I expect there is no need for me to go into detail about my waking up procedures. If you have seen Groundhog Day, you’ll know that every morning at the Conference was sort of like that morning. SSDM.
The first event of the day was the Eidophusikon. Every 15 minutes or so, 30 odd (in every sense of the word) magicians are herded into the exhibit room to see the 3 minute 45 second show. Then, they move to the backstage area to see the entire show again. My show time was .
The show was a dramatic representation of Satan and his minions rising from the depths of Hell. Volcanoes, flowing lava, Satan’s palace, and his army are all static pictures painted on glass, which slide up into position. This makes a sort of three-dimensional painting that “creates” itself. In the 1781, the glass was lit in various ways by gaslight filtered through colored glass shades. In our case, inferior modern lighting took the gaslight’s place. Inferior because the modern lights did not have the natural flicker of the gaslights and, thus, much motion was lost.
Backstage it is an intricate coordinated effort by three performers to time the music, light and position the glass. It was really a cross of puppetry and stagecraft.
I expect, partially because of my interest in Toy Theater, I enjoyed the performance more than many of the other conference attendees. I see the historical through line. I also try to see how it can be presented in a historical and entertaining way to modern audiences as part of a larger production. And let’s face it, in this case, you have to sit and wonder how anyone was so entertained by this thing. A few others and I went in and watched the last performance while the final scheduled group got to see the backstage view.
One of the people I most looked forward to see was my friend, Jamy Ian Swiss. He came to the Conference late because of some booking conflicts. I just happen to catch him as he/I were headed to lunch. While I don’t always agree with Jamy, he always makes me think. That is what I want from my friends. We had a good talk, life, business, Houdini and the world of skepticism.
The afternoon session began with Will Houstoun. Will did an in depth study of a handwritten notebook on card magic from the Magic Circle Library. It is a first person account of seeing some of the great magician’s of the 18th century. Mr. Houstoun went into great detail of how he dated the manuscript, which was quite fascinating. That, alone, was a lesson in historical research. He also commented some of the more interesting observations of the unknown author. He has written a book on the subject including a facsimile of the notebook.
The second presentation was by Chris Woodward who told the story of Rameses-The forgotten star. He has a new thin book out about this “lost” performer. I find it odd to write this review because while I was there for the presentation, (I remember seeing the pictures and Mr. Woodward speaking.) I can’t remember anything about it. Apparently, Rameses will remain forgotten, at least in my mind.
David Charvet finished the session with a talk on Ade Duval. Ade created the Silken Sorcerer act that took him all over the world. By all accounts he was a fine, disciplined magician, timing out is act within a couple of seconds every show. David showed some rare vintage footage of Ade. He also has self-published a thin book on Ade. There was a story about Ade that I was surprised that David did not mention. Ade’s real name was Adolf; Jay Marshall told me that he changed his name at the beginning of WWII for obvious reasons. David Charvet shows this is not true. Ade was working as Ade since early in his career.
Dinner was with David Alexander joined our group for dinner. As usual, it is just fun hanging out with magic guys of high caliber. There are engrossing stories, hilarious joke, and salacious gossip.
The evening program began with Michael Albright, an executive with the BBC and long-time Prof. Hoffman collector. With proclaiming his utmost nervousness, unusual for someone who give presentations for a living, Michael gave an entertaining and interesting overview of Prof. Hoffman’s life and his books.
A Conference favorite for his usually entertaining presentations, Peter Lamont finished the “speechifying” portion of the program. It was a short talk on Annemann and his article in the Jinx magazine titled, “Was Dr. Rhine Hoodwinked?” Dr. Lamont speculated on Annemann’s theory and why it doesn’t make sense in the full context of all the facts. While the information provided was new and interesting, Dr. Lamont’s talk left me empty and wanting something more.
The final piece of the evening was a performance by Conference regular, John Carney of Robert-Houdin’s Orange Tree. This is a reproduction of the original tree created by John Gaughan. John did a poetic routine embracing this anachronistic prop. He then went into a sequence similar to the familiar canary, egg, lemon routine. He first vanished the silk, supposedly transporting it into the egg. The egg is then vanished. Both of these first two vanishes were as masterful as you expect from John Carney. The vanish of the lemon was not. Bad and obvious. In a clever turn, he proceeded to vanish the orange in stages. The fruit shrinking ever smaller until it existed no more. The magic was then made to bloom and bear fruit. The oranges were passed to the audience to show their reality. A final fruit grew at the top of the tree. A flock of butterflies came to life in the tree. The orange split open and two of the butterflies carried the silk out of the orange on wing. It is a beautiful effect, but I was left with one problem. What happened to the egg and the lemon?
Each year, Jim Steinmeyer and his wife, Frankie Glass kindly open their home for an invitation only reception. There are drinks and, with the aid of a special kitchen elf, Frankie lays out a scrumptious feast of hors d'oeuvres and baked goods. I am always grateful I can attend.
Back at the hotel too late for last call. What kind of bar closes at on a Friday night? A stupid hotel bar that doesn’t understand how much money they are losing. Magicians like to drink. The same kind of thing happens every year at Collectors. I think it is time to bring my own bottle.