The MCA has returned to the Westin Hotel-O’Hare. The hotel facilities, as noted last year, are upscale, comfortable, and well suited for the weekend’s events. David Ben, Julie Eng, and Sandra Eng, our hosts, have done their best to accommodate everyone. Responding to some grumblings from last year, they even negotiated discounts for parking and food.
After picking up the registration, I toured around the dealers’ room. It is generally the usual assortment of temptations—posters, books, ephemera, props, and gimmicks. I say generally, because there is one tempting new dealer with a selection of wood chop cups and wands. Evanna Evans, daughter of Celeste Evans, is a talented wood turner and recently started creating gorgeous magic products. They are heavy weight, durable, real worker props that are reasonably priced. I hope that with her successful debut, a website might be coming soon to give everyone a chance to purchase one.
Speaking of Celeste Evans, she was selling her autobiography, a remarkable story of a life in show business. Jeff Pierce was also selling the fresh off the presses (literally) Jack Kodell biography. More about these two legends later when they do their presentations.
Bill Palmer had a table, but not selling a thing. He did have a small selection of cups from his collection including a set from Alexander Herrmann. The history freak that I am I passed by more than once and tried to imagine what it must have been like to see Herrmann performing with those cups.
The first real event of the weekend was the Dealers show, hosted, predictably, by the affable Tom Ewing. A few of the dealers came up to the stage, spoke a little about their booths, and what they were selling. It was mercifully brief, except for one dealer that apparently wasn’t told she would be speaking the next day. If it weren’t for an applause starting clap snuck in between sentences she still might be talking. Last year, I saw promise. I had hoped the show could be improved. I think now it is better that David just eliminate it. It does not add anything to the weekend. It is not even bad enough to be fun.
Next is The Old and Seldom Seen Show. The program is to take the feel of a “show and tell” with audience participation. It hardly reaches that level. Again, this show has yet unmet promise. The program varied widely in content. David Ben performed a terrifically scripted coin routine originated by T. Nelson Downs. My good friend Gordon Meyer performed the old Vampire Block, with an equally well rehearsed script.
When things go well it is fun. When things go bad, it can be fun. Some of the presentations did fall into this fun/bad area. There were a few that were just painful bad. At least one presenter appeared to have never handled his props before. It is inexcusable that someone purporting to be a performer be so bad. I wonder if we would all be better served if those presenters be allowed to tell the history of the prop and have a more competent performer available to actually do the performance.