Abbotts 40th Get Together 1977
by Ford March
The shows at Abbott's 40th Annual Get-Together, August 10 - 13, exhibited the same high quality that has marked these affairs over the past 40 years. Recil Bordner and his stalwart staff again proved that good entertainment is the rule - not the exception. The shows built from the very first night, and it becomes difficult to single out any one show for the top spot.
Gordon Miller worked as emcee for the Wednesday night offering and introduced the Miller "highlife" style of humor to a packed house. His opening bit of by play brought on the "great white hunter," Bostwick (Tom Mullica), and a demonstration of the use of a blowgun. The comedy closed with a flash display of the traditional hanging banners welcoming magicians, and the show was underway.
Ger Copper, Holland's manipulator, demonstrated some of the finest manual dexterity seen in a long time. Cards, balls, cubes, and candles seemed to come alive under Copper's nimble fingers. His final production of a large candelabrum, with lighted candles, left the audience asking for more.
Gordon Miller took his turn offering his own bits of sly humor and magic. He has a friendly and personal delivery well-suited for the family type audiences drawn to these Get Togethers.
Ching Fu & Co. (Bourasseau) of Puerto Rico, presented his act in full Chinese garb along with similarly costumed assistants and a stage full of props. Any language barrier that may have existed disappeared as the troupe moved through the various magical offerings. The rice bowls, with a triple repeat - without the water, caught even the visiting magicians off guard. Ching Fu obviously enjoys his work and that enjoyment was contagious. A fine hand from the crowd was evidence.
Ken Summers & Kim followed with a quick run through of some smaller magic offered in an almost off hand manner and a closing using two Botanias and a bouquet. A generous hand from the audience showed its appreciation for the change of pace.
Maria Suey closed the first half with a demonstration of paper cutting, an almost lost art. Deft fingers and a sharp scissors created a series of intricate cutouts that were pleasing to the eye. This unique and novel act, along with Maria's warm personality, drew an appreciate hand.
The second half of the show was billed as Neil Foster and his "Concert of Magic." And what a concert! Conceived, directed and produced by Neil, the concert revealed magic in all its forms. From its opening to the finale, this master of the prestidigital art instilled magical life into everything he touched. Midway through his work, the curtains parted to spotlight that very special assistant - Jeanne Foster. Statuesque and lovely, she stood watching as Foster worked his way around in a presentation of silken sorcery. To all who know this pair, the real magic was in the tender glances that passed between them as they worked.
Following his card manipulative act the curtains closed to a standing ovation. Graciously accepting the tribute, he proposed one more "mystery" and began his own impeccable presentation of the Zombie. The entire floor of the stage was covered with fog, the clouds remained throughout this effect. In his hands, the silver sphere moved as a living thing. Sheer beauty for those who know the secret - confounding mystery to those who don't. And the show closed with another standing ovation. Neil Foster and his "Concert of Magic" must be seen to be believed. When an audience offers two standing ovations to the same performer, on the same show, you know they were "believers!" And they were entertained!
Thursday's performers were put through their paces by an emcee well suited for a magic show - a rabbit! Elwood Rabit, writer, columnist, and raconteur, along with his assistant, Van Cleve, tickled the audience's funnybones and set a happy mood while introducing the acts that followed.
Jeff Wawrzaszek (Elwood even pronounced that one!), opened with a simple yet beautiful stage and offered equally beautiful moves with three rings, the dancing ring on a rope, and thimbles. Obviously a student of mime, Jeff's actions reflected the long hours of study and practice. And he drew a great hand from an audience that appreciated both along with the entertainment.
Harry Blackstone, Jr., came home to offer bits of his own program that has played so well in shows and clubs around the country. His "ghost hank" brought back memories for many and his own "Six Card Repeat" took a new turn and gave the crowd a glimpse of Harry's handsome family. His closer was a "transformation" illusion involving a gorilla and a disgruntled "Merlin." The surprise finish, with Harry as Merlin, drew a standing ovation from the packed house.
Ken Summers & O'Dowd followed with some slapstick magic presented in their style. The bits of "shtick," with O'Dowd as the hapless foil, have long been classics in magical satire and are sure fire laugh-getters. Spilled milk and pie in the face makes a mess and the audiences find hilarious. And the mess on stage requires clean up during intermission.
Walter Zaney Blaney and Sandy Rings took over the second half. Zaney offered his Texas style of magic and fun to a ready audience and enjoyed a good hand and laughs with his audience participation bits. He also enjoyed a good hand for his efforts.
