Reported by Robin Dawes
Magic conventions are
like meals -- some are like a quick fix of fast food, and some are like
a $4.95 all-you-can-eat buffet. By comparison, the 35th Fechter’s Finger
Flicking Frolic is like a gourmet dinner.
contribute to a truly memorable meal: the food, the company, and the
First, the setting.
Batavia is a small town in upstate New York. It’s a beautiful rural area
with deer grazing by the roadsides. The woods are full of songbirds and
are brightened by trilliums and other spring flowers. It is a peaceful,
attractive, and non-intrusive backdrop.
to the company. Obie O’Brien, the Head Forker, invites magicians
(FFFF, the Original Close-up Convention, is “invitation only”) from all
across the continental USA, the far east (Japan), the far north
(Canada), the far south (Argentina), the far west (Hawaii), the far away
(New Zealand) and myriad other places around the world (Britain, France,
Spain, Russia and more). Brought together by a shared passion for
close-up magic, each of us brings his or her unique perspective and
conversation to the table.
And that brings us
finally to the food. Like any fine meal, FFFF starts with an appetiser –
this year, a Wednesday evening lecture from the hilarious and creative
Tom Burgoon. Tom’s inventiveness and fresh outlook stimulate our
imaginations and leave us hungry for more.
The next course is a
full day of activities on Thursday. The morning begins with another
excellent lecture, this one presented by the skilful Jim Molinari.
Jim entices us with a meaty broth of practical, professional card magic.
This is followed by a palate-cleansing Teach-a-Trick session, limited
this year to just three people: the inimitable Roger Klause, the
incomparable Professor Rem, and the irrepressible Harold
Cataquet. This event is abbreviated so that we can enjoy not just
one but two close-up shows in the afternoon. The first show features the
talents of IBM President Tony Wilson, Al the Only,
Brian Glover, Brian Geer, Willy Monroe, Rick Wilcox,
Doug Gorman, and Geno Mozarella (Danny Archer). The second
show stars David Jones, Terry Greenwood, Bob Follmer,
Robin Dawes (holy socks, Batman, how did I get in a show with all
these great magicians?), Jim Surprise, Max Scott, Lee
Freed, Bill Naglar, Gary Ward, Scott Robinson,
and John West.
finish off the day we are treated to a double-size serving of lecture:
the Guests of Honour, Gene Anderson and Dan Garrett, each
present some of their “greatest hits”, and new ideas as well. Gene has
some profound things to say about the dangers of over-improving, and the
virtues of rapid prototyping. Dan’s use of subtle verbal and visual
influence over his volunteers is extremely impressive.
brings us another treat, like a sorbet between heavier courses: the
annual Pat Page Workshop, focussing this year upon magic with business
cards. We are entertained and educated by Pat Page himself,
followed by Gene Gordon, George Silverman, Ryan Swigert,
Professor Rem, Dan Garrett, Kate Medvedeva,
Boris Wild, Scott Wells, Mark Leveridge, Earl Oakes,
Jim Lewis, and… Pat Page (it’s like the Laurel and Hardy
gag where Stan manages to carry both ends of an extremely long ladder).
I can’t imagine anyone present not getting half a dozen ideas for novel
uses for their cards.
This is followed by
the aptly named International Show (although if you check out the names
in Pat Page’s workshop, you will see that the day already has a
decidedly cosmopolitan flavour -- like a Texas steak served with Dijon
mustard, caviar and a single-malt whiskey). The International show
features the great Camilo, Mathieu Bich, Shigeo
Futagawa, Martin Cox, Kostya Kimlat, Rey Ben,
Shawn Farquhar, and Rick Merrill. Rick earns the first
standing ovation of the convention for his brilliant act with coins and
hardly a chance to digest we are on to the next show. Leading off the
performers is the evanescent Trixie Bond. She is followed by
Ken Kurita, Mandy Farrell, John Blake, Mark
Leveridge, Terry Lunceford, Kevin Fox, Jerry
O’Connell, Jim Klayder, and Steve Dela. Steve, like
Shawn Farquhar in the earlier show, makes poetic and precisely
choreographed use of a song to accompany his magic.
The shows up to this
point have been excellent, but with the Friday evening show the
intensity seems to go up a level. The cook has added some spice to the
meal, and turned up the heat in the kitchen. John Allen leads off
with a hilarious act featuring Benson the bird puppet. Patrick
Przysiecki follows with the story of how Obie was inspired by the
Woodstock Music Festival, two familiar-looking close-up guys, and some
unusual brownies. Next up is Andrew Murray, performing strong
coin and card magic. Gazzo brings his trademark chaos to the
stage, verbally sparring with an audience member and astonishing one and
all with his rendition of the cups and balls. Next Garrett Thomas
uses magic to solve a Rubik’s cube -- four times in quick succession!
Reed McClintock does the hard stuff, and ends up losing his shirt to
demonstrate just how far he will go to for an effect.
After a short break,
Obie’s introductory remarks are interrupted by the Thundah from Down
Undah, Li’l Tim. Tim (Ellis) performs a rap version of Sam the
Bellhop, with the memorable chorus:
I’m sorry Obie!
I never meant to hurt you!
I never meant to make you cry!
But tonight, I’m cleaning out my card case!
Regal is next, supporting his strong card effects with well-crafted
and clever patter -- his skill as a professional comedy writer is
evident. Then Miki presents some immaculate magic while Rafael
Benatar translates. Murray Hatfield follows with a great
double torn-and-restored newspaper routine. David Jones uses a
very creative presentation for his multiple card revelation. Tonny
Van Rhee presents an extended and elegant routine of coin magic.
