Gordon Miller as M. C. Francis Martineau opened the show with chatter, card fans, shuffles, a two-tiered fan with Jumbo cards, rope routine and an unusual Swords Through Neck Illusion. Sunny Lupton attired as a chic French maid seemed to be preparing for a party, and in so doing mystified with fruit productions, magic with liquids, and a "smoker's dream" routine. After the M.C's. "bag" routine, the Trophy for Magical Excellence (the Jack Gwynne Trophy) was displayed; Paul Stadelman, "Mr. Ventriloquism of 1969" displayed some Vent virtuosity (voices in bottles, voices in boxes, a baby crying,) and a dialogue with his pal Windy Higgins. Senor Torino and Faye delighted with a fast moving and colorful act with cigarettes, doves, beads, card fans and expert card manipulation. An act "hard to follow."
After intermission, Gordon explained why he didn't get his raise, and gave a showing of his modern art collection, a clever interlude that "builds" as it goes along, The Amazing Conklins, Colon's magical family, did the entire second half with illusions nicely presented, featuring the Hindu Basket, the Vanishing Girl, Flag Vase, Floating Princess (Asrah), Checker Cabinet, an Oriental Fantasy, the Divided Girl, then the big Tableau Finish, pretty and colorful.
The auditorium at the grade school had been converted into a very attractive Showroom with plenty of seats available for all. Apparatus formed the back drop for the stage; in front of the stage and along one entire wall were show cases and shelves of apparatus, tricks and books; along the wall on the opposite side were dealers Crandall, MagiFects (Ken Alfredson), Paul Stadelman with Vent dummies, Tony Torino, and George Kirkendall. Francis Martineau had set up an easel at one end of the room, to make cartoon style sketches for those desiring them. Alexander Great had some of his specialties on display. There were demonstrations, auctions, and plenty of entertainment to keep you up until "the wee small hours," for the proceedings were in the capable hands of Duke Stern, Karrell Fox, Roy Kissell, Bob Mason, Jerry Conklin, Jim Clark, Neil Foster, Arturo, Warren Stephens, Gordon Miller and others. From time to time talented young magicians would present acts - I recall seeing Thessalonia Jackson do his unusual manipulative act. (This enlivened the "something doing every minute" atmosphere of the affair.)
At the Thursday morning Vent-O-Rama held in the Abbott plant auditorium, much was accomplished in a short time under Paul Stadelman's guidance. Contest winners were Sally Gates, Pete Nolan, Beth Ann Dirkson and Rock Gursbach, one of the junior Vents.
Bruce Posgates' lecture on "Kid-Show Showmanship" was the Thursday afternoon feature. What to do for them, how to DO IT for them, a valuable list of DON'TS, illustrating with tricks from his own program - practically a condensation of his book KID SHOW SHOWMANSHIP.
The "one and only" Dorny was M.C. on Thursday evening, and what an array of talent he presented! For "openers" there was Lynn Voss (Mrs. Karrell Fox) with two peppy dance numbers - a dance of "the roaring 20's" then one titled "the roaring 60's." These Foxes are talented people!
Neil Foster and Jeanne delighted with some of the prettiest magic we'll ever see. A cane changes to a pretty scarf, then back to a cane again; a flawless performance of the Tenkai Cut Silk trick; Ball Manipulation; a " silk fountain" to end ALL silk fountains; cigarette manipulation; Center Tear; wine vanish from paper cone; the Miser's Dream; Cords of Fantasia; Lucky Loops; Hindu Rope in miniature; Spirit Seance in full light ; color changing plumes; Botannia, a thing of beauty; card manipulation and fans par excellence, and a masterly presentation of the Zombie. He brought down the house and received a standing ovation!
After intermission Jack Gwynne gave the Traveling Trophy into the keeping of Recil Bordner for awarding annually to the one bringing excellence to Magic; then Paul Howard, a very droll fellow, convulsed one and all with his chatter, linking rings, torn newspaper, egg to handkerchief and bar stool. This gentleman knows what is funny; his timing is a lesson in "the art of timing;" and under another name, he's the Editor of THE LINKING'RING. I can't STAND such gifted people!
If you haven't seen Chan-Jak work, you've missed something. Everything in pantomime, Chinese in style and costume, even to robe-changing; his fire - eating harks back to the days of Ching Ling Foo, and his finale, the long streamer production, climaxes the act in fine style. Sans make-up he is Jack Chanin.
Earl Canapp as "The Senile Magician" just HAS to be seen by everyone. There's a mixture of pathos and comedy in his efforts to "magick" entertainingly; he is handicapped by infirmities, perversities, and barely escapes disaster, but his tricks DO come off and all ends well.
Lynn Voss on again with two Hawaiian dances - one a graceful hula, the other an energetic number that put the audience in the mood for the lovely act that closed the show - Frank Scalzo and Company. This act is magic as the legendary Ziegfeld would have produced it - striking colors in the sets, apparatus and costumes; colored doves; a huge macaw that looked like an eagle; a sizable dog produced from nowhere; more colored doves, and finally the vanish of the towering cage of doves. The cage revolved like a merry-go-round, yet vanished like the wind! What a flawlessly pretty act!
Friday began with the Magi-Minister's Lecture by John deVries, and it was well attended. Mr. deVries has built a collection of effects to illustrate the gospel lessons he brings to his audiences - apparatus many would like to obtain for their "purely for entertainment" uses.
Vent-0-Rama followed at the Abbott plant auditorium - an interesting lecture by Paul Stadelman, "Ventriloquism Through the Ages." The art of voice throwing is very old, indeed. Even certain birds and animals are expert practitioners!
'Senator' Crandall's Stroll-In filled the Showroom, as one would expect, for he is a treat not to be missed. The "Mark Twain of Magic" (he was thus introduced by Karrell Fox, and most aptly, too) held forth (and part of a fifth, too) on a variety of topics. I tried to take notes, but soon found I was losing too much of his text, which had to do with classifications of magicians, pet abhorrences, the place of women in magic, waking in the morning with ones' eyes open, good magic done bad and bad magic done good, and a motley of other delightfully unrelated topics, all of which seemed most apropos. Monk Watson did a "stroll-in" of his own which interrupted the 'Senator', drawing repartee and comment no amount of rehearsing could have produced. It was a delightful hour, and notes or no notes, I'll never steal THIS act!
Ralph Adams & Company presented the entire show Friday evening. (Shades of Cagliostro - Friday evening, and only one more day left? I never knew Time could fly so fast!) Mr. Adams' program was divided into three parts, Part 1 including the production of his assistants, the most unusual Dancing Handkerchief routine you'll ever see, the Sword Basket with a surprise finish, egg bag routine, rope magic, a rope tie, and a Trunk Escape.
Part 2 opened with the famous illusion "The Door," used to produce two assistants. In rapid succession Mr. Adams presented Haunted House in full light, Haines' Split Deck, Alexander Herrmann's Knotted Handkerchief; removing the shirt of an assisting spectator while his coat was buttoned, he used the shirt for the Stanley Collins Rings and Coat Release. Mr. Adams' son closed this section with a Guillotine which "acted up" in a mannerthat could have been part of the show, but all came off as expected at the finish. The spectator was unharmed!
Part 3 opened with what I'm going to call the Protean Cabinet, because Professor Hoffmann called a similar looking cabinet that in his famous book MODERN MAGIC. From this cabinet a lovely girl was produced, and a levitation followed. Then a Hindu boy was produced from a screened piece of apparatus that the late Dr. Harlan Tarbell called the "Phantom Black Art Platform" in Lesson 52 of the ORIGINAL TARBELL COURSE, copyright 1927. It was most effective! A rope rose up cobra-like from a snake basket, ready for use in the Hindu Rope Trick. The rope rose mysteriously in the arched alcove, remained rigid, and the boy in turban and loin cloth climbed to the top; there was a dramatic pause, a puff of smoke, and the boy was gone! Nicely costumed, nicely presented "big" magic - the kind we love to see!
Saturday morning - beautiful weather; the Annual Art Fair getting under way, the merchants holding sidewalk sales, townspeople and magicians everywhere; the church suppers, Legion Fish Fry, the Magic Carpet all memories now, and the M & M Grill trying valiantly to feed the crowds. The Vent Jam Session at the Abbott factory featured Charley Kohrs, former vaudevillian and master of "the distant voice;" Howard Olson did his "challenge act" where the audience names a subject and Howard "tosses his voice" accordingly, very entertaining.
The Saturday afternoon feature was a lecture "Tricks, Tips & Talk" by Sid Lorraine, Associate Editor of TOPS MAGAZINE, author of a number of patter books, inventor of many clever tricks, illustrator emeritus (all the illustrations of Abbott's Catalogue No. 18 will be by Sid), and one of our top magical idea men. He performed and explained much good magic, some of it from books and magazines, all of which he cited so those interested could dig them out later. Clever ideas, off the beaten path magic, new faces for old tricks, novel advertising pieces - the lecture was knowledge and entertainment skillfully blended, and over MUCH too soon!
