Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Magic Collectors' Weekend

Overview and Review

Although the Weekend is sponsored by the Magic Collectors’ Association, The weekend is Gabe Fajuri’s. By day Gabe works at Fun, Inc., in his free time he publishes books and organizes this convention. I do say that he does nice work with this largely thankless job. In the process, I think he is transforming this convention from what I remember it to be to something along the lines of the LA Conference on Magic History. It is not there yet, but I applaud his efforts.

I also love that the Weekend is back in Chicago. It is a shame that Chicago has no annual convention. I wish more of you Chicagoans would support this endeavor. Chicago does have one annual event (and non-official convention event) The Knights of Sleights Magic Flea Market.

This is a fun event where all Chicago magicians should be getting together to socialize and, maybe, buy a trick or two. There were forty tables with products ranging from the very used to the sparkling new. I was good and bought little. I did spend some quality time with many of my Chicago magic friends. Those of you who missed it or don’t bother going for some reason, Shame on you. This is the magic social event of every year.

The first official convention event is the opening of the dealer room at 1:30 P. M. Thursday. Who is there right up front? Harry Anderson.

Harry Anderson is this year’s guest of honor. Now, I heard some grumblings about this, mostly from people who I assume think that they should be a guest of honor. Why was Harry chosen? I suspect it was to add some celebrity cachet. However if you look deeper, while not know for his collecting, Harry did house a world class collection of magical oddities in his New Orleans shop. If you read his works and talk to him he has a deep sense of the history of our art. Yes, I do believe he fits.

I always fear meeting people I admire. It is hard for anyone to live up to the person we create in our own minds from the public pieces we are given. There have been disappointments. Harry was not. For most of the weekend he was a fun, friendly, regular guy. Aside for one lapse, he was the man I had hoped for.

The real convention starts with the evening reception. There is a good selection of cakes, treats and coffee. Tom Ewing acted as MC for the weekend and he performed his job admirably…loose, relaxed, and friendly. Ross Johnson was the first presenter. Ross is a friend and someone who admire to the point of worship. He is simply...I take that back…there is nothing simple about him. He is one of the smartest and most powerful performers I know. Unfortunately, his presentation on Al Koran fell flat. It seemed like his timing was off. Normally he doesn’t perform for this kind of crowd. Perhaps that threw him. Second, his lecture was half-way between a magic lecture (trick demo) and history lecture. This limbo world was awkward.

The second event of the program was an interview of Harry Anderson by Jon Racherbaumer. Jon was as much of a spectator as the rest of us as Harry regaled us with expletive filled anecdotes from a lifetime of magic and thinking about magic. This show was definitely not for the kids, but huge fun.

Friday, Max Maven gives the opening talk on the first close-up magician. This is interesting. How could we ever know? Really. Think about all the magic performed through history and all the nameless magicians in that history. Where do we begin? Max guides us through a brief history of performing magic while creating a set of criteria to make his choice.

The audience must be part of the performing area.
There must still be an understood performing contract between the audience and the performer.

Max then comes to the determination that Matt Schulien was the first true Close-up Magician. He has his reasons, with which I agree, that Matt is the well-spring of formal close-up magic.

Sean Owen continues the morning presentation with a power point presentation of some of the treasures from the Salon de Magie. Interesting, but much too superficial.

In the afternoon session, Tom Ladshaw speaks on the mechanical marvels of the McElroy brothers. These genius brothers built for Abbott’s Magic Company and then for Proctor and Gamble. They were responsible for the most intricate ventriloqual figures and important consumer products like roll-on deodorant and head and shoulders shampoo.

David Ben follows with an interesting talk on Paul Fox. He showed many never before seen photos and film of the legendary magician. At the end, he introduced Paul Fox’s daughter to the audience.

The evening session was turned of to John Carney and his one-man show, Carney’s Wonders. This was the only event that was open to the public. John was good, not great. Again, he seemed a little “off” for his presentation. I heard people comment that they’ve seen him perform this material better.

Saturday morning at 10:00 A. M. is too damn early for a presentation. But here is a sleep deprived Bill Pack with many others that joined me late into the dark for a presentation on magic squares. The only reason I am here is the talk is given by Harry Anderson. He really does have on nice twists and turns with the presentation of magic squares. This is also the only time I’ve heard “blow me” in a magic lecture. (The comment was not directed at me.)

David Gartler and Vince Newkirk will now be able to say Harry Anderson opened for them. Who are they? They run a poster conservation and restoration business and they spoke about the same.

Graham Putnam, owner of Fun, Inc. filled in for the ailing Patrick Page. Graham added to his pervious talk on the history of Fun, Inc. and its original owner Jules Traub. Jules was one of the great characters in magic and, through Jules’ own letters, Graham brings him to life.

The Saturday afternoon session begins with David Charvet with a talk previewing his forthcoming book on the triumphs and tragedies of the Willard the Wizard family.

Dr. Eddie Dawes, a well-worn historian, follows with Brunel White a magician who could be thought of as the precursor to Jeff Busby. If you know what I mean. Wink. Wink.

The Saturday night show ends the convention. David Kovac hosts the show and does a good job. His relaxed “new vaudevillian” character provides a steadying influence in a show of ups and downs.

Handsome Jack (John Lovick) performed. I am always curious to see a columnist or critic from one of our magic magazines perform. Do they live up to their own hype? Or are they all bullshit? John put forth an excellent effort. I enjoyed his set the most.

Harry Anderson performed next. Here was his one miss-step. Harry gave a half-assed performance. I was told afterwards he was pissed off that he did not get a better response. It looked like he would walk away and not make an appearance in the dealers’ room afterwards. Well, Harry you got from the audience what you put into the show. You have no one to blame but yourself. Harry did cool down and must have realized the error because he not only showed up to the dealers room, but also was as fun and friendly as he had been all weekend.

Circus Boy Bobby Hunt did a short set of his usual juggling antics. Sadly, because I am a fan, his set fell flat. One of those nights, because I’ve seen him do better.

Rick Merrill closed the show with his award winning routine. ‘Nuff said.” Very good, very fun.

The good – The thing like best about this convention is its casual nature. I get to hang out with a great group of friends like Gordon Meyer, Dan Mindo, Brendan Kirby, Frank Glab, Ben Barnes, David Kovac, Mark and Sue Holstein, Marshall Brodien, Andy Lansing, Tim Felix, PT Murphy, Graham Putnam. Along with, I get to see friends I only see at these conventions like the beautiful and multi-talented Frances Mai-ling and make new ones like Celeste Evans, Harry Anderson, Jan Janson, Jon Racherbaumer among others. As I have quoted before, everyone has a story to tell. And I love to find it.

The bad – The Hyatt Woodfield was undergoing construction and I was woken up extra early by the noise. (I changed a couple of their “Pardon our dust” signs to “Pardon our noise” signs with my trusty Sharpie.) Also the bar was closed. They made a makeshift one in the lobby, but then closed it at midnight. The convention attendees, including myself, like to drink and converse late into the night. Heck, I don’t have to drive. I hope Gabe at least tries to find another hotel for next year. Included in that is that the dealer room is just too small, we need more room. Next, I personally would like to see a little more magic performance. The early years of going there was a session called “Old and Seldom Seen.” This was fun as collectors got to show off their wares if not their performing skills. This varies widely from good to bad and can be great fun with a smart MC that could play off the performances. Of course, this means the convention attendees need to step up and perform. Last, 10:00 A.M. is too early for a lecture. Way too early.

Overall, I love this convention and the people around it. Gabe should be commended.

Celebracadabra note: as predicted, the idiot Ant was eliminated by his own stupidity, in the end even his coach, Asi Wind, hated him. With that there is little to add to my original comments except the judging is better with Max Maven there.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you.

I have yet to write my over view.
But sooon.

It was great seeing you
and so many others last

Since this was really my "first" weekend registered
it was way too exciting.
It went waaaay tooo fast!

This should stay in Chicago because it started in Chicago.
'nuff said.

(Now I can keep up with your journal via netvibes...way awesome).


chgomagic said...

Just be patient with the comments. I have to approve everything after a bout of spam. And we all know how painful that can be.

Hopefully, it won't be another year before I see you.


Anonymous said...

actually that approval wasn't my problem. it was actually the blogger screwing up the capcha and my comment was going bye bye.

luckily i cut and pasted everything.

blogger has its moments.


Gordon said...

good wrap-up, Bill. This was only my 2nd time attending, and I found this year to be way better than last year, so good for Gabe and his continued efforts!