Sandy Rings, a former Miss Kansas, assisted Blaney and took her own solo turn. Her excellent vent work, a field long dominated by male performers, proved her mastery of the art. Using a second vent figure, a clown, she sang "Toyland" and provided a poignant interlude that earned her a standing ovation. Sandy concluded her turn with her own version of the Abbott & Cos-tello classic baseball routine that somehow seemed anti climactic in spite of her command of both roles. But she did entertain - and that's what the audience enjoyed!
Blaney returned to center stage to present his own levitation using an assistant from the audience. Even the magicians were impressed when they saw the hoop pass completely off. Blaney handles the illusion well, and it provides a puzzle for every audience. The curtains fell to a great hand and the end of the show.
Friday night's offering was under the able guidance of Mike Caveney whose pleasant manner and sharp wit were most fitting for his emcee role. He has style and delivery that keeps any show rolling smoothly.
Opening were John & Maria Kurtz with some clean dove productions and a variety of other club effects. The pair presents their effects with confidence and smoothness and provides an example of what thought and routining can accomplish. A good turn.
Van Cleve came on with an hilarious presentation as an "ancient wizard" in full regalia. The audience could almost hear his joints creak as he moved. His "little pink mouse" and "floating table" are laugh-provoking bits made effective by his own patter and delivery. The audience responded with a great hand.
Tim Wright offered some of his own ideas on magic. They're great and so is he. He includes a variety of manipulative effects all styled to his personality. He lets his dexterity speak for him - and it speaks well. He makes it all look so easy. And he entertains. The audience was generous in responding. Tim later said he wasn't satisfied with his work, too many little slips. If there were, he managed to cover them well. And being dissatisfied with one's own work is the mark of a real professional.
Harry Collins closed the first half with an array of magical effects taken from his Mr. Magic trunk. Harry plays that role for the Frito Lay Co. and is busy throughout the year. Spotless props and attire along with well routined magic kept the audience awed and appreciative. He's been in the business a long time and has learned what it takes to keep an audience happy. His ability to do just that has kept him on his sponsor's payroll for years. Collins closed with his "sawing through" illusion and brought gasps from the lay people. That's part of the entertainment. And Harry provides it.
The second half opened with Mike Caveney explaining his "three arm" juggling and demonstrating how coathangers reproduce. His lines kept the audience laughing and happy and were delivered with timing and emphasis in all the right places. Mike's magic goes beyond mere props and the crowd loved it.
The closing act was made up of members of the Long Beach Mystics Club from California. Caveney prefaced their presentations with a brief history of the club whose members range in age from 9 to 21. Former members include many who've made it in the world of show business either as magicians or performers. The group is highly respected on the West Coast, and its members produce and perform in their own shows which are sell-outs.
Representing the club, in order of their appearance, were Mark Kalin, Bill Smith, Todd Robbins, Jeff Young, and Dirk Arthur.
And if these young men are examples of the product of the Long Beach Mystics, magic has a greater future than ever before.
Mark Kalin presented a routine with multiplying billiard balls, dancing pool cues, and linking billiard ball racks. Set and costumed in the early 1900's style, and accompanied by Duane Methvin at the Rag time piano, the act revealed the imagination and creativeness that has won so many awards for Mark.
Bill Smith & Gaylord was billed as a Duck Act with Gaylord being the duck. Moving quickly through his patter lines, Bill produced Gaylord from an empty wooden bucket; went on with a sharp routine with a headchopper and a member of the audience; and closed by making Gaylord disappear. The last bit fooled a good number of magicians and was equally puzzling to the lay people.
Todd Robbins, introduced as the "Magnificent Charles," presented an interlude of well routined magical mishaps. In a great tramp clown costume, Todd kept the audience laughing with his efforts to live up to his billing. Good clown is difficult for anyone. But Todd has mastered the art and proved it.
Jeff Young, the club's president, presented a pitch act loaded with comedy and magic. Pushing his "SUMMA DIS" and "SUMMA DAT" product sales kit, his rapid fire delivery was interrupted constantly by laughter and applause from the crowd. Ah, youth! It's a shame such talent is wasted on the young!
Dirk Arthur, closing the turn, came on to produce doves! Now these were not the ordinary variety, but huge, brilliantly colored birds. Neither were the productions of the ordinary type. Try to imagine BAREHANDED productions! That's Dirk's style. And he doesn't stop with two, four, or six birds either. There haven't been so many birds seen outside an aviary. . . and the count doesn't include the huge chicken and duck he produced at his close. Birdmen beware! Dirk has everything going for him, including the ability to entertain!