All good things must come to an end, and now it's Saturday evening at the High School; Dorny, "the backstage voice" has just announced Clarke 'the Senator' Crandall, and we know we're in for a pleasant evening. Bill Tadlock & Sally open the show with magic smartly and neatly done. They "reach right out and grab you!" Jasper Marshall followed with "The Golfer's Nightmare," and mixed it with a generous portion of "old Guzzler's Gin;" Crandall promised that Jay would redeem himself later with Lefty. Then 'the Senator', relatively quiet until this moment, stepped right into a routine of beautiful card fanning, for he can do serious magic "good." Then he brought on Bob Downey, a young fellow we were all anxious to see again. His magic with doves, cigarettes, handkerchiefs, billiard balls, more doves, "Where Do The Doves Go?" and the polka dot dove routine is of the strictly-for-beauty-and-entertainment-kind we love to see, and he KNEW we liked it by the standing ovation he received.
After intermission, the good 'Senator' counted six cards onto a plate, a routine he has single-handedly built into one of the modern card conjurings classics. Then he brought on Francis B. Martineau with his smart night-club act. Flowers, billiard balls, juggling, cigarettes, multiplying candles, and large Chinese Rings were blended into enjoyable magic at his fingertips, very nice work! Jay Marshall and his friend Lefty scored solidly, as always. Then came the masters of magical satire and "takeoffs" - Messers. Fox and Stern. They've been doing this sort of thing for years; they have a positive genius for it. This time they featured "the card in the egg" with disastrous results to Duke, and followed it with "Multum in Parvo." I don't know whether Duke played "Multum" or "Parvo." Maybe it didn't matter which for he wound up besmeared with eggs and drenched with milk, a sorry but laugh provoking figure. They brought down the house and received a standing ovation.
Said 'Senator' Crandall, as he carefully waded to his post at the mike, "Backstage it looks like the explosion of a garbage dump." While the clean-up job proceeded, Crandall did his "catching the selected card on the point of a scimitar," with a lovely young lady from the audience assisting. The trick was a complete success for the audience and all concerned.
Now the last act is on - Bob and Ginny Lewis, favorites with audiences everywhere. Bob is a sort of Will Rogers- Herb Schreiner-banjo-virtuoso-magician, and he is assisted by a talented wife. That's a combination pretty hard to beat. To the accompaniment of a monologue that absolutely "breaks you up," the man does a routine of indescribable rope knots, and Ginny does her fracturing bits. (Never underestimate the power of a woman.) Bob finishes with the banjo, and the things he can do with that banjo would give Beethoven trouble. He rates high as a musician, a comic and a magician, and "you can't hardly get them kind no more!" The audience wouldn't stop applauding!
The Jack Gwynne Trophy for Excellence in Magic was awarded to Frank Scalzo & Company; they were surprised and pleased, and so was the audience that accorded them a standing ovation. But alack and alas! Now everything was over but the goodbyes!
The ladies attending were well entertained by a committee headed by Frances Marshall and Jeanne Foster. There were two afternoons for them at Colon's Grange Hall. The first, a "Swap Boutique" was held at 2 P.M. Thursday, with prizes for all and delicious refreshments. On Saturday afternoon the ladies gathered for a "Magic Housekeeper Hour," another afternoon replete with prizes and refreshments. Frances promises the recipe for the cookies every one liked - look for it soon in her column in TOPS. And the merchants of Colon received a vote of thanks for the nice prizes they so kindly donated.
Many things keep recurring as I think back over that pleasant week in Colon. The Hospitality of the people, their warmth and friendliness; the good times we had; meeting old friends again; the hard work of the Abbott staff to set up and tear down the displays, and take care of all the clerical work involved; the cooperation of the police department, the life-saving squad, the handlingfof traffic; the cook-outs, the little get-togethers of the various groups in the lake cottages, the exchanging of tricks and moves and magical "goodies"; in my own case, the reminiscing with magical scholars and sages about matters of history, little known facts about the magicians of the past, and knowledge for the record. I never fail to learn something, or get to meet someone I wouldn't have missed for anything, and I thank everyone concerned who made things so enjoyable for me. Recil and Neil, I hope to be with you again next year, but right now I'm more puzzled than ever before about "what you're going to do for an encore!"
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