Abbotts 45th Get Together 1982
As told to Frances Marshall by Jay Marshall
After decades of successful Abbott Get-Togethers, the reins passed from the some times despotic Percy Abbot to the gentler hands of Recil Bordner -- without a noticeable change of pace. 1982 saw another change, this time into the hands of vouth, and many an old-timer wondered if it might be "different". Greg Bordner learned his lessons well from his dad. The big crowd, with its high percentage of seniors and middle-agers, pronounced it one of the best gatherings ever. Of course, Greg had put a little research into it, studying what people enjoy. Much of this was done at the topless beaches and swimming pools of Europe - he has become an expert. Ask him to show you his text book.
A different look was given to the Wednes day night show - it was presented as a full evening bv one great artist and his company - Landis Smith. In our day, it is not possible to see a magic show of this type, except as presented bv Landis. We urge you to attend, if he tours anywhere near you.
At the Get-Together Landis did a flash appearance in a throne, performed the Shower of Sparks and did fire eating in a red velvet suit and Russian make up. There was a flashbackof Landis and his partner Gorky as street performers and an amusing 3 card monte involving Mrs. Smith, leading into a broomstick suspension.
Highlighting the 2nd of 3 acts was a French restaurant scene featuring the Organ Pipes. (The high point of that routine being the production of dinner plates bigger in diameter than the organ pipes.) Other items that got to the audience were Gorky and the Electric Chair, (his three assistants from the audience were Harry Blackstone, Karrell Fox and Abb Dickson.) Dancing hanks in the Bottles, the Assistant's Revenge, the Germaine Rose Bush, Sawing Thru A Girl with a Laser Beam, the DeKolta Chair, the Vampire Illusion and the Levitation which tracks forward and has caused much discussion among out people. These are only some of the tricks seen by that lucky Wednesday night audience.
During the day on Wednesday, people were arriving constantly, and rushing over to catch the afternoon lectures at the high school. Stewart James presented a lecture which was acclaimed by many as one of the best they ever heard. He shared the afternoon with Mike Caveney who has numerous chances to keep his material polished, living as he does in the shadow of the Magic Castle. You can see it is important to get to the Get-Together early -- you could easily miss one of the top days and nights.
Greg was newly returned from FISM, which is literally built around contests, and has many ideas to further contests, American style. Abbott's have always had good representation of talent, and Neil Foster got the first ground work underway at 9 A.M. on Thursday morning.
Later that morning, the ventriloquists gathered for their first session, and that afternoon, New York entertainer and magic dealer, George Schindler, passed on a lot of valuable information to the lecture audience.
At the same hour, the first ladies' Bingo party was held at the Masonic Hall, led by Merrilyn Merrill and helpers. An unusually large group attended, with a count of 67. Many left with attractive prizes under their arms, anxious to trv their luck at the second party.
The Thursday night evening show at the High School began to create suspicion in the minds of the veteran audience. It was delightfully cool indoors and outdoors on Wednesday - no performer had to stop to mop his brow. Now, on Thursday, the crowd walked across the breeze swept lawns into the big hall, and felt wonderful. This was Colon. It couldn't last! But it didl Nature played right along with the Get-Together and kept it cool day and night, inside and out. All the way thru to Sunday! But on Thursday, the word was: "How long is this going to last?"
A comfortable audience watched a group of comfortable actors put on a dandy show. Rory Johnston from California was M.C., calling on Jeff Korst to open the show. Jeff is one of Chicago's very talented young performers, great with a manipulative act of doves, silks, cards, fire, candles, a champagne bucket and everything that goes just right with a spectacular tail suit. He was followed by Martin Lewis, son of the famous Eric Lewis, and a fine performer in his own right. He did his various British funny things with rings, rope, silks, etc., and won over the audience.
Rory Johnson borrowed a dollar bill, vanished it and it wound up pinned to the back of his coat with a large safety pin. A further interesting variation of the torn and restored bill was after identifying the bill by the retained corner, he restored the corner before returning the bill. The next act was fresh from winning the comedy award at FISM - Otto Wessely and Christa. As in Lausanne, they had this audience in screams. A very hard act to follow, so they called intermission to calm them down.
The second oart of the evening was taken over bv Gen. Grant (of the much talked about dove lecture) followed by the Jerry Conklin Show, complete with a new castle set background. They did a group of illusions, including the Arabian Tent, Hindu Basket, Doll House, Down on the Farm, Duck Vanish, Duck Production, Asrah with a substitution finish involving a big rabbit, dancing on stage. They also included a number of smaller effects, and for the first time on a Colon stage, enlisted the services of grandson Shawn. He earned himself a huge round of applause by carrying off a rabbit almost as big as he was, and losing his straw hat on the way. He manfully regained it and walked off stage in true Conklin tradition - in triumph.
After a good night's sleep, people drank their Friday morning coffee amid sweet cool breezes, and hurried over to the contin uation of the magic talent contest. The ventriloquists returned to the Vent-A-Rama to talk without moving their lips, with many strange little fellows sitting on their knees.
Friday afternoon, most of the conventioneers went to the Special Benefit Matinee, given for the Colon Lion's Club Charity Fund for the Blind. Featured on this show were Mitch Williams, Contest Winner from 1981, Larry Vee, Juggler, Otto Wessely with a completely different but equally hilarious act and Harry Blackstone, who needs no introduction.
On Friday night, the evening show was emceed by George Schindler. It opened with Jeff Wawrzaszek, popular with this audience who have watched him grow from a boy magician into a sophisticated and talented professional. He featured a Voo Doo Ring routine in black light and a robot littercan number with a torn and restored newspaper. In his M.C. spot, George Schindler introduced Cecil, his big rabbit vent figure, to show another facet of his talents. The fellow with the ears sang "You Are My Sunshine."
Next came Steve Biller, a prize winner at the 1981 Get-Together. Jay Marshall was taken with his "dove darts" where he took what seemed to be doves from a tube and hurled them to the floor like a flower dart. They stuck in the floor by their beaks - a crazy concept which must have looked funny to the audience when this half dozen doves were all lined up, feet pointing skyward. After a lot of "bad gags" and stooges Steve finally found the Two of Diamonds.
Bob Mason, and his original Punch and Judy routine, using a boy from the audience (this time, Jesse Millard) followed. With so much on this show, the act would have been better if the intro duction had been shorter. George Schindler was next and Jay told me he did his Chinese Act, "On Too Long". George did his regular 30 minute funny club date act; but combined with his MC bits it was too much. He did lots of good audience participation and was assisted by his lovely wife, ending with the Divided Lady Illusion.
The biggest single feature of the entire affair was introduced next - America's Magic pride, Lance Burton. He took the highly coveted Grand Prix at FISM and tore this Colon crowd apart. He flew in from his regular show at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas, just to play this Get-Together show.
The hiring of Lance Burton was a coup on the part of Greg Bordner, because many of the conventioneers had never seen him, and even those who saw him at a different convention a couple of years ago, had not seen the man or the act that won the most coveted prize in the magic world.
Lance has a new variation on the Zombie finish. He produces a small white parakeet which climbs up his left arm. He produces a round metal bird cage, into which he places the parakeet. This small cage becomes the revolving Zombie. At the end of the routine he reaches under the cloth, pulls out a silver streamer, some white confetti and the bird and cage have vanished!
The last act of this show was Joe De Lion, star of the shows at the Pittsburgh Convention a few years ago and known for ex cellent work. Unfortunately, during the day that Friday, Joe was doing some exercising and horse play, resulting in a wrenched back. He was in pain, but said he could work the show okay. However, his discomfort got in the way of his good humor. While doing some good magic, juggling, fire eating and sword swallowing, he managed to disparage the audience, the town, the management and himself. It was rather an unhappy situation, and not at all the professional entertainer many of the people had seen before and admired.
Saturday came sooner than anyone wanted it to, but all good things have to end. That morning, the magic ministers met for a session conducted by Ralph Mills. The Vent-A-Rama wound up their activities at the Abbott Factory.
At noon, the traditional Senior Citizen's Brunch and Jollies Gathering was held at the American Legion. Due to some mixup in arrangements, and a departure from other years, the American Legion (who sell the food to the group) decided they would sell the advance tickets and collect the money direct. People were told to get their tickets at the Legion, but at the Legion, the designated ticket-seller was never around. It got a little involved, and we sincerely hope nobody was turned off by all this, and missed attending. A different arrangement will be worked out for 1983. We value our senior citizen magicians - we want them to be happy in this, their own special party.
The Senior's party was organized by June Horowitz, and she had lined up a fine bill of performers. Music is always a part of this party, and people look forward to hearing Bob Lewis, Howard Bamman, Connie Pelham and Bill Watson, playing their favorite old time tunes. (They were especially delighted to see Bob and the banjo, after a year of news of his illness. In fact, he had driven from Columbus where he had done a show the night before. Things wouldn't be the same without Bob and Ginny.)
Jay Marshall, was M.C. He brought on, to enthusiastic applause, Dr. A. Jack Vander Wal, Bob Lewis, Bruce Posgate, Bob Pinney, Sam Horowitz (with a laughable "Lament of a Magician's Husband"), Stewart James ("A Tall Tale"), Clare Cummings, Warren Stephens, Howard Bamman with an original song, an operatic duo featuring Bamman and Lewis, and a prize-winning pastime conducted by June Horowitz, "Name the Magician'. And so they ate and laughed and ate and talked and ate and enjoyed the show, and left in high spirits.
From the Senior's party, the dedicated magicians rushed over to the high school to catch General Grant holding forth on a very informative line of material on working with doves. If you want to learn to produce doves and know nothing about it now, all you have to do is watch and listen to the General Grant Dove Lecture. At the same time, the ladies were off to the Masonic Hall for the Bingo game and more lucky winners.
