Abbotts 35th Get Together 1972
by Francis Marshall
As always, the biggest trick at the Get Together is the phenomena of a thousand people gathered from the ends of the earth into a town whose total population is only around a thousand. Every year, Recil Bordner pulls this one out of the hat and every year it works. Some of the people who screamed the loudest about the housing last year had such a dream place this year that they arranged guided tours. Nobody is ever seriously inconvenienced, and after all, thats just talking about a place to sleep. The other sixteen to twenty waking hours are spent in such delightful magical pursuits that some magicians leave their next years registration money in Recil's hand as they say goodbye.
Making comparisons between Get-Togethers of various years is like trying to decide which of your children you love best. 1972 could be called the "Year of the Cape," or the "Year of the Legs and long hair." It was the year in which the young magicians stood out, being predominant on every show, and none was complete without a long swinging cape, a few illusions, and girls, girls, girls, with shining veils of waist length hair, long slim legs seen to the crotch. Body shirts completed most of the costumes, sparked with various clever ideas like a long, silver tie around skirt that left plenty of leg and thigh showing. The male magicians among the younger set tossed hair out of their eyes as is the mode, and succeeded, in some degree, in doing what they set out to do -- show up the Establishment. Unfortunately, the establishment had the experience, born of having to eat off their profession. When the young crowd gets hungry - that's when they'll get great!
So much for general observance. Judging by the applause, by the quick return to their steamy seats after gulps of cool Michigan air, the crowd loved it, from kickoff Wednesday evening until the beginning of early morning hours on Sunday.
Regulars know that the Wednesday night show is partly made up of Abbott personnel and selections from the various guest artists. Gordon Miller, who after an introduction and welcome from Dorny, whose association with Get Togethers extends over decades. Opening with the McComb Table, Gordon combined magic with his Doodles act. Dorny next introduced Jimmy Wear and his daughter. After some small magic, including a version of the passe bottles, Jimmy went into a handcuffs escape, a Tiger escape, and a Pillory escape. The latter used four men from the audience holding a tent. Joyce Heitler, known to TOPS readers due to mentions of her magical womens rights campaigns in Chicago, now had her chance to show that she could do magic, too. In her ten minutes, she did several effects building up to a finish which no man could do. Holding a small cloth screen in front of her for an instant, she changed from a prosaic school teacher type into the Cinderella princess at the ball -- complete with "Coach."("Coach" is a play on words. When she calls for it, her husband, Frank, who is really a high school coach, comes out in his working clothes and whistle). We have had several magicians performing from wheel chairs, one, a South American, with only one arm, some deaf mutes, but seldom one who is entirely blind. The next act was Dr. Chronos, who has no sight and yet managed to perform, with his wife Ellen, a Flash Appearance, Twin Boxes to produce a girl, Arturos Girl in Sixths, Botania, and other bouquet productions, ending with a slatted cabinet production of flowers that was followed by the production of a girl. In all, he had a company of five.
After intermission, Harry Collins, assisted by Gail Martin, presented a night club style act with various dove effects spotted through a routine fo silks, cards, "Out Of My Hat" rabbit, Twentieth Century, Miser's Dream, flowers, etc. Harry Collins is the Frito Lay magician, who with Gail or another girl assistant, travels thousands of miles each year appearing at various trade shows, grocers conventions, etc. in the name of Frito Lay and Pepsi Cola. The next act was Millicent Zeek (Thoroughly Magical Millie) from Florida, where she has been active entertaining women's clubs and other local parties. She kept her ten minutes very feminine, presenting various silk effects, the paper hat, flowers from cone, Mutilated Parasol, etc., and ending with Dukes Dye Tube. Dennis Loomis and Bonnie wound up the show with Color Change Plumes, Fish Bowl productions, various other silk effects and ending with the Zig Zag girl. After which many conventioneers repaired to the American Legion where Ralph Geer played the piano and Roy Krizan the banjo. Many others went off to the grade school to watch the demonstrations. Since everybody did one of these things each night after the show (except for a tiny few who went to bed) this is the last time I will mention it.
