Saturday is the last day of the Conference. It brings with it one of the highlights of the weekend, a visit to John Gaughan’s workshop. The conference provided a shuttle bus from the hotel to the shop (and back). There are scheduled times, mine is at , but you can go anytime if you are driving. I catch a ride with Fred Pittella and the gang.
For those who don’t know John is one of the foremost illusion builders in the world. He has built for Doug Henning, David Copperfield, and Ricky Jay, to name a few. He, also, is a restorer of antique magic and automata.
The ride, besides giving more time for us to hang out, gets us to the workshop a couple of hours earlier. I’ll need it. There is just too much to see. When I get there, I start taking pictures and pictures and pictures. It is almost a frenzy to document everything.
I realize my photos will not do justice to the experience. It was a foolish folly to think I could get it all. I wasn’t enjoying it. So, the camera was put away and I took a break. John, besides opening his doors for us, provided lunch in the form of a barbeque. Not cheap burgers either, but real steak.
After my break, the idea was to savor the event. Take time and enjoy the moment. I was able to get Houdini’s autograph for John’s life-size Houdini automata. I was the fly on the wall in a long discussion on Houdini’s Water Torture Cell, next to a replica of the cell and by guys who have actually performed it.
I touched the talking skull of Joseffy and Kellar’s Psycho. Sat for a photograph, a Victorian novelty, in which the final product looks like I am sitting at a table play cards with 5 clones of myself. John demonstrated an amazing Doug Henning illusion, in which, from a flat table, a large humpbacked steamer truck appears, along with a woman inside.
I, carefully, touched tricks owned by Robert-Houdin, Heller, Hartz and others. Each one, not only a functional trick, but a fine work of art. It was quite like visiting a museum of art stuffed into a single room.
I wasn’t the only one. Nobody wanted to leave. They were in a daze. Even the hardest of men was left breathless at the sites. Tim Felix, head attendee wrangler, had to force people on to the bus, gently.
It cannot be overstated how generous this gift of John’s was.
This would be the entirety of the afternoon program. I doubt anyone was complaining.
Dinner was with my good friends, Mark and Sue Holstein. We sort of are starting a tradition of going to this terrific little Italian restaurant, not far from the hotel.
The evening program began with Jim Steinmeyer performing Beau Brocade. This is interesting, or should I say odd, we are watching an illusion that was mostly explained to us in a previous session. There were a couple of added touches in the performance. But there were some obvious flaws also and beyond the impracticability of the original method. There is a theme to tonight’s show, missing persons. Beau Brocade is the first, of several, vanishing women in the program.
Diego Domingo followed with a double talk on two missing figures in magic, George White and Doc Nixon. George White was Howard Thurston’s main assistant. The African-American was one of the stars of the Thurston show, but where he came from and where he went after his magic career was over has long been a mystery. Doc Nixon was a successful performer and creator of “where did the ducks go?” Then he disappeared from the magic world in a swirl of rumors. Diego did some amazing detective work to uncover the secrets in these men’s lives. The first of the talk was very good. Diego had problems with the second half and it fell flat.
William Kalush discussed the enigmatic Charlier’s life and his contributions to sleight of hand. Included was the long thought impossible “invisible” performance solution for Charlier cut. An excellent talk.
John Gaughan took the stage. In his understated way, he performed Charles Morritt’s creation, “Goodbye Winter.” This illusion was last seen in Houdini’s final tour. It is an amazing example of vanishing a woman from the top of table.
Mike Caveney closed the show with a performance of two pieces from magician, Paul Valadon, “The Drum That Cannot Be Beat” and “Well I’m…” The first a production illusion of many silks. The second a startling vanishing woman. The illusions were first performed in the Egyptian Hall and then again, when Paul toured with Harry Kellar.
After the show, it was out to patio for a coffee reception. I mean, after we picked up some cocktails, then it was the coffee reception. The cookies were delicious.
I’ve been to three Conferences. Of those three this was the weakest, then it would be difficult to top my experiences of the previous years. The first year I spoke and was my coming out party. The second was Hooker’s Rising Cards.
At the beginning of the Conference, Marvin Miller (I told you I’d speak of him again.) said he would be interested to read my blog and see what I thought was the highlight of the event. In these reviews, I’ve used the words kindness and generosity. I could have used them when speaking about every person I spoke to at the Conference.
I spent time with Mark Cannon, Jan Janson, Todd Robbins, Ward Hall, Jamy Ian Swiss, Joe Fox, Fred Pittella, Andy Lansing, Diego Domingo, Jim Steinmeyer, Frankie Glass, Lupe Nielson, Mark Holstein, Sue Holstein, Tim Felix, Mike Caveney, Scott Smith, Rob Zabrecky, Andy Lansing, David Goodman, Lisa Cousins, Bill Goodwin, Stan Allen, Mark Kaschube, Bill Kalush, Newell Unfried, John Gaughan, David Alexander and many others.
And Marvin Miller, Marvin is a former CEO, magazine editor, mystery writer. We come from very different worlds. As do many of the people, I get to hang out with at this Conference. We are not in the same social circles, except here. They all treat me with kindness and generosity. I love being able to be around them.
That is the best part of the Conference. The people like Marvin Miller. My best friends, even if it is only three days every two years.