The Original Close-Up Convention

FFFF Chairman: Obie O'Brien
Obie O'Brien

FFFF Board Member: Glenn Brown
FFFF Board Member: Jimmy Cieslinski
FFFF Board Member: Dan Garrett
FFFF Board Member: Mike Joseph FFFF Board Member: Meir Yedid  
Board Of Directors:
Glenn Brown
Jimmy Cieslinski

Dan Garrett
Mike Joseph
Meir Yedid
Joan Caesar
Executive Assistant:

Joan Caesar
Backstage Crew:
Lee Eyler (Manager). Thomas Blacke, Jack Chancellor, Ray Eyler, Scott Miller.
Audiovisual Crew:
Jimmy C. (Manager), Joe Cappon, Larry Kohorst, Gary Ward, Rick Wilcox.
4F Shop Crew:
Rod Chow (Manager), Shank Kothare, Simon Lane, Rajneesh Madhok, Amanda Nicot, Jay McLaughlin, Ed Ripley, Michael Tallon.

Fechter's Finger Flicking Frolic
The 2008 FFFF Convention
Reported by Robin Dawes • Photographed by Dale Farris

Bonjour, mes amis. Bienvenue à Fechter's Finger Flicking Frolic 2008 (the original close-up convention, by invitation only). Could that be the Marseillaise we hear, echoing softly through the steep cobblestone streets of Batavia New York? Over there, is that Gérard Depardieu, or is it Obie O'Brien? Ah oui, it is Obie, and he has brought together un ensemble formidable for FFFF 2008.

The 2008 Guest of Honour is Monsieur Boris Wild of France, and he and the many other international invitees give this year's Frolic a distinctly Continental flavour.

Richard TurnerFrom the very start it is clear that this convention will be incroyable. The programme launches at 8 PM on Wednesday, April 23 with a lecture by Richard Turner on card-gambling sleights such as second deals, bottom deals and riffle stacking. I am already extremely impressed by Mr. Turner's immaculate sleight of hand skills when I suddenly realize that he is blind. He explains that he began losing his sight at the age of nine, and now he is able only to distinguish dark from light. To obtain and retain such skill at sleight of hand, without the ability to view one's hands in a mirror or to perform any kind of visual check on the cards to make sure that nothing has gone astray, is a level of accomplishment I had not imagined possible. Mr. Turner is a soft-spoken, unassuming master of his art, and I find his lecture to be inspirational.

Après the lecture the hospitality suite is open (with donuts à la carte), and many attendees are clearly eager to entertain. Head and shoulders above all (and not only because of his natural stature) is Joe Rindfleisch. Joe holds court at a central table with a non-stop stream of miracles with elastic bands and other items. Elsewhere, my good friends Martin Cox and Roland Meister share some of their favourite routines.

On Thursday morning I experience two examples of the esprit de corps that makes FFFF a very special convention. Phil Messina teaches me one of his latest routines and presents me with the necessary props. A few minutes later, Steve Beam gives up half an hour to work with me on a card control he taught in a lecture at the Canadian Association of Magicians CAMaraderie Convention last year.

Paul GordonThe Thursday morning lecture is by Paul Gordon of the United Kingdom. Mr. Gordon presents a strong lecture of intermediate level card magic, featuring clear plots and clever conclusions. Monsieur Gordon is a man of many talents, as is demonstrated later in the convention when he sings a rendition of a Frank Sinatra classic while performing card magic.

Après dejeuner we reconvene on the hard, hard seats for Roger Klause's Teach-a-Trick session. Roger is unable to attend this year (one of several FFFF stalwarts who are sorely missed) so Steve Beam steps in as MC and as the first teacher. He is followed by Prof. Rem (the other one), Mike Powers and Phil Messina.

Karl NormanThe first formal show of the convention (officially called “The Kick Off Show”) is MCed by Hank Moorehouse. He introduces Mike Hrab, Dick Cook, Harvey Berg, George Silverman, Michael Tallon, Fred Casto, Curt Higgins, George Hample, Mandy Farrell, and Henry Holova. Obie has encouraged all performers to make use of a musical accompaniment, which many do to excellent effect. Special mention must be made of Mike Tallon's music, which includes rapid cuts from dozens of different songs, each with lyrics perfectly fitted to the routine. Another highlight of this show is Dick Cook's moving recollection of Eddie Fechter and the Forks Hotel, which earns a standing ovation from the audience.

The first formal show is followed immediately by the second formal show (“Recognizable Faces”), MCed by Mike Hilburger. Mike presents Karl Norman, Cody Fisher, Ed Ripley, Yosuke Kobayashi, David Oestreicher, Andy Quinn, Harry Monti, Scott Robinson, Rod Chow, Dave Wiedemer, Bill Abbott, Jimmy Cieslinski and Luis Otero. After Karl's performance (filled with his trademark irascible humour) several members of the Buffalo Ring surprise him with a cake in honour of his 89 ½ birthday, and the crowd enthusiastically joins in serenading him (bonne fête, Karl!). Karl is one of the decreasing number of FFFF participants who actually worked with Eddie Fechter.

Boris WildThursday evening brings the much-anticipated lecture from Guest of Honour Boris Wild. Boris explains his idée fixe, his fundamental goal in creating magic: to make it look as it would if a real magician were doing it. This translates into an absolute minimum of handling. Boris also brings a very romantic sensibility to his magic, and the combination of clean handling and emotional investment makes his magic powerful and elegant. In his lecture he covers his versatile KISS count, applications of his marked deck, and applications of his deck stacking method, as well as several other ideas and routines. He concludes his lecture with a complete explanation of his pièce de résistance, his FISM-winning KISS act – then as a bonus, Boris performs the act for us ... but with a twist. Wearing a steel-studded collar and a black leather biker's hat and using the music “Macho Man”, he performs the act as it might be done by a person with an alternative lifestyle. Boris earns two standing ovations during his lecture.

Phil presents awards to Tom Craven, Tony Dunn and Robert K. MillerFriday morning brings us Pat Page's workshop ... sans Page Page. Phil Willmarth ably hosts the session, the theme of which is “Stunning Openers”. Before the workshop begins, Phil presents awards to Tom Craven, Tony Dunn and Robert K. Miller, in recognition of their many years of work for the Linking Ring magazine. Leading off the workshop is Josh Rand, followed by David Neighbors, David Corsaro, Mark Zacharia, Gene Gordon, Hannibal, Bill Butski and Marc de Souza. For me, the highlights of the workshop are David Corsaro's Hershey's Kisses routine (in honour of Boris Wild?) and Mark Zacharia's très amusant sobriety test.

AstorThe Friday afternoon lecture features Astor, from Hungary. He teaches a sequence of engaging and puzzling effects, most in the mentalism vein and most using very elegant props. He explains the construction of all the props, but most of them are sufficiently intricate that the average magician would probably be better off buying them directly from Astor. My personal favourite is a routine in which the volunteer seals a signed slip of paper in a box, which is then tossed into a bag with a number of identical boxes. Astor, of course, is unerringly able to divine the box with the signed paper in it.

After a short break to get some circulation back into our gluteus maximus muscles, we reconvene for the first formal Friday show “Friends Old and New”, MCed by Meir Yedid. Meir introduces Roger Nicot, Mike Joseph, Joseph Cabral, Suzanne, Karl Hein, Simon Lane, Ray Kosby, Joe Rindfliesch, Auke van Dokkum, Adam Spigel, Will Houstoun, Paul Gordon, and Julien Fombarron. There is much excellent magic in this show, but the most poignant moment comes when Joe Rindfleisch speaks of his battle with cancer, his all-clear test results, and his renewed appreciation that each day is a gift.

Boris Wild receives Guest Of Honor award from ObieThe Friday evening show (“Friday's Finger Flinging Frolic”) begins with presentations to Boris Wild. Among the several mementos is a beautiful piece of glass art, crafted by Vic Trabucco. After the presentations, Patrice Meunier and Yannick Lacroix deliver hilarious parodies of Boris's performing style, including a take-off of the KISS act. Boris himself then takes the stage with a reprise of his very moving tribute to Eddie Fechter. Following Boris, Giacomo Bertini performs classics of coin magic with a very European style. The inimitable Ali Bongo presents a classic murder mystery that would have made Dame Agatha very proud. Bebel, as always, performs exquisite sleight of hand magic with cards. Richard Sanders performs his super-visual Extreme Burn routine. A very laid-back Reed McClintock performs outstanding coin magic.

Gene Anderson, Boris Wild and Dan GarrettAfter a short breather, Bruce Trigg presents the prizes for the golf match that took place earlier. Gene Anderson then introduces Bornak le Magnifique, a mystic swami who bears a remarkable resemblance to our Guest of Honour. After a few minutes, Dan Garrett can stand it no longer and chases Bornak away. Dan then resumes his alter ego of Garnak the Magnificent, only to be interrupted in turn by Boris Wild in his outre biker outfit. Chaos ensues.

Once order is restored, Hannibal performs a routine about his Father's Father's Father's Father. David Jade presents a very magical card effect. Charming Choi from Korea performs a version of Matrix in which the coins visibly crawl across the table. C'est diabolique! The very creative Mathieu Bich offers a routine in which cards which had been taped together rearrange themselves. Bob Sheets punctuates his very impressive version of the Sacks Dice Routine by frequently reminding us “It's the Rules”. Rich Marotta entertains everyone with a very funny fortune-telling effect. Closing out the show, Helder Guimares does a card routine that combines elements of the Wild Card plot and the Travellers plot.

Mark LeveridgeSaturday begins with a lecture from the charming and polished Mark Leveridge. The lecture is titled “Magic With Stuff You Already Have”. True to form, Mark presents six thoroughly developed, highly entertaining, audience-tested routines. They are all excellent, and the best of all is his outstanding “Borrowed Ring Onto Pencil”.

Mathieu Bich with David RegalThe dernier lecture of FFFF 2008 is given by Mathieu Bich, from France. Mathieu is the creator of some of the most visual magic I have seen in recent years – his torn & restored card routine is justly famous. The highlight of this lecture is his “Prediction in a Bottle” routine.

Dan Garrett is the MC for the Saturday afternoon show, titled “Fechter's Fabulous Frolics”). First up is my friend Brian Roberts, followed by Steven Trott, James Harrison, Dwight Redman, David Prouty, Jeff Hinchcliffe, Michael Feldman, Andrew Pojman, Terry Hedges, Ian Rowland, Aaron Dutton and Roger Benoit. Roger's Titanic-themed act is a standout for me.

Patrice Meunier, Michel Huot and Yannick LacroixSaturday night brings the Grand Finale Performance, featuring la crème de la crème. As is traditional, the first item of business is the announcement of the 2009 Guest of Honour. This year, it takes four people to make the announcement. Patrice Meunier, Michel Huot and Yannick Lacroix present themselves as Cirque du Soleil acrobats, and contort themselves into a sequence of bizarre combinations while Boris Wild reads strings of letters off their bodysuits. Eventually it is revealed that the 2009 Guest of Honour will be the great Henry Evans.

Jim Molinari is the first performer, with a very strong demonstration of riffle stacking techniques. Jim is followed by David Merry, who combines a lot of comedy with an excellent presentation of Zone Zero. My British buddy Martin Cox is up next, with his edgy comedy and a very strong Oil and Water routine. Paul Gertner, looking serene as always, performs a signature transposition effect and recites a poem about questions and answers. Londoner Jon Allen hides a 6'' nail in one of four bags and convinces Boris Wild to choose which bags Jon should crush with his hand. Quel sang-froid! Closing out the first half of the show is the always-incredible Rocco, this year performing wearing a transparent jacket. His technique is so strong that his act is still amazing even under these conditions.

To begin the second half of the show, Hank Moorehouse announces that the 2010 Guest of Honour has also been selected, and it will be none other than Head Forker Obie O'Brien himself. 2010 will be the 40th annual FFFF convention. Leading off the performers in the second half is Shawn Farquhar. With great panache Shawn presents a torn and restored signed photograph routine in which the photograph is restored to a mismade state, still bearing the volunteer's signature. Bob Swadling performs a spirited set of card magic, including a few dance steps to the tune of “YMCA” (in honour of Boris Wild's earlier “Macho Man” performance).

Steve Bargatze and Rick MerrillAt this point, Obie O'Brien takes the stage to announce the winner of the 2008 Lou Gallo MVP award: Boris Wild!

The magie continues with Daryl presenting a clever routine for the hypercard, in which he simultaneously transforms two signed cards into completely impossible objects. Richard Turner returns to the stage to demonstrate his uncanny skills with cards. Mike Robinson and Terrance earn a standing ovation for their very funny vent. routine. Pour finir, closing the show and the convention, les enfants terrible Steve Bargatze and Rick Merrill perform a comedy skit in dove costumes, giving us the low-down on magic from the bird's perspective. There is not much magic but the gags are hilarious. They receive a standing ovation for their efforts.

C'est tout, c'est terminé.
Au revoir mes amis, jusqu'à
FFFF 2009.


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