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Abbotts 55th Get Together 1992

by Gordon Miller

A magic convention of Olympic proportions! Once again August worked her magic, delivering terrific weather to complement the outstanding roster of talent available for this year's Colon gathering. And a near record number of magic enthusiasts showed up: One thousand two hundred and seventeen, to be exact! Early arrivals spend their time visiting the showroom (again at the High School), playin golf in the "Open Colon" Golf Classic (more on this later) or just relaxing in preparation for a busy, busy four days.

For the magicians, that busy schedule starts on Wednesday afternoon with the first lecture. This year that happy task was ably handled by Mark Leveridge. Mark is well known as a magic dealer and creator; as a magic performer; and as a magic lecturer. He presents a wide variety of magic, mostly original, designed for all kinds of trixters: Closeup to stage performers. Sales were brisk following the lecture (and continued at that pace all week long for Mark in the dealer�s room). Things really start to "perk" around 8:00 on Wednesday night - curtain time for the first of four different evening shows. Gordon Miller appeared briefly to "introduce the introducer" and to welcome everyone to this year's edition of the Get-together.

And tonights show was in capable hands. One of magic's finest acted as emcee: Trevor Lewis. Trevor brought his musical talents (both vocally and instrumentally) along with his magical and comical talents. In fine voice, with very clever lyrics, he sant his way onto the stage describing what the Get-together is all about! A great piece of novel material. And Trevor had a roster of show talent worth singing about! New Tops readers in general, and ventriloquists in particular, are very familiar with Wednesdays opening act: Col. Bill Boley. It had been several years since Bill had been able to attend the convention (let alone appear on the stage) and he once again proved to be a solid and humorous entertainer - a ventriloquist with a variety of figures, voices and bits of business. Another performer who had been absent from our stage for a brief span of time was the tall and talented Texan: Howard Hale. Howard presented his smooth and skillful manipulative act, spiced with subtle bits of humor and a quirky style. Howard Hale pleases all audiences, magical and/or nonmagical. Wednesday's show provided a full menu of performing styles, none more distinctive than our next performer: Kovari. Presenting original mysteries with a continental style, Kovari is like no one else in magic - his wardrobe, his accent and his wickedly inventive mind! (And possibly the best trick is preserving a happy working marriage despite cramming his wife into that utterly impossible blade box illusion at every performance!) Intermission followed, allowing everyone to catch some refreshments, talk about what they had seen so far, and to prepare for the second half of the show. One of the special treats for 1992 was the Wednesday only appearance of Connie Pelham at the theater organ. Connie was a regular feature of previous conventions, providing musical background for all the acts but she only returns to Colon at convention time for one reason... and for one performer, and he was to provide all the entertainment in the second half. We are speaking, of course, of Harry Blackstone. Magic audiences look forward, not only to the Blackstone "signature" effects but whatever new and novel presentation is added each year from the Blackstone repertoire. So this year, in addition to the Vanishing Bird & Cage and the sensational Floating Lightbulb, the Colon audience was treated to the Backstage Illusion with the surprise appearance of Trevor Lewis in place of the glamorous female assistant. in addition we were treated to full-blown presentations of the Zig Zag illusion and Sands of the Desert. And as a final treat, we viewed a "work in progress" with the presentation of the Lazy Magician effect involving two gorgeous female assistants, a couple of lengths of rope, some scarves and a magic principle older than dirt. The perfect magical finale to a perfectly wonderful evening of magic!

For those of you who have wondered what the "Open Colon" Golf Classic is about, read on. for the past three years, due to the organizational energy of Al The Only (Ulman) magic-inclined golfers (or golf-inclined magicians) have been arriving one day early before the convention to participate in a golf afternoon - complete with food, drink, prizes, fun and, even, some golf. Each year more people seem to take part. During the convention - during the daytime hours - there is plenty to do. the local merchants sponsor Sidewalk Sales; the local historical museum is open with a display slanted towards magic, ventriloquism and show business; almost everyone who owns a garage in Colon is having a garage sale; the showroom is open and on Friday and Saturday mornings the Talent contests are being conducted.

The Thursday lecture slot (there is at least one lecture each day - sometimes more) was conducted by Trevor Lewis. Trevor is an acknowledged magical expert, specilizing in children's entertainment (and no clouch in the closeup cards department either). Trevors remarks and ideas and routines were welcomed by a large audience of those eager to learn from "someone who really knows". Another excellent job by a "W(h)ales of a talent!"

And that evening (Thursday) we were treated to even more talent on the evening show. Early arrivals to the auditorium, during the Get-together, are treated to the antics and fun of Lark the Clown. Wwandering all around the building, Lark manages to bring a smile to the face of most everyone, young and old alike. The minutes pass quickly and suddenly, its showtime!

Another favorite import, this time from England, provide our master of ceremonies: Terry Herbert. Terry brings fun to any program and he certainly had a unique and diverse smorgasbord of performers to present this evening.

For a dynamic, high energy and enthusiastic opening it would be hard to beat Jamahl Keyes and Company. These young people zipped and flashed and hipped and hopped through small magic, illusions and dance routines. They barely give you time to react and the only time the action stopped was at the end, when it was time for well earned applause!

Imagine what it would be like if, on Sunday evening, the comic strip section of your Sunday papers suddenly came to life! Bright colors - crazy actions - illogical logic - and painless destruction. That might also describe the act of Sylvester the Jester. This is an act of wild sight gags, explosive visual and verbal puns, and, here and there, some puzzling magic. This concept is a one of a kind creation. Following this mayhem - came more mayhem! All in the presence of the brought to life logo of the Big Boy hamburger chain in the guise of Robert Baxt. If you don't laugh, he threatens to sit on you (but you will anyway, because he's funny). Magic-wise, we enjoyed the color changing handkerchief routine with its offbeat handling. (I still can't shake the mental picture of Baxt, who has a law degree, standing in front of the judge saying: "If you let my client go ... I'll make you a balloon animal!")

It fell to Mark leveridge to create order out of chaos and this he accomplished wiht a smooth and clever "quiz show" mentalism routine that combined clever methods (to be expected from Mark) with up to date and sophisticated situations and by play. Great stuff!

Next, in what was almost a debut for this particular stage offering, came Meir Yedid. Meir is well known as a magic dealer and as a closeup creator and performer. His stage act is equally as clever, from the opening bottle production, through the torn & resotred newspaper, to the trademark "digital deceptions".

To close this evenings show, we were introduced to Chezaday & Company. Chezaday (Steve Cesare) has been actively building this rock music and magic production for several years. He has combined visual and audible special effects with modern magical stagecraft. And, it should be stated, the theatricality and the staging and the music and the special effects and the magic - all work! The act is well costumed, staged and choreographed.

At a normal Get-together (what's that?) that would have capped off the evening. But this year, there was much, much more!

As a special added feature, a Midnight Magic Lecture was presented by Tom Mullica. tom is well known in magic for the Tom Foolery Bar in Atlanta (no longer in operation) and for his extended engagement at the Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris, France. In addition , a new book of his magic and methods was recently published called "Showtime at the Tom Foolery". (Available from Abbotts of course.) Plus, this was just about the first magic convention appearance by Tom in a decade.

The auditorium was packed! Professing not to have a lecture, as such, Tom preferred just to perform. And that he did, to perfection. Those in attendance will probably not remember one individual item from the evening, but they will remember the laughs and gags and the surprises. (And Tom will always remember the assistant who spit the milk back into the glass!) How many magic lectures can you recall where you probably didn't really learn an actual trick - you paid $45 for the lecture, notes (the new book) - and where you witnessed a standing ovation for the lecturer? It was a great and goofy night!

In addition to the daytime activities already noted, the ventriloquist meet in the mornings of the last three days of the convention. This year, Abbotts had erected two large meeting tents on the lawn of the High School. These served as meeting centers for the magicians during the day - a place to watch or to display the latest in closeup trickery. During the morning, the ventriloquists used some of this space to stage Vent-O-Rama.

Friday is a jam packed day! Early in the afternoon Johnny Thompson dispensed wit and wisdom from the auditorium stage during his lecture. Johnny told stories, explained tricks and routines, did impressions, answered questions about magic in particular and about show business in general. He probably could have chatted for hours, but there was the Close-Up Magic Show to present! At the 1991 Get-together, Obie O'Brien suggested that four members of the Fechter F.F.F.F. convention group be engaged to present the Closeup show. It was a good idea and it was agreed upon. Phil Wilmarth has been a closeup afficionado for years. He has lectured and performed at the Abbott's Closeup Convention (an annual March event) and is, of course, the editor of the Linking Ring magazine Hocus Pocus Parade (the trick section). He knows whereof he speaks, as the saying goes, and he presents many unusual novelties in addition to his established excellence in rope and ring magic. David Drake is certainly no stranger to the Colon conclaves. He is almost always in attendance. This year he was able to formally present his distinct brand of magic to the assembled crowd. Highly entertaining, commercial effects. Again with a good and diverse blend.

Mike hilburger, another of the F.F.F.F. stalwarts performed everything from standup to sit down from bowls and sponges to Chapeaugraphy! At this point it was obvious to all that all four performers had consciously and actively talked to each other about program repertoires, etc. There was no duplication, just four separate styles.

Last, but not least, was Obie O'Brien who chose to present a program based solely on jumbo sized cards. All these individual effects were skillfully blended into a continuous routine (including Obie's justly famous Kolossal Kolored Kards).

And then came the fly in the ointment, the sand in the gears, the monkey wrench in the works! When one of the acts suffered a slight delay a stand in was called for - someone who was prepared to work. And a "relief pitcher" was found. The volunteer calls himself David Williamson (and the Close Up show might never be the same). From his crashing entry through the neatly lined up metal chairs, bouncing from table to table, the ongoing verbal and physical wars with ringsiders (especially kids), David "winged" his way into our eternal memories! (As Phil Wilmarth remarked, after cooling down after the show: "I love David ... but I'm not sure I ever want to try to work in the same room with him again") (And in answer to a question heard several times that afternoon: "Yes, David was scheduled all along to work closeup and yes, the other four performers knew about it in advance and 'gave him their blessing'. Much like inviting the wolf into the henhouse") Certainly one of the highlights of this years gathering was the Friday night show. Sometimes things just seem to fall into place (even with two last minute act cancellations and two last minute replacements). Moving this supercargo of talent through the evening was cruise director (and M.C.) Stan Allen. Any magic show would love to open their evening with an act which is strong enough to close a show. And that describes the act of Tony Clark. in a few short months since we last saw this talented performer he has changed bits and pieces within the act and "has improved a good act to a great act." A smooth and mystifying act - with an attitude!

M.C. Stan Allen next presented a charming few moments with his animated rabbit friend (a hand puppet). This routine has stood Stan in good stead for many seasons - and its easy to see why!

A pleasing change of pace - and a pleasing sight to the eyes - all in the presence of Jade. This lovely young lady presents (all together now!) standard magic effects - but she presents them with such style and grace and with a beauty and economy of motion "that everything old seems new again." The next act (?) entered from the audience, Pied Piper fashion, trailed by twnety or twenty five youngsters and assorted musical instruments. What followed onstage, involved all the kids (including the big kid), the musical instruments and an effect called "passe passe underwear." It also included one of Colon's "characters", accordian playing Jack Kimble! And amongst all these characters the most bizarre was the ringleader: David Williamson. It is always a pleasure to view the mime and magic creations of Tina Lenert. the smooth and magical transformation of a scrubwoman into a social butterfly is a delicate and charming slice of magical theatre.

Mike Caveney, master of the moment, presented a wide sampling of items ranging from the torn and restored toilet paper, through a bow and arrow card sword stabbing, to his spectators coat penetration and the ensuing production of odd objects - including a live chicken!

To "Top off" this master mixture of magical expertise we were treated to the talents of Bob Higa, assisted by his wife. Bob presented a program of both small and large magic - some of which incorporated his new corporate motivation techniques and all this was climaxed by a stage filling version of the Snowstorm effect, which included air cannons, confetti, paper streamers, shower of sparks, flagstaffs and a stage full of people (perhaps the wildest curtain call on record!).

Jim Steinmeyer in a lecture situation is a good reason to wake up early on a Get-together Saturday. And that is just what Jim accomplished - he woke a lot of people up with his creative magical ideas. Jim is closely associated with all the big name illusionists and, of course, with the Disney corporation. Everything from small club size magic to illusion ideas.

Thanks to Hank Moorehouse (who assembles the talent) the Saturday Matinee shows have recently experienced great popularity. This year was no exception.

Richard Hughes, best known previously for his manufacture of Marshall flower creations, proved that he knows how to present them onstage as well. It was an act filled with flash and color. George Johnstone can always be counted on to keep a show moving along at a professional pace. Nobody seems to have as much fun with his magic and with his audience as does George.

And this show was lucky to have the "Madman of Magic" on the bill: Bob Little. As "Wiz - The Best There Is" he proved that he knows how to entertain "ordinary" people as well as magicians in a magic dealers room.

An ideal closing act for this performance was found in the persons of Mark & Sue Holstein. This young Chicago couple present an eye pleasing and stage filling illusion act balanced with superior small magic, plus special music and lighting and costuming. And noboby presents the barrel and cane illusion with such flair and style and originality.

By Saturday evening everyone has just enough energy left to sit through a great magic show - and that is what they received! M.C. Karrell Fox was in top form and eager to present a star studded lineup.

And the lead off hitter in that lineup was Tom Mullica. In a brief eight or nine minutes the audience saw an act of polished perfection - an act that was featured for more than two years at the famed Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris, France. Featuring the Mullica "signatures" the eating of cigarettes and napkins, plus the facial muggings and all the other visual surprises, this was an act of precision comedy. It would be tough for any act to follow that opening sequence but Jefferey Atkins took up the challenge. And, unfortunately, it just was not his night. To add to the minor magical mishaps there were problems with the microphone, with Jefferey saving his spot with his jumbo card effect and the re-stringing tennis racquet specialty items.

Johnny Thompson - "The Great Tomsoni" - was never in better form! This brilliant parody of the suave and sophisticated performer is replete with visual comedy - ethnic humor that never degrades and situation comedy that always surprises! And, as an added surprise, this year "The Wizard of Warsaw" presented a special feature - the appearance of Huda Putz (who looked suspiciously like Tom Mullica) a blindfolded mentalist whose head was swathed in tape and bandages and towels and whose chalkboard message was: "I can't breathe!" With or without his bowling ball, Johnny (and Pam) Thompson scored strikes!

The merriement continued with our next performer: The Great Fiasco (aka Terry Herbert). Mr. Fiasco neatly tiptoes through a magical mindfield, dropping laughter (and props) along the way. A strong and polished characterization.

After some suitable buffoonery by M.C. Karrell Fox - marvelously assisted (as always) by Abb Dickson, it was time for the frosting on the cake!

Brett Daniels is a winner! He has been a winner in all the many magical contest he has entered over the years. He has been a winner on each and every convention show he has ever apppeared on. He is a proven winner in the highly competitive field of variety bookings in Las Vegas, Puerto Rico, Atlantic City, and elsewhere.

And this year, he is presenting his most complex and deceptive offering ever. First there is the rare bird act, full of productions, changes and vanishes (not to mention the startlin card stabbing bird!). And then things start to take twists and turns. A large bird cage is covered and when uncovered the cage is filled with a "bird" - an attractive female assistant. A Thin Model Sawing followed, and then Brett's Zombie presentation - this year with a big difference. The stage was set with an elevated platform set on decorative columns, with a set of stairs leading up to the platform. the Zombie ball pulled and guided Brett up the steps and then transformed itself into a large cloth. Brett held this cloth in hi outstretched arms and when it was removed - there, floating in space - was his assistant! The production of a person floating in mid air! This was followed by a display of levitation. The floating assistant was then covered with a cloth and when the cloth was whisked away - the young lady had vanished. In an evening of great magic - following a week of great magic - this was the greatest magical highlight.

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