Closing the show is the poetic Boris Wild, with a moving tribute
to Eddie Fechter.
Tim Ellis and
Sue Anne Webster present a late night lecture, but I am exhausted
and cannot attend. Those who are there report that this is a strong
lecture, as would be expected from these talented and thoughtful
On Saturday I
oversleep and miss most of David Jones’ morning lecture on card
magic. I hear later that he presents an intriguing poker routine in
which volunteers trade cards from their hands with the performer, who
still manages to win each round.
afternoon lecture is presented by Tonny Van Rhee, a direct
descendent of the famous Bamberg dynasty of magicians. Tonny teaches us
his practical and very magical renditions of classics including card
transpositions and cups and balls.
now we are well into the main course of our magical feast. The hors
d’oeuvres, the consommé, the salad, the poached salmon, all are behind
us, and we are savouring the venison and haricots verts. The Saturday
afternoon show begins with a moving tribute to FFFF members who have
passed on. At Phil Willmarth’s suggestion, we hold a minute of
silence in honour of Jay Marshall. As I write this report, I have
just received the news of Jay’s death -- he was a stalwart supporter of
FFFF and all things magical. Our world is dimmer without his light.
Requiescat in pace.
brings the magic back up to speed. Amongst other fine effects, Ryan
performs a beautiful card assembly which he attributes to Stewart Judah.
Next Dan McGinnis performs “The Last Flight of Dan MacInnis”,
magically recreating his final attempt at landing on a Navy carrier.
Rolando Santos presents a routine based on the things that have
changed since the first FFFF, 34 years ago. Then Michael Bairefoot
demonstrates that he can use mind power to control the speed of a coin
spinning inside a balloon -- an unique magical effect. Anders
Boulanger (making his FFFF debut on the Saturday show!) performs an
excellent ambitious card routine. Daniel Ketchedjian brings an
infectious sense of fun to a variety of effects. Frank Truong
then takes the stage and nearly gets into a comedic brawl with volunteer
David Acer in a dispute over a selected card. Fortunately the
card is finally discovered attached to Frank’s chest (think of Janet
Jackson). Dick Steiner shows us an excellent themed routine using
baseball cards and a miniature baseball diamond. Mickey Silver is
next, with a spectacular production of an apparently endless shower of
coins from his eyes and ears. Joe Turner demonstrates his
incredible invisible palm technique, ending with four signed cards in
different pockets. Kate Medvedeva charms the assembled multitude
with her unique version of the cups and balls in which the ball is
replaced by a small chiming bell! Rounding out the show, Frederick
Shark performs a strong act of coin and card magic.
And that brings us
to dessert -- the coup de grace -- the Saturday night show. At this
stage of the weekend, we are full, perhaps even saturated with magic.
We’ve already consumed a huge and excellent meal, we’re feeling full and
satisfied, and then suddenly we are presented with a mountain of fresh
strawberries and whipped cream. It looks delicious, but where can we put
yet the excitement grows through the afternoon, the jackets and ties
begin to appear, and the seats fill early. The show kicks off at 8 PM
with the much-anticipated return of Garnak the Magnificent. Dan and Gene
recreate the classic act they have performed seventeen times before at
Fechter’s. It’s a nostalgic and hilarious compilation of new and old
material. Tim Ellis and Sue-Anne Webster are next, with
Tim’s genuinely scary version of the razor-blades routine, and
Sue-Anne’s great “Cards from Snowy River” ace assembly. They are
followed by another team act, as Yannick Lacroix and Michel
Huot reprise their brilliant “Human Deck of Cards” routine. Aldo
Colombini gets a huge audience response with his diminishing cards
effect. Paul Gertner manages to give Gene and Dan the experience
of having their selected cards found by… Gene and Dan! (Actually, their
cards are found by everyone in the room, all wearing Gene and Dan
masks.) As always, the first half of the show ends with Rocco.
Readers of my previous FFFF reports may recall that I am a huge fan of
Rocco -- he creates imaginative, whimsical magic in a style all
traditional 10 minute break we are swept into the madcap world of
Henry Evans, the happiest magician in the world. Henry speedily cuts
a shuffled deck into 10 piles of 1 card, 2 cards, 3 cards, etc. Tom
Burgoon performs his trademark torn and restored paper routine with
a guest appearance by Timmy the Toilet Roll. Kevin Gallagher
presents an intriguing three-shell routine culminating with three
enormous shells and a pea that would feed the Jolly Green Giant.
David Acer takes the cups and balls to new heights with garbage
buckets and basketballs. Jason Latimer continues the theme by
performing the cups and balls with clear glass cups. The final performer
of the convention is the one and only Steve Bargatze, who gives
an unforgettable new meaning to “3 Fly”. He closes the show with his
touching story of seeing snow for the first time -- concluding with
Steve and Roger Klause fighting their way through an immense
onstage snowdrift. We laugh until our sides ache…
… And then it is
over -- well, except for the sessioning, which goes on well into the wee
hours of the morning as those who have shared in this marathon magic
feast engage in the pleasure of post-prandial camaraderie.
Next year’s Guest of
Honour will be Aldo Colombini. We can look forward to another
spectacular gourmet offering -- this time with an Italian flavour.
--Photos by Meir Yedid
Mike Powers' FFFF 2005 Convention Coverage -- click:
Tony Gerard's FFFF 2005 Photo Gallery -- click: