Abbotts 60th Get Together 1997
by Gordon Miller
Detroit may be "Hockeytown", but for four fun-filled days (and nights) every August, Colon is "Magictown". Welcome to the 60th edition of this annual gathering, the Abbott Magic Get-Together! It's that magical time of year when Colon demonstrates its hospitality to thousands of guests from around the world. They are all here to take part in a super extravaganza featuring the best in our mysterious art of trickery.
The first thing to disappear...right before your very eyes...just might be your ticket to one of the five different public shows!
Wednesday, Aug 6 will usher in a truly unique presentation. A team of local film makers has produced a documentary style film about Colon and magic, entitled "City of Magic". Famous celebrities from the world of magic are featured, in performance and in on-screen interviews. This video will open the Wednesday show. In the flesh performers, in order of their expected appearance, are: Colon's Gordon Miller as master of ceremonies; Kovari, Jr. son of The Great Kovari; Richard Hughes, with old and new style magical effects: Woody Pittman, an off-the-wall comedian/magician; and Lee Germaian with theatrical showmanship.
Each evening, during the convention, the auditorium doors are opened at 7:30, in advance of the 8:00 show, and during that half hour early arriving guests are treated to the highly visual comedy of Lark the Clown. Lark's moniker is Simon Lovell, and he's originally from England.
Thursday nights performers include: Nancy Darst of St. Louis, who features novel tricks: The Great Kovari, a master illusionist; Cheney & Mills, top-flight jugglers: young Joshua Jay, who has won trophies at numerous magic convention competitions; and, David Seebach with his original illusions and effects in his "Wonders of Magic" show.
"Busy" is the key word for Friday's Get-Together. Magicians can attend the second edition of Vent-O-Rama (dealing with ventriloquism); and the only performance of the Close-Up show which features four performers who specialize in intimate magic presented under "up close and personal" conditions. This year we have four of the finest: Mike close, Patrick Page, Tom Ogden, and Peter Scarlett. And late at night, near the "witching hour", talented Tom Mullica will present his lecture/session/happening combination for the assembled wizards.
Friday's evening show begins with England's Peter Scarlett as master of ceremonies. Dale Salwak, who was a student of the late, great Neil Foster, will perform his skillful sleight of hand; Tom Ogden follows with a lunatic-fringe appearance; Margaret Steele presents ancient mysteries of magic with a modern flair; Patrick Page of England will appear in full Scottish regalia and a sly and subtle sense of humor; Tom Mullica, with the strangest sense of humor in captivity; and the program ends with Victor & Diamond, with live animals in their magic show.
We hope you have been conserving your energy through the first three days of the Colon conclave. You'll need that reserve power for Saturday. Magic show fanatics (that's everyone we know) are in double-dip heaven! At 2:00 the Special Benefit Matinee performance is presented. Proceeds go to the Get-Together co-sponsor, the Colon Lions club, for its charitable work with the blind and vision-impaired. Master of ceremonies is Hank Moorehouse; he introduces Thursday's senior talent contest winner and Friday's junior talent contest winner; the Great Kovari will make a special appearance; the Magic Gypsy, Franco, will attempt Houdini's Chinese Water Torture Cell Escape; and the finale will be an appearance by Mark & Susan Holstein with a full stage illusion spectacular.
Immediately following the matinee performance, in the same auditorium, a special memorial ceremony for Harry Blackstone Jr will be held...at approximately 4:00.
For more than a century, the name Blackstone has been synonymous with magic. Harry Blackstone Jr and his father before him were the great classical magicians. they brought their spectacular show, complete with floating light bulbs, vanishing elephants and ladies sawed in half, to town and cities both large and small across the United States. Without pop-star pretentions, the Blackstone shows were synonymous with fun and laughter and rabbits from hats.
In 1980, the Blackstone show played at New York's Majestic theatre for the longest run of any magic review in Broadway history. With a company of dozens of assistants, colorful scenery and tons of illusions, the show was described as "pure magic" (Time magazine) and as "irresistible entertainment" (Variety). John Simon of New York magazine described his illusions as "more real than reality" and his patter as "fast and funny". Mel Gussow of the New York Times proclaimed "Blackstone is a master" and Marilyn Stassio of the New York Post described his show as "the creme de la creme of magic acts...by the end of the show there's so much laughing and carrying on that you can't tell the grownups from the kids". The Broadway show later became a two-hour PBS television special broadcast from a vaudeville theatre in Minneapolis where Harry Jr had appeared with his father as a young boy. Calvin Trillin of the New Yorker described Blackstone as "the leading exemplar of the formal tradition of grand illusion" and Newsweek described his touring extravaganza as "the largest and most spectacular travelling illusion show ever".
Over the years, many younger magicians assumed the trappings of pop stars...the deafening music and the smoke and laser effects...but Blackstone deliberately crafted his shows in the tradition of his illustrious father and other grand masters of illusion. To many in magic, his floating light globe remains a high point in the stage magic of the last half-century.
Born in Three Rivers, Harry spent his early years in Colon on Blackstone island, his father's summer headquarters, where he annually refurbished his large illusion show. Harry junior's career in magic began at the age of six months, vanishing and re-appearing in his father's act.
No magician in history has been more honored by his peers. In March 1994, Harry Blackstone was named a recipient of the prestigious Masters Fellowship presented by the Academy of Magical Arts at Hollywood's Magic Castle, a private club with a large international membership of magicians and magic enthusiasts. In 1979 and 1985 he was named as Magician of the Year by that organization and was an honorary member of London's prestigious Inner Magic Circle. he authored several books on the subject of magic including "The Blackstone Book of Magic", "My Life as a Magician", and "There's One Born Every Minute".
Harry Blackstone dies on May 14th in California. He is survived by his wife, Gay, and daughters Cynthia Blackstone, Adrenne Blackstone, Tracy Crosby, and Bellamie Blackstone, and a granddaughter. His son, Harry Blackstone III, preceded him in death.
There is no admission charge for this gathering and all interested parties are encouraged to attend. Several speakers and a special video event will honor the memory of one of magic's greatest performers and also, one of the world's nicest people. This tribute will be all the more special because of the interlocking of Magic...the Blackstones...and Colon. Doors will be open and seating will be available directly after the conclusion of the matinee performance.
Saturday night's show, which is always special, opens with Mike Close as master of ceremonies. Performers include young Danny Cole, a very clever kid: Todd Charles, who blends music with magic with mayhem; Rebekah yen, with an exotic act; Karrell Fox, a Get Together institution; Alan and Ann Shaxon with a demonstration of suave and urbane mental dexterity; and, to bring the shows to a close, Amos Levkovitch with his live doves.
We will have witnessed four days of magic...of wonder and laughter, and nostalgia, too, remembering those other showmen and artist we have watched perform who have gone beyond our ken. And we will have watched and learned from dozens of talented performers...the best in the business talking, teaching and performing. Many of the magicians who come to learn at these Get-togethers are not full time performers; they are dedicated to other professions and businesses, from the ministry to labor-relations boards, and they use the skills and arts learned here in their day-to-day work.
And, like all Abbott Get-Together evening shows, there is likely to be an unannounced surprise or two along the way. Tonight's show will be no exception...so, see you there!
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