The troupe provided a fitting close for the show. Such youthful talent, enthusiasm, and showmanship deserved eyery bit of the applause that resounded through the auditorium. Remember their names!
Bob Lewis, everyone's favorite banjo plucker, emceed the grand finale show on Saturday. A fully packed house welcomed him and enjoyed his comments from the start. Bob has a way with words and delivery that has made him one of the top performers in the clubdate field. And he demonstrated his prowess for an appreciative crowd.
First on was John Bryan, a sharp looking young man who ran through his act with verve. A lot of candles appeared and disappeared before he produced a candelabrum. His Zombie worked, and he produced flowers and doves. In closing, John did the now familiar disappearing doves in the cage. He earned and received a good hand.
Randy Brown provided an interlude of comedy and expert paddle ball handling during his turn onstage. Randy is a professional from the word "go," and his handling of the material proved it. Some fantastic control of the ball and paddle brought applause along with laughter. He's a tough act to follow especially when the audience is so pleased with his work.
But O'Dowd and Sondra did follow him with some fine illusions - "Split Personality," the Sub-Trunk, and the Cremation Cabinet - all were well-presented and received. O'Dowd's interlude with two children provided laughs galore. Producing eggs from a hat, he had a small boy trying to hold them all in his arms. After the first dozen, the lad began running into problems and his expressions were priceless. O'Dowd does well with the bit and the audience rewarded him with a great hand.
Jose de la Torre has a penchant for producing tall glasses of liquid from the most unlikely props: balloons, silks, and newspapers. The productions were always a surprise. His version of the Professor's Nightmare sent many magicians scurrying for their own ropes hoping to duplicate it. Jose's coin handling drew great applause, and the crowd went wild when he brought out two large brandy snifters, filled with liquid, for his finish.
Richard and Maria Suey presented their Chilean style of legerdemain and produced birdcages galore from nowhere. The Mutilated Parasol, Linking Rings, and silk productions were delightfully presented and they went off to a great hand from the crowd. The Sueys have been cruise ship favorites for many years.
Bob Lewis and Ginny opened the second half of this extravaganza and had the crowd breaking up with his first words. Finely honed humor is Bob's trademark and his style is unmatched anywhere. More than that, he's a fine magician as well but never attracts attention to his work. His handling of a piece of rope, while commenting on the state of the world, is almost thrown away. It's that casual. For those who saw it, it was evidence of a great deal of practice, and it paid off.
Ginny adds to the act in her own way. Her timing, combined with Bob's, offers a clue as to why this popular team is such a success. She provides bounce and verve as a contrast to Bob's more deliberate delivery. And the two complement each other. And about the only thing she doesn't throw (or drop) is Bob's "old faithful" banjo.
You have to hear and see him play to fully appreciate the music he coaxes from this drum with strings. Foot tapping rhythms are hard to beat. And his closing number has every audience clapping hands in time to the music. This crowd was no different, and they rewarded the Lewis' with prolonged applause. They deserved it!
Karrell Fox closed the show. What can be said about the magical mayhem he produces every time? Quick witted Fox has that rare ability to recognise the humor in most every situation. And he makes the most of it when he lampoons the little slips and flaws in acts that have gone on before. But his madness is never derisive, only fun. Even the acts break up with his antics. Some have been known to feel hurt if Karrell doesn't include them in his satire. The stage becomes crowded with his assistants Dickson, Kissell, Flint, Oslund and others, even Recil Bordner. And the mess grows deeper as the troupe follows Karrell's lead. While the lay audience may not understand it all, the sheer bedlam created brings laughs to everyone. The Foxy one and his crew received a well deserved standing ovation.
Thus the 40th Get Together closed. There were other activities too - lectures, closeup work, contests, Bingo for the ladies, and a luncheon for the senior citizens. There was also the matinee performance, at an extra fee, for the benefit of the Colon Lions' work with the blind. Karrell Fox emceed in great style and along with Abb Dickson convulsed everyone with their Hearing Aid routine. Don Theobald, as TBone the Clown, performed his 50 minute presentation of comedy, magic and puppets. Well staged and planned. Jay Marshall and "Lefty" were in top form and are perennial favorites everytime they appear on the Get Together. Whitey Roberts did a turn to great applause. Dale Salwak, who had just returned from a months tour in Japan, presented his smooth as silk sleight of hand. From all reports, the turnout was a success and resulted in a fine contribution to the Lions Club.
And the crowd now awaits Abbott's offering for next year!
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