Thursday, June 02, 2011

The 42nd Annual Magic Collectors Weekend - May 20, 2011 Part 3

The last presentations of  Friday will deal with personalties.

Unspeakable Acts
Jim Magus joins us to talk about one of the most enigmatic figures in recent magic history, Timothy McGuire. You might know him better as Tom Palmer, Tony Andruzzi, or Masklyn ye Mage.

Few of us get to live a single full life; Tony was able to create three. A true artist, his life was a mysterious act of invention, creating the myth of himself, rarely showing his true face to anyone.

As Tom Palmer, he created an award-winning comedy magic act. Taking the conventions of popular magic clichés and turning them topsy-turvy. This perverse style of magic inspired many other comedy magicians especially Johnny Thompson.

As Tony Andruzzi, he pioneered the field of Bizarre Magick, again taking stereotypical magician and perverting him in a new (or old, some would argue) darker direction.

As Masklyn ye Mage, he performed, created, and shared this unusual style of magic. He published the magic periodical, New Invocation.  He created highly collectible books and hosted, perhaps the most hedonistic magic conventions ever.

This just barely scratches the surface. Jim does a good job of peeling back some layers in the brief time we have with him, augmenting his talk with many pictures of Tony’s life. The limited time he has cannot do justice to the man. Jim has a new book about Tony, Unspeakable Acts. I never knew Tony, but I have a friend who did. And he knew him as well as anyone. He has given the book excellent reviews, so I recommend you seek it out.

Kodell: Do Something Different
Jeff Pierce (magic dealer, book author and publisher) is on stage to introduce the next presentation. The lights dim. A movie begins.

It is a home movie. The quality is quite good. As I think of it now, whether nostalgia or reality, I see it being not black and white, but sepia toned. It is an old movie. The year is 1943. Silent. The shot is of a young magician about mid-thigh and up. He is performing for the camera in full evening wear. He is handsome with a smile that would be the envy of any actor on those teeth whitening commercials. He is producing parakeets. Not just producing but, interacting with them as they appear, disappear, transpose, and multiply. It is an early view of the act that would make him famous and take him around the world. It is Jack Kodell at age 16.

The lights come up to the realization that, even at just 16, Jack was one damn good magician. And he has one more trick up his sleeve; he walks, unsteadily, out onto the stage with the help of his wife Mary. Previous we had only seen him use his motorized scooter, at this age his legs failing him. Not on this stage, not on this night.

Seeing him on his feet, the audience returns the favor. Like last year, David Ben has found an emotional moment to pin this convention on.

The presentation will be in the interview format moderated by magician Ron Urban. He is a friend to the Kodells and freely admits his debt to Jack who blazed the trail that Ron followed.

Ron is a less able interviewer than Richard Kaufman, but Jack is a less talkative subject. Often questions are answered with a only a word or two until the more loquacious of the two, Mary Kodell, either prompts Jack often filling in the blanks herself.

Jack, we learn, is a man of firsts. He is considered the first bird manipulator. He was the first magician to perform in ice shows. On the bill with the Williams Brothers and comic Larry Storch, he was the first magician to perform in Vegas.

Jack headlined the best shows in the best venues around the world, including Paris, London, and New York. Many of those venues never would use a magician before him. His classy act opened doors for other magicians to walk through.

The interview covered a little of his performing life, a lot of his courtship of Mary, and some of his personal life with his father. It was his father that early on admonished him to, “Do something different.” Jack would take care of him for the rest of his life.

As I look at the convention program there is one nagging unanswered question, in 1960 at age 33, Jack walked away from a successful career. Why? I can only hope that his new autobiography, Kodell: Do Something Different will answer that question.

Jack’s time on stage ended as it started with a second standing ovation.

Friday Evening Triple Bill
It is movie night at the convention. This year it is a triple feature. There is a film of the awarding of Doug Henning’s star on Canada’s Walk of Fame. The second video is of an interview with Doug Henning by Brian Linehan. Last, there is a taped interview of Charles Reynolds by Patrick Watson.

I can’t give you a review or overview of these films because I never got to see them. I was occupied hanging on the every word of Saturday afternoon presenters, Celeste and Evanna Evans who treated me to story after story of her (later, their) performing life. Much of it made it into her book, some of it will make it into her presentation, a little of it won’t make it anywhere. Except that it will make my weekend.

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