Abbotts 18th Get Together 1953
by Demon Rembrandt
Another successful congregation of Magicians came to a close with the final show of the 18th annual Abbott Magic Get-Together at Three Rivers, Mich., Sept. 1-5, exceeding all expectations as to attendance and excellence of its magical and entertainment fare. The official registration figure was 652.
And Three Rivers, gave the visitors a royal welcome with banners lining the streets throughout the business section and "Welcome, Magicians" on store windows. All this and the general friendliness of the townspeople were greatly appreciated by the Magicians.
Of course there was a nostalgic remark here and there from some of those who had enjoyed previous Abbott affairs, wishing it had been held in Colon, but, nevertheless, to com a phrase, "a good time was had by all.
Prominent in the interest of the visiting Magicians was the entertainment fare offered and this was of the usual high order, with Suzy Wandas of Belgium, making her first appearance before American audiences; Bill Neff, Chang, and Fred Grundy of New Zealand being featured. ,
Visitors began arriving the first part of the week and demonstrations on the stage in the elaborate showroom set up in the High School gym were the principal entertainment feature. By Wednesday night, however, a large part of the crowd was there and along with members of the Chamber of Commerce, who handled the local details for the affair, and other guests, they enjoyed the opening event of the scheduled program - a cabaret "night before" party. There was a snack lunch, entertainment and dancing, although the intense heat discouraged much of the latter. Dorny emceed the show which included acrobatics by the Dell Davis Girls, Magic by George Coon, Jim Ryan, John Straub and his family; stories by Bob Lewis, Mel's chalk act, a cute Monkey in the Basket by Janet Clinton, juggling by Earl Davis, and a dancing and Magic specialty by Rose Mary Daley.
The Thursday show was staged in the High School Auditorium, as were all the public shows - a sellout and many availed themselves of standing room. Percy Abbott appeared promptly at 8 P. M. and was given an ovation which swelled as the curtain was unintentionally pushed aside to reveal the boxes for the candy sale. No Abbott show would be complete without Percy's candy pitch and this traditional opener. Percy then introduced Dorny as the M. C, who was in fine form and after greeting the crowd, introduced the opening act, John Straub and family to do a series of silk productions. Phil D'Rey, ventriloquist, came on next and wowed them with his handling of a small monkey hand puppet playing a trumpet, and his hilarious dialog with a big ape he called Gangrene. Don Sweet and Louise followed with a smart Magic act in which figured a dove vanish, flower production. 20th Century and Mutilated Parasol all presented in the deft Sweet manner. Bill Talent on next kept up the pace of the show with his fast juggling act, performing with balls, plates and clubs, closing with his famous egg stunt and got a tremendous hand.
Then came Suzy Wandas to close the first half with her beautiful presentation of manipulative Magic - superlatives are futile here, for this lady entranced all, Magicians and lay audience alike, with the perfection of her manipulative gestures with cigarettes and cards, card fans, the cane to silk, some silk capers and a neat paper tear. The applause that followed each bit was sufficient verification of the advance reports on Suzy from abroad proclaiming her to be "The Lady with the Fairy Fingers."
The second half was taken over by Bill Neff and for the Magicians who have seen his show, that should be sufficient. Bill and his "Madhouse of Mystery" is grand entertainment. His dramatic presentation of every illusion and his comedy interludes with kids and others from the audience are "tops."
The Friday show also opened with a candy sale, and then Dorny introduced Bob Morehead who did cups and balls, silks on tape, and the card sword in fine fashion, then the Dell Davis Girls dashed in for a second appearance with their tumbling, and Al Saal, always a good performer, did shadowgraphs that brought him plenty of laughs and a big hand. Then came a Dorny interlude in which he and Frances Ireland, posing as his wife, visited a Hindu wonder worker, otherwise Don Sweet, who vanished the lady neatly and when he declared he was the only one to bring her back, was promptly shot - by Dorny. Alexander, the Magic Chef, then came on with an amusing act with duck pan with a comedy duck, a paper tear which resulted in a chef's hat and an apron for his assistant, and other tricks with a culinary touch. Neil Foster closed the first half with his smart and graceful manipulative act. His maneuvering of the Zombie and his tricky handling and production of cards were beautiful to see and were roundly applauded.
The Chang show filled the second half and ran long so that it was edging on toward midnight when he presented the blooming rose bush as his closing feature. His program ran the gamut of magical effects, Egg on fan, tipsy-turvy bottles, clocks to watches, aerial fishing, shooting through a woman, wrist tie and a fast substitution trunk. Costume changes were one of the highlights of his act and they were frequent; it seemed there was a new robe for each trick - and they were all dazzling.
Saturday night there were two shows and with a couple of exceptions, they were indentical. Seats for the early show were sold only to the public and on this show came the climax of one of the promotion features. A chest containing predictions on news events made by Bill Neff three weeks previously and displayed in a store window since, was opened on the stage in the presence of Mayor Frank Warner, Chief of Police Merle Godber and a stage committee. What? Certainly the predictions were found to jibe with the current headlines.
With the exception of John Straub who, assisted by his family, did a neat double exchange bit, and Earl Davis, comedy juggler, who had previously made a hit with the Magi audience, the acts on the first Saturday show appeared later for the Magician public show. The second show opened with Dr. Bondreau, who put a spirit bell through its paces, and the Dell Davis Girls appeared again. Then came Foo Ling Yu (Don Sweet in Chinese character) doing a fast and amusing turn with turban, Chinese laundry ticket, dove catching, rice bowls, silk and rabbit production and a fast and hilarious presentation of the head sword box. Fred Grundy of New Zealand, making his first American appearance, performed three effects - and well - Soft Soap, a 20th Century idea adapted to three spools of thread (reels of cotton, he said) and a ribbon, and the Chinese sticks with interesting patter that held the audience throughout and sent him off with a spontaneous hand. Bill Pitts did a flower and bowl production, head chopper and then an exchange illusion in which he posed as a photographer. Vernon Carr did a neat job with several rope tricks, his Buddha Temple effect, and silks and bowl productions. Jack Rench followed with a flag staff production and a mystifying girl vanish. Then came Dorny's interlude (only on this show) "Magic of 1999" in which he as the Magician sat on a throne and directed his assistant, Don Sweet, who did all the work. The laughs weer plenty as this skit was presented by two ace fun makers. Phil D'Rey, appearing for the second time, came out with a violin and did a Vent solo on the thing, then again brought out Gangrene. From that time on he and the ape had everything their own way with an audience weak from laughing.
Suzy Wandas closed with her beautiful manipulations and a clever arrangement of different and startling rope tricks, all climaxed with a fast production of silks from a square circle, the last one a huge flag which covered the entire back wall.
The shows were all interesting, entertaining and enjoyable. Dorny, who handled the M.C. chore for all the shows, kept them moving at an even pace, and individually did the job even better than ever. And not the least of the performers was Wilma Rench at the organ. Hers was no mean accomplishment, for the musical accompaniment which means so much to a show, was tricky and diversified on all the shows.
The scenic investure of the shows was more elaborate this year and this was due to Bill Neff, who labored manfully to augment the backstage facilities so that the various curtains supplied by Chang, Dorny and Abbott, could be hung. Bill and his helpers, Sydney Abbott and Bob Trayling, worked days on this, and the results were rewarding.
Aside from the evening entertainment, there were two afternoon lectures - one by Chang and the other by Bill Neff. Chang showed some interesting motion pictures, some in color, of strange people and customs which he shot in India, Burma, the Philippines and elsewhere in the Orient, all delightfully described in Chang's accompanying commentary. Bill Neff's lecture was most unusual and was unanimously approved. Many said it all too short. It dealt with the proper preparation for a Magic show, and Bill appealed to the Magicians present to do decent shows, shows that indicated they had been properly pre-pared. He decried the lack of preparation practiced by many who attempt to entertain with Magic.
Many ladies were present this year, some of them interested in Magic, others accompanying their Magician husbands. All of them, however, enjoyed the fur fashion show arranged for them on three afternoons and a luncheon at the country club.
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