On Thursday night, George Johnstone was the M.C. Don Ziegler opened the show in white leather with a gal in hot pants and gold lame shirt. They worked their way thru a Temple of Benares with a poodle, Balloon to Dove, Plume trick, Mutilated Parasol, Zombie, the Zig Zag, Streamer and Flag Production. Bob Mason followed with Reggie Dixon, "Red" in his ventriloquist act. Bob was most conservative in a black tux. George then introduced Ken Diamond and Louise. They produced doves, put them into a purse, and changed them into a big butterfly silk. They followed with other silk effects, the Sands of India, and would up with the Sub Trunk. The two helpers were Kent Richards and Hank Moorehouse. Since the "Crucifixion" which rocked an Abbott Get-Together years ago, not many torture acts have been used. Komar changed all that with his Walking on Nails, Jumping on Nails, Guys Jumping on Him, Walking on Four Swords, Eating Fireballs, and Breaking a Paving block. It may set a new trend. George Johnstone, who made himself entertaining between all the acts, threw in the Razor Blades at this point (not to be outdone by Komar) and with a slightly cut tongue, introduced the Deceptive Webers. This team from South Bend worked their way efficiently thru doves, canes, silks, candles, balloons, eggs, tambourines, chickens and winding up with a Botania. Sid Lorraine, long a popular figure at Abbott's, cleverly presented a Then and Now version of "Frasnia", first as a street pitchman, then as a TV pitchman. The show ended with Ken Griffin and Roberta doing pieces from their full evening show and proving what they put into print in the book of that name.
Jack Pyle, pro from Chicago, emceed the Friday night show. He introduced the visitor who had come the farthes - Ken Robinson of Australia - on his way around the world. After a few Pyle specialties, he introduced Kent Richards and Dottie. Kent, with two girls costumes as described earlier, surprised everyone with one huge goose production. An innovation with the huge Rabbit on Broomstick Levitation, followed by a Haunted House complete with wild sound effects ( A Temple of Benares in disguise, I think). Act ended with an escape effect. They won the Gwynne Trophy for excellence. Randy Brown and his paddle ball act has been the hit of Sports Shows everywhere, and added a nice touch of variety to this magic show. The Sundmann's followed with their unusual and unrivalled silk act, in strong contrast to the riotous Randy. Then in another pleasing change, Jack introduced Barclay Shaw. This nationally famous puppet act, with the little clown and the wicked hen, has no competition. Back again to magic, we next saw Torino and Faye, with doves, cigarettes, beads, cards, and more doves. They showed the young crowd how it should be done, when it came to the tricks where years of practice made all the difference.
Like Dorny, like Neil, like Duke, Senator Crandall is a sort of fixture at Abbott Get-Togethers, and hard put to know what to do to make it different. This time he did a routine with a rope ala clothesline, plus an irate washing lady. Jack Pyle was busy between all the acts, emceeing as only a pro knows ho to do it. At this spot in the show he did his magazine memory bit, plus other things that led up to his BIG rabbit production. The resulting scream of surprise, even from those who knew what was coming, must be most gratifying to him. the show ended with a young crowd called Divad and Company (Dave Seebach of Milwaukee who has done some college shows). More capes, hair in the eyes, gals with legs, the whole scene. Divad, aware of the generation gap even in magic, told the audience he was going to try to show them that the "kid from Milwaukee" knew what he was doing. This, because of his articles in TOPS. The Company worked its way thru a stage full of props, including another Temple of Benares. Divad spoke well and clearly, with good sentence construction, which added much to the presentations.
The Saturday night show, with the weather no cooler, began with Mike Caldewell as M.C., which made for the fourth fully professional emcee that week, and all doing great jobs. Uneven shows take a really experienced man to handle and get the best out of. you can't lose by bringing on a favorite like Monk Watson, and he can't lose by doing his winners, all of them. This was followed by Professor Noodle, with whimsical pseudo magic, prize winner of the contests. Chuck Windley and Company, complete with Temple of Benares, Fire Eating, Tear Apart Vanish, Wrist Tie and many other numbers brought the Abbott Catalogue to life. Sam Berland, Chicago lecturer and performer, kept the audience intrigued with his own variations of cigarettes, coins, silks, etc., including a fascinating coin ladder. Something gorgeous, with a smile, more legs, and a knowing swing of the hips that could only be pure Gwynne, turned out to be the late Jack Gwynne's grand daughter, Beth Cole. She carried off Sam's gear and got a big hand of her own.
Ralph Adams was seen at Abbott's several years ago and caused a big stir with his illusions, but little score with his small tricks. This time he showed to much better advantage because he did a tight, compact little routine with his very best numbers. His opening was the silks dancing in and out of a huge bottle, followed by various illusions worked out by well trained young people. He built the act thru to a finish in which he had a huge trellis of bouquets produced, seemingly solidly filling the back wall. Suddenly, before it, there appeared a live woman, enhancing her appearance with huge butterfly wings. This sort of thing is seldom seen these days, and was most spectacular. Bob Downey followed, with a dove, cigarette and card act full of surprises, and skill one expects from a man who has played half way around the world. The last act was the Gustafsons, who also won the Blackstone trophy for showmanship. Their act was a melange of candles and silks and other pretty things, with one surprise on top of another. Gustafson has the greatest assortment of tricky flame effects ever seen by these audiences, and each one is good for a hearty round of applause. It takes an engineer to devise an act like his, and it takes a good magician to present it. Gustafson has the best of both professions, plus a smile that wins the audience. What that act could have done in vaudeville!
Duke Stern and Karrell Fox have built a tradition of doing a zany show to end each Get-Together. They lampoon the acts, dirty up the stage beyond belief, as well as each other. This year was no exception. It was wild and wet, with Ab Dickson in the only clothes suitable for such an act - turban and loincloth. If there was a high point, to such a skyrocketing piece of business as this, it happened at the moment when Karrell carefully laid one dozen eggs on a chair, one by one. A moment later he called Duke over and that unsuspecting buffoon sat down on the eggs. He didn't sit down fast. He sat down slowly, and as the eggs crunched beneath him they ran out thru the holes in the seat of the chair. It was beautiful to watch. The amusement level of that audience was immediately apparent -- we knew what we liked! So much for the nights. Following the show, on one evening excerpts from the Mark Wilson "Magic Circus" were run off, and of course endless demonstrations, auctions, etc., at the showrooms.
Daytime events included close up magic, lectures by Karrell Fox, Richard Gustafson, and Bruce Posgate, a talent contest, Magi-Ministers Lecture, Vent-O-Rama, and on Friday, a special benefit matinee featuring Neil Foster and the Amazing Conklins. On two afternoons, the ladies were entertained, once by a sweet Adelines quartet, and on Saturday by the Big Prize Party. Everyone left loaded down with gifts and filled up with cold drinks and goodies.
The audiences were the usual combination of celebrities, well known pros, enthusiastic amateurs and folks wide eyed at their first experience at living intimately with magic. The complaints, altho few, were the same as always - why don't they build a Hilton in Colon, why doesn't Maxim's open up on Main Street, why doesn't Colon have the climate of Bar Harbor? When I left, I understood that Recil was taking all these thing under advisement, and by Get-Together, 1973, he expects to have some solutions. Ha!
P.S. One more thing -- if ever there was a long suffering, sweet natured, co-operative member of the Musicians Union, it is one Wilma Rench who plays for all the shows. The most inept act gets the most helpful treatment from her music, the most scintillating pro gets as good as he would from the Boston Pops -- There's nobody like Wilma, even when she gets sprayed on or squirted on -- she still smiles and plays on.
Magic Benefit Matinee at Abbotts 35th Get-Together Big Success
The Friday afternoon Benefit Matinee was a huge success both artistically and financially. As emcee Duke Stern explained to the almost packed house, that the matinee was for the benefit of the charitable works of the local Colon Lions club in their work for the blind.
Neil Foster's 45 minute show in which several new and original tricks were seen comprised the first half. Even in the hot auditorium the afternoon audience gave him a standing ovation.
The second half of the show was presented by Colon's Magical Family, the Amazing conklins, Jerry and Shirley, daughter Cindy and son Mike. The polished professionalism of this family stood out in everything they did. The Amazing Conklin's are booked solid for October. Wilma Rench was at the organ and played the show in grand style.
The Abbott Magic Company and their co-sponsor, the Colon Lions Club, wish to thank everyone who attended this matinee for such a worthwhile cause.
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