Saturday afternoon was also the occasion for the big close-up jamboree, with some awfully good performers at the tables. Close up work was done by Jack Pyle, George Schindler, Chuck King, Martin Lewis, Father Cyprian, and Daryl (this is Daryl Martinez, who was the Close Up Card winner at FISM).
The Saturday night show is always different from the other nights, in that it features the awards presentation - the really big moment for many of the boys - and also the Karrell Fox Wild and Wooley Magic Nonsense Jamboree.
There were thirty contestants in the contest, judged by June Horowitz, Bill Joy, and Rev. Bob Olson. This very worthy trio would not be swayed by anything but the merits of the act presented. All the entries were under 21 years of age, the youngest winner being ten and a half.
Neil Foster presented six hundred dollars in awards and advance 1983 registrations to the following winners. They are listed in the order of the awards, starting with first prize, and their ages are in parenthesis. William Commins (19), Crystal Westphal (14), Kip Barry (18), Steve Robinson (19), Matthew Jacobson (10), Bruce Johnson (19), Bart Pearce (20). Congratulations to all these fine winners and we hope they develop their acts and come back next year to take still another award. In the Vent-A-Rama category, awards were given to Paul Broughton (Jr. Award), Robert Baxt (Originality), and Sandy Bednar (Special Award).
Mike Caveney was M.C. for the Saturday night show. The opening act was Rory Johnson doing a number of illustrated slides and live blackouts. "Definitions of Magic Terms for the Layman" was the overall title. There were maybe a dozen -one will give you the idea. Otto Wessely picked up his wife and dropped her..."A French Drop." You get the idea. Following this was Jonathan Neal Brown, a blonde youth in striking all-black garb. He did a number of manipulative effects, his routine with two rings winning over the audience to a very big hand.
Mike Caveney has done the "arms juggling" many places to many magicians, but this audience enthusiastically applauded when he did it again, followed by the knife thru coat. He introduced the popular mime, Tina Lenert, always a crowd pleaser. The next act was another Californian -Stan Allen. He worked with a big gray rabbit puppet, "Stewart". He just about stopped the show with that number and was about to take a bow when Caveney pointed out that the California group had signed to do an hour and they were still three and a half minutes short.
Mike suggested Stan do something with some of the many props back stage. Stan asked if he could get Tina to help. It seems she couldn't but her cousin, Clarissa, in the audience could. Clarissa came on stage and picked up a broom to start to tidy up. Stan took her broom, stood it on a trash cart, and levitated the loudly objecting Clarissa. In fact, he wheeled her off stage on the cart, still protesting and still levitated. Quite a scene. (The audience by then had figured out that Clarissa and Tina were one and the same.)
After intermission, Harry Blackstone took over as only Harry Blackstone can. The real pro, in his element in a familiar place among people who think very highly of him. He complained that his radio microphone was not working and the marvelous Robot which had been seen all week around Colon wheeled onto the stage and told Harry it would repair the mike with a laser beam. One quick Zap and Harry was back in action with his wife and daughters assisting.
He breezed thru the Vanishing Bird Cage, the episode with the child and the candy and the rabbit, finishing with the Floating Light Bulb. The Lion's Club of Colon presented him with a Service Award for his great help to their organization.
And then there was Karrell Fox and a group of Zanies that always have to be seen to be believed. They work yery hard, not only Saturday night, but from the beginning of the week, figuring out lampoons, satire, jokes, and visual fun of all kinds. It isn't easy when you figure this audience expects something entirely different every year. One of the laugh sequences was done with Crystal Westphal and a Hindu Basket routine. All the male participants in the show were in girl's outfits, with balloons on all chests. Crystal is a yery well-developed young lady. Karrell pointed out, when he produced her, that this way he saved on balloons. Another sequence had to do with balloons also. Mocking Otto wessely's routine in which he multiplies Zombie balls having his wife secretly holding a ball with a second ball on her head, Karrell had his two Zombies (really balloons) held by Neil Foster, one in the hand and one fastened to his hair. Since it is no secret that that is not his hair, the fun ran high. Finally the gags ran out, people got tired of laughing and Karrell brought another Rollicking Rumpus to an end, along with the- Get-Together of 1982.
At the showroom after the show Lance Burton was awarded the Bill Baird Manipulation award in absentia. Blackstone was awarded the Jack Gwynne Trophy and Otto Wessely made a touching speech about the love and fellowship in magic when he was given the Crandall comedy award.
In this year of Reaganomics, attendance did not seem to be affected by the national economy. Sales were excellent, with the display room full of people all the time. This was very encouraging not only for Greg Bordner, but for the many other magic dealers who were present.
So now it's what to do for '83, with everybody planning to come, now that they see that the young folks can plan, manage and run off just as beautiful a Get-Together as their predecessors.
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