Reported by Robin Dawes
• Photographed by Dale Farris
It may have occurred to you, dear reader, that
a good magic gathering can be like a classical Japanese garden: filled
with mystery, delight and unexpected pleasures. Japanese gardens are all
about concealing and revealing, balance, naturalness, achieving the
maximum effect with the minimum overhead, and transporting the visitor
to a different state of mind – all of which sound remarkably like the
ideal features of close-up magic.
On April 25, in
Batavia NY, a metaphorical garden gate opened and 200 plus close-up
magicians from around the world entered in to the 37th annual
Fechter’s Finger Flicking Frolic (FFFF) – the original close-up
convention, attendance by invitation only. This year’s Guest of Honor
was the renowned Ton Onosaka.
The foundations of
any Japanese garden are its rocks (ishi).
Garden rocks are expected to set the tone for the entire arrangement.
rocks are the half-dozen or so lectures that Head Forker Obie O’Brien
arranges with the skill of a gardening master. More than anything else,
the lectures define the scope and the depth of the convention. This
year’s lecturers were outstanding, and we will encounter them
individually as we stroll
the garden’s path.
lecture opened the convention. He presented a material-packed
session using coins, cards, bills, rings, light bulbs, credit cards,
picture frames and more. An effect in which he used an empty glass to
scoop a selected card from a spread deck was a particular highlight for
many in the audience. He concluded with a solution to a problem of
Hofzinser – having a signed selection appear
rolled inside a finger ring held by the volunteer. This lecture was a
very solid rock around which the rest of the convention could unfold.
lecture was filled with practical, attainable effects. He started with
an effect in which he blindfolded himself with two jokers that
transformed into two selected cards, continued with versions of 3-Fly,
Matrix, and the Acrobatic Knot. One item that earned a very positive
response was an updated handling of a classic and very easy method for
the Rising Cards. His method for naming multiple thought-of selections
was bold, clever, and completely deceptive. As a garden element, this
lecture was an arching rock – full of wit and energy.
Lectures: Vanni Bossi, Daryl, Shoot
Ogawa and David Acer.
In a Japanese garden
as in close-up magic, naturalness is an ideal. Objects should appear as
they do outside the confines of the garden. I think it is this that
makes the two “open teaching” sessions (Roger
Teach-A-Trick and Pat page’s Workshop)
particularly attractive for me. People share their workers – routines
that they use in the real world. The routines are usually
straightforward, practical, and strong.
Teach-a-Trick session, Roger Klause taught a false count that
is particularly effective with currency – ideal for a short-change
routine. Prof Rem (or was it his evil twin?) taught two origami
folds with money: the first allowed a coin production from a folded
bill, and the other reversed one half of a bill through the other half
without ripping the bill into two pieces. Tom Craven taught a
colourful effect using silks in glasses and the volunteer’s zodiac sign.
Tony Econ taught his great Blazing Saddles card trick.
principle of Japanese gardening is the appropriate use of plants (shokobutsu).
Unlike western gardens that focus on just the warm months, the plants in
a Japanese garden are expected to present a range of visual delights
throughout the year. So too at FFFF do the many shows offer a cornucopia
of close-up magic, from the eye-candy that thrills and fades to the
low-key impossibility that sits in the back of your mind for months,
gaining in mystery every time you think of it.
was the MC for the Kick-Off Show.
First up, Steve Duperré changed a 6
into a 9 – then shook all the pips on a card down to one end. Bill
Spooner used a gambling theme to present the Atomic Aces. Yannick
Lacroix performed elegant thimble manipulations to a jazz
accompaniment. Rick Wilcox performed a rope routine then produced
many many coins. Bill Wells performed
two classic routines: Kaps’ sponge ball
routine, and Ramsay’s cylinder and coins. John Luka presented a
transposition routine with coloured balls, then some excellent card
magic. Richard Kaufman showed the Gene Maze Ace production and
the Phoenix Aces, using a technique he attributed to the great Jerry
Sabi is a
difficult Japanese term to translate, but in the garden it relates to
things that have revealed their true essence through time. How fitting
then that FFFF should feature a show titled Familiar Faces, with
the always genial Mike Hilburger performing the MC duties. First,
Karl Norman cut a square of paper to form two linked rings – a
minor miracle presented with his trademark deadpan humour. Mike
Stratman magically transported a set of crumpled paper balls from
his hand to a box, to the accompaniment of an instrumental version of
the Beatles’ “Yesterday”. Bill Abbott played the violin with
great skill as selected cards rose gracefully from an isolated deck of
cards. Miguel Gea performed a sequence of very magical coin
routines. Fred Casto, the International President of the IBM,
performed “two covers and four objects” with coins and napkins, then
followed up with the tale of State Street Eddie. Tonny Van Rhee
presented a magical history of coins and purses. Bebel (with
Boris Wild translating) performed a stunning sequence of card
transpositions involving a selected card and the four aces. Jim
Klayder presented Larry Jennings’ version of Open Travellers with
instant repeat. Glenn Brown performed a brisk linking rings
routine. Yosuke Kobayashi exhibited his magical powers over
coins. Adam Spigel transformed a stack of $1 bills into $100
bills. Christian Engblom magically pushed half a deck of cards
through the table.
FFFF attendees from Japan.
served as MC for a lecture that introduced magic from five outstanding
Japanese magicians. Hiro Sakai taught a very clean bill
penetration, a colour-changing card routine, an impromptu string and
finger penetration, a Just Chance routine using balloons, a no-gaff
version of Psi-Con-Ruse, and an excellent
handing of the Rainbow Deck force that allows the forcing of any number
of cards rather than the traditional two. Toto demonstrated and
taught a multiple bill switch routine that dispensed with the usual gaff.
shared a cut and restored hanky effect that boldly employed a sixth
finger. Yosuke Kobayashi taught a funny card prediction effect in
which a very long card is pulled from a small sealed envelope. Yuji
Wada shared the work on an off-beat card routine in which the figure
of a Jack escapes from its card, leaving a cut-out hole. This
lecture was like a cluster of small stones set in a bed of sand, each
stone unique and charming.
The second of the
two open teaching events was the annual Pat Page Workshop:
the theme this year was Magic at the Dinner Table. Pat Page led
off with a coin vanish
using a handkerchief. Patrice performed card fan productions
(“This is how I always start my set at a table!”) then taught a
funny but unfortunately not very practical method for finding a freely
named card on the bottom of your shoe. Gene Gordon shared a
multi-effect routine using plastic straws and wrappers. Ali Bongo
also made magic with straws, in this case cutting and restoring them,
and performing the soon-to-be-famous Six Straw Repeat. Pat Page
returned to teach his Plate
From Knee effect.
Roger Bernheim showed his astonishing ability to balance a toothpick
on the edge of glass (not as easy as you might think!) Mark Zacharia
taught a card routine reminiscent of Oscar, but with restaurant names on
the cards. David
Corsaro shared a
trick that was all about Tom Craven. This was a real worker that
I expect will enter a lot of repertoires. David
coin guru extraordinaire, taught a routine
that used sugar packets but which may have been a coin routine in
disguise. Bob Swadling shared his work on the Acrobatic Match
Boxes. Kevin Gallagher was limited for time, so he did not teach
what he had planned but instead gave us a brilliant impromptu method for
penetrating a coin through the bottom of a glass. George Silverman
taught the Card Under
the Tablecloth, and explained that the most difficult part of the method
is believing that you can do it. Keith Randolph taught us how to
give a volunteer the magical power to magnetize spoons. Magic
Christian closed the workshop with a cutlery bending routine
incorporating a novel application for the technology behind the Fortune
Telling Fish. As always this workshop was a highlight of the convention
for me, with enough creative ideas to keep me going for a year. It was
later decided that the theme for next year’s Workshop will be Quick
often take advantage of scenery outside the garden (shakkei),
using clever framing to incorporate views of the outer world. In this
spirit, Obie created the World Performers Show, with
himself at the helm. Leading off, Rod Chow presented his
award-winning Money act. This act has been in development for over 15
years. Camilo transformed some casino chips and demonstrated his
dice-stacking prowess. Shoot Ogawa conjured with coins and cards
and photographs. Simo Aalto performed his FISM winning act,
performing a Cups and Balls routine with bells and jingling balls.
Bob Swadling performed some of his unique card and coin magic. M.
C. Chow did a red-themed act, using red disks for Matrix, red-faced
cards, and glasses of red wine. Vanni Bossi found a selected card
inside a cigarette lighter, and showed how difficult it is to count
money correctly. Hayashi produced coins from nowhere and did a
very sophisticated Matrix routine. Rick Merrill reprised his FISM
winning act with coins and Sharpie markers.
Society Of American
officers at the FFFF.
also know the value of balance (sumi)
and contrast (in and
yo). At FFFF,
this was embodied in the Friends Old and New Show, with MC
Meir Yedid. Meir showed us how they make sushi in the Big Apple.
Hull Youngblood presented an effect of galactic proportion by making
a mentally selected card appear as the only normal card in a deck of
blank cards. Edward Ripley performed a routine with huge coins,
then a card trick in which the Joker kept popping up in unexpected
places. Gordon Bean did the Existential 21 Card Trick. Mark
Ross presented an
Okito Box routine with Chinese coins,
and a Monte effect using Tarot cards. Gene Protas predicted the
result of volunteer’s calculation involving their address and Zip Code.
John Bannon performed an
ungaffed version of
Twisted Sisters. Ryan Siebert performed an intriguing routine in
which the name of a selected card was whispered around the room. When it
reached its destination, the name of the card had changed, but Ryan was
able to locate both the final card and the
original. Luis Otero magically transported cards from one deck to
another, and did an impressive four Ace routine in which the deck was
finally restored to new-deck order. David
shuffled a deck face up and face down, after which all the cards turned
face down except some that revealed a telephone number selected by a
volunteer. Toto tried to use magic to bend a coin, but other
things kept bending instead. He then caused several selected cards to
animate in a variety of creative ways. Sammy P. Smith did an
elegant silk production and magically caused a coin to penetrate a
bottle. Steve Marshall introduced us to Elvis the Wonder Flea,
sang a song about FFFF, very reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan’s
“Model Major General”. Richard Hatch spoke fluent Japanese, with
Steve Marshall providing a very funny translation. Richard
performed the Gypsy Thread effect. Curtis Kam balanced coins on a
flashlight beam and performed the only card
effect of the entire
convention that involved a
At the Friday
Night Show, Obie
was back at the mike as MC. Garrett
Thomas performed the most talked-about act of the convention. He
began with a reading from Black Elk,
then performed a
dramatic depiction of “The Magician’s Cycle” from birth to death and
rebirth. John Born performed a poetic rendition of the Linking
Rings, accompanied by the haunting music of
Ali Bongo performed a very funny song of his own composition
titled “Just a Little Touch of Magic”, then conjured with cards,
newspaper, and rope. He concluded by pulling a small metal ring all the
way over his head. Flip performed a rope routine infused with his
droll humour. Richard Sanders performed with cards and with a
borrowed bill, which eventually was found inside the cap of the marker
used to sign it. Reed McClintock began his act with some
wonderful contact juggling, continued with coin productions,
concluded with the most original razor-blades-in-mouth routine I have
seen. David Acer found a selected card inside a wall-mounted
smoke detector, then
demonstrated How Not to Perform
Regal told us of his lifetime experience with the Cups and Balls as
he performed, and ended with final loads that perfectly fit his story.
Kevin Gallagher performed a baffling sequence of card
transpositions with a borrowed deck and concluded with Oil and Water,
performed first with cards and then with coins. Geno Mozzarella (aka
Danny Archer) showed us how a hat and some dice can lead to
magical trouble in East Philly. Raymond Iong conjured with
coloured disks that transposed and finally composed into a portrait.
Boris Wild concluded the show with “10 Ways to Know You are a
Magician” and “Top 5 Over-used Pieces of Music in Magic Shows” – both
lists were hilariously accurate.
officers at the FFFF.
Adding another rock
to the garden’s layout, Shoot Ogawa presented a lecture in which
he began with the basic thimble sleights, then demonstrated how to
structure them into a visually effective routine that includes
vanishes and colour changes. He also taught techniques for the Linking
Rings, bare-hand coin vanishes, purse frame magic, a brilliant version
of Triumph that ends with the cards in new-deck order, and a rope
routine from Tabary. For me, the most valuable lessons taught throughout
this lecture were the observations about framing the effect, and
changing the moment. As a garden element this was a mysterious rock,
deserving of contemplation from different directions.
The final lecture of
the convention was presented by David Acer. He gave us a
multi-person lecture, in which David taught some of his own excellent
routines and also drew upon the talents of several other Canadian
magicians. David taught a card-splitting routine, three effects
with a borrowed ring (including linking it to a borrowed pair of
cell-phone production from a folded envelope, and a card reversal
effect. Yannick Lacroix showed an application of the Muscle Pass
to render an invisible coin visible. Michel Huot used a
cell-phone camera to make a selected card materialize in a photograph.
Bill Abbott taught a repeat Mullica Wallet routine that also
includes a torn-and-restored phase. Richard Sanders shared the
secret of the Bill in Marker Cap routine that he had performed earlier
in the convention. Patrice explained his “Signature Piece” in
which three pieces of printed text materialise one by one on the back of
a signed selection.
Afternoon Show featured Dan Garrett as MC. The show started
with an amusing video titled “Magic
Through the Eyes of
a Dove”. Brian Roberts performed with coins in a tribute to “What
I Love” – with a very funny finish. Ricky Smith performed
hilarious routine about the sadness inherent in losing a card. Eric
appeared as a psychological patient with frequent needs to top up his
medication. Roger Benoit filled a table with bottles that kept
multiplying, as the contents took greater and greater effect upon him.
Bill Butski proved that the trained mind is more powerful than an
electronic calculator. Albert Tam performed unique magic with a
die and a mirror. Matthew Episcopo magically arranged one set of
cards into exactly the same order as another shuffled set. Dick
Stoner performed the Rising Cards: two cards rose under their own
power, but the third needed the help of a large blue pill.
Katayama drew a sketch of Obie,
folded it in such a way that the reduced image identified a selected
card. Kainoa Harbottle performed coin magic and the Linking
Rings, with a particularly graceful sweeping link and unlink that was
new to many in the audience. Jomaguy told a tale of trying to
cheat at a dice game but being caught due to the sudden appearance of
different coloured dice. Dani DaOrtiz did superb versions of Wild
Card and Oil and Water,
then won a lot of laughs with a
good-hearted impersonation of Lennart Green.
Guest Of Honor: Ton Onosaka.
For the Grand Finale
Saturday Night Show, Obie O’Brien resumed the MC duties. As
usual, the show commenced with a tribute to the Guest of Honor. Ton
Onosaka received presentations from Obie O’Brien, Phil
Paul Gertner, Marv
Leventhal, Richard Kaufman, Roger Klause,
and Vic Trabucco. Performances began with Marc Oberon,
whose act was themed around objects turning to gold. Daryl
borrowed a deck of cards, had several people shuffle them, and then was
able to cut to the Aces with his eyes closed. He concluded by
transforming two signed selections into impossible objects. Jim
Molinari performed a very clean rendition of Follow the Leaders.
Paul Gertner had a volunteer think of one card getting burned, then
revealed that that was the only charred card in the deck. Paul presented
a poem about the questions that audiences ask magicians. Howie
Schwarzman performed coin magic, a card penetration, and the rarely
seen R. B. Stubs routine. Rocco performed as only he can, with a
seemingly effortless sequence of productions and transformations of
unlikely objects. Smoke, wine, grapes, eggs, ice cream, corn, limes, a
razor, a pipe, cigarettes, ice, lemon juice … the list goes on and on.
Saturday Night Show Performers
After a short
intermission, Obie announced that next year’s FFFF Guest of Honor
will be Boris Wild. Kicking off the second half of the show,
David Jade took the stage with an astonishingly visual
transformation of three random cards into Aces. Mark Mitton
performed his trademark sushi mat routine. Mike Robinson brought
his little friend Terrence and together they “vented” their
feelings about Obie and others. Hiro Sakai borrowed a ring and
sealed it in a purse. With a flash of fire, the ring appeared locked in
a padlock – the key to which was found in the purse. Steve Bargatze
closed the show with the Straitjacket of Death.
As always, the
convention ended with the announcement of the recipient of the Lou
Gallo MVP Award – this year’s
honouree is Shoot
good things must end. Too soon, the convention ended, the garden gate
opened, and 200 magicians dispersed again to the four corners of the
globe – each, it
to be hoped, carrying a gem of enlightenment.
Obie O'Brien announcing Boris Wild as
the 2008 Guest Of Honor and congratulating Shoot Ogawa for being named
the 2007 MVP.
Tony Gerard's FFFF 2007 Photo Gallery -- click: