Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The 41st Annual Magic Collectors Weekend Day 3

Saturday May 15

The Saturday program began with Diego Domingo and Finding Your Man. I’ve come to appreciate Diego from his frequent appearances at the LA Conference on Magic History. He is usually a funny and engaging speaker, often speaking about the odd and unusual characters on the fringe of the magic world. Other times he has tracked down lost magic figure with dogged and patient, as much as 10 or more years of detective work.

Here Diego related the methods and secrets of his craft; I would call more search than research. Giving real life examples, Diego’s (belly laughs evoking) anecdotes served as lessons on how to find your man, even when separated by decades. This kind of nuts and bolts talk I really enjoy and it would continue for the whole morning session.

While Diego covered more traditional legwork, Gary Hunt followed with a talk on the tool the internet offers the researcher. He covered various genealogy and newspaper archives. The only slow point was the attempt at doing live searches to show some examples, otherwise excellent information.

After their individual talks, Diego, Gary, and David Alexander sat down for a panel discussion. David Alexander, besides being a fine magician and excellent writer, was once a private detective. He also has played mentor to Diego, giving advice from his professional experience that Diego used on his historical subjects. David really contributed the most information and tips on detective work. The most important tip being: be a people person, a little schmooze will go a long way in getting what you want, especially from bureaucratic types. The second best example from the group was being patient yet, tenacious. Keep trying.

Jim Maloney found his man, Nate Leipzig. Jim has been doing research on Leipzig for many years, uncovering tidbits and scraps of information to fill out the story of his life. The information was fine. The presentation needed some scripting. I expect a book will be forthcoming.

After the lunch break, the other Robert Olson (author of books on Rosini, Thurston, and Speer) spoke. Reverend Bob seized the stage and commanded the room, being the only presenter not to need a microphone. Being a preacher has made him a better performer than most of the weekend’s presenters. He spoke about his seventy years in magic. Seventy years!Topics included: the magicians he read about as a child and impressions of magicians he personally knew. He was given 15 minutes, but this was another speaker I could have listened to for much more time.

Jim Alfredson is the Honorary President of the Magic Collectors Association. He holds a special place in my heart. As I have written before, he made me feel welcome when I was new to this world of historians. I look forward to seeing him at every convention. He is an interesting conversationalist with a great deal of knowledge and personal experience. Jim is well know for his numerous books including (with honored guest, George Daily), A Bibliography of Conjuring Periodicals. His talk was about the history of The Sphinx and the men who edited it. He compared the magazine favorably to main stream magazine of the time. Related that Wilson added the editorial and some factors (other than the much publicized CIA job) that contributed to why John Mulholland ceased publication. One of the interesting comments he made was the connection between the rise of vaudeville to the increase of amateur magicians. Something, I think, worthy of more research.

David Charvet is also well known among attendees of historical conventions. He spoke, this year, on magician Jimmy Stoppard.  Jimmy’s claim to fame was receiving The Houdini Award in 1935 for his effect, The Phantom Ray. Jimmy had a fascination with early science fiction patter. Using it, not only as the inspiration for the ray, but for a book of patter he wrote. David performed a passé passé bottle trick using such patter as an example.

Filling out the theme night of Finding Your Man, Eduardo Sanchez, from Argentina, told the story of David Bamberg in Argentina. Eduardo was worried about his English, but it was unfounded. He made himself understood with very few problems. He showed many rare images of Bamberg and his promotional materials. Also presented were some film clips of performances. Things that caught my attention: Bamberg used much comedy in his presentations, most routines were theatrical type plots, sometimes his name was written Fu Manchu and sometimes Fu Man Chu, and one show advertised 43 tricks in one hour. My favorite advertising line: King of Magicians and Magician of Kings.

The evening show was strictly a performance. Mike Caveney did his usual stellar job. Tina Lenert continued performing her new routine and thoroughly fooled the audience with her rabbit production. David Charvet performed a piece from the Willard show and the Jimmy Stoppard’s Phantom Ray, ending with a hilarious sight (and sound) gag. Arden James closed the show with his usual aplomb. Near the start of his act a breaker tripped and he was short some lighting and music for a few minutes. It didn’t faze him. The audience appreciated his professionalism.

Now that it is over and the bodies can be counted, it was a good convention, not a great one. As I expected, it is a work in progress. Seeing what he has done with everything else he’s touched, I expect David Ben will turn this to gold also. Once again, I cannot compliment his support staff of Julie Eng, James Alan, and Sandra Eng, enough. They did amazing work, especially Julie, who seemed to be everywhere as greeter, MC, floatee, computer operator, and general problem solver. I can’t say for sure but I think she parked the cars and made the beds also. I had a great surprise from David Odette who showed up unannounced. It lifted my spirits to spend time with friends and make some new ones, which is really the best part of it all anyway.

Last, those who know me know two things: 1) I like to sit in the back of most lectures because I have little patience for bad and, even when good, I am looking for the joke. 2) I love bad jokes.
Here are my two favorite from the weekend:

1)      When I heard someone say, “That's like $5000 in today’s money.” I replied, “Yeah, but who has today’s money.”
2)      When I heard someone say, “Blackstone had lots of chief assistants.” I said, “That was his problem, too many Chief assistants, not enough Indian assistants.”

I’m sorry you had to read that. I believe Robert Orben is spinning in his grave.

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