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
Magic Chooses You -- FFFF 2009
Reported by Robin Dawes • Photographed by Dale Farris

There is a well-known saying about the national dance of Argentina: "You don't choose tango, tango chooses you." Surely this is true of magic as well, and surely the annual gathering in Batavia NY, Fechter's Finger Flicking Frolic (the original close-up convention, by invitation only) proves each year that magic chooses her children wisely.

There is certainly no doubt that magic chose well when she visited Argentina and placed her hand upon the head of Henry Evans, this year's Guest of Honor. The FFFF guest of honor always seems to somehow set the tone for the whole convention, and Señor Evans' charm and gusto infused the entire weekend.

John ArcherObie O'Brien, Head Forker, always keeps the identity of the lecturers secret until the convention begins. This year the Wednesday night lecturer was Britain's John Archer. Señor Archer was a perfect choice -- high energy and tons of humor, with something for everyone... and all at an entirely manageable level of technical skill. I can imagine several items from this lecture going into professionals' repertoires immediately. The lecture featured very creative and carefully structured presentations for the Tossed Out Deck, Kollosal Killer, Room Service, and several others... including an excellent motivation for having a prediction sealed in an envelope in your wallet.

After the lecture the hospitality suites and the dealers' room opened, and magicians from around the world got down to the serious pleasure of renewing old friendships and forging new ones.

Christian SchenkThursday morning's lecture was presented by Germany's Christian Schenk. Señor Schenk is a graphic artist as well as a magician, and he has devoted his energies to designing and creating spectacularly authentic-looking antique cards and coins. For anyone presenting an effect with a presentation that begins "I inherited these cards from my great-grandfather..." these items are a god-send. He also makes gaffed cards to match his decks.

After lunch we reconvened for the ever-popular Teach-a-Trick session. This was the late Roger Klause's baby, and we paused for a moment in his memory. The MC this year was the very capable Steve "Buenos Aires" Beam, who led off the teaching with a very funny bit of finger mentalism. Prof. Rem followed with a nifty routine that combined paper-folding, magic squares, and the ancient "magic cards". Rey Ben (also from Argentina) taught a variation of the crazy compass, and a terrific black-art application. Marc de Souza gave us "UPC Outdone" - an updated version of the venerable Clipper effect. Mike Powers taught us Finders Keepers, a very clever card routine that involves an instant accomplice, who ends up no wiser than the rest of the audience. Craig Dickson closed out the session with a demonstration (and explanation) of the Mexican Joe card control system. Several of the teachers brought printed copies of the instructions for their items -- this was greatly appreciated.

Hard on the heels of the teach-a-trick session was the first show of the convention, the aptly named "Kick Off Show", MC'd by Hank "Mucho Grande" Moorehouse. Not to worry, nobody got kicked off the Kick Off Show... all the performers were excellent. My very good friend Ed Eckl was first, with his Afghan Zipper. Christian Schenk performed a strong monte effect called "Corner of Piccadilly". Mike Stratman magically pushed coins through the table. Leon Etienne spoke movingly of the late Ron Zollweg, an FFFF stalwart (and one of my own sponsors), and ably performed one of Ron's favorite card routines. Buddy Farnan followed with a series of card locations, including one very visually plucked from midair. Gene Gordon performed a classic four ace routine, and Eric Leclerc closed the show with a bare-hand production of water.

Andy DallasWith only the briefest of pauses, we were into another show. Mike "Habanero" Hilburger MC'd this one, dubbed the "Recognizable Faces" show. First up, Woody Aragon used a shuffled deck of card pieces to identify a chosen card. Mark Zacharia did an intriguing voodoo doll routine. Raj Madhok presented what turned out to be one of the highlights of the whole convention for me: a routine based on traditional jadoo magic from the streets of India. Michael Asselin performed ably with coins and rope. Peter McLanachan gave us a very fine "collectors". Jay McLaughlin performed a themed routine of classic effects. Keith Fields energized the audience with hat juggling. Kolos Parkanyi, with talent and poise beyond his years, performed an astonishing effect involving linked cards. Rod Chow followed with a silent version of his classic "Money" act, performed to to music. Andy Dallas wowed the crowd with an elegant, sophisticated zombie routine, and earned the first standing ovation of the convention. Mathieu Bich revealed the magical power of "Bo's Mucus" (don't ask). Luis Otero closed the show with a very unusual card routine in which face-up and face-down cards occurred in precise numerical groups.

Henry EvansThursday evening brought the Guest of Honor lecture. Henry Evans is without doubt the happiest magician alive -- he smiles and laughs continually, and his good humor is completely infectious. He simply makes people feel joyful. His lecture was filled with strong, visual and creative magic. From card tricks... including a very powerful routine that involved "seeing through the volunteer's eyes"... to routines with elastics and a brilliant silk routine that demonstrated the possibility of time travel, Señor Evans proved that he has earned his reputation as one of the premier close-up magicians of our time. He was rewarded with a vigorous standing ovation.

Friday started with Pat Page's Workshop -- always a highlight, and this year with Pat "Patagonia" Page himself back at the helm. The theme this year was "Table Hopping Closers". Pat Page led off with "Old Moore's Almanac" - a very concise version of the popular date-book premise. My good friend David Corsaro presented "Mallrats" - one of the best "interactive" tricks I have seen, which successfully eliminates the problems I have with most of these effects. Mark Zacharia taught a most unusual routine involving a card with a Ouija board on it -- which he drew by hand! Next up was Mike Hilburger with his version of the Magic Square, based on any two digit number provided by the audience. Gene Gordon convinced us that "signed card to wallet" is a powerful closing effect. David Neighbors (to the surprise of few, and the amazement of all) performed some of his trademark brilliant coin magic. Harvey Berg offered a simple but stunning effect -- he instantly produced any named card from his jacket pocket. Keith Randolph offered a cleverly gaffed version of the rising card plot. Todd Nelson came close to performing real magic with predictions that changed visibly when exposed to flame. The inimitable Howie Schwarzman finished the workshop with an impromptu John Scarne rising card routine.

For the past few years Obie has labeled the first Friday show the "World Wide 4F Show". This year's version featured performers from nine countries. First up was Shota Irieda from Japan, who conjured with cards, coins and coffee beans. Rey Ben of Argentina (quite rightly nicknamed "Mr. Energy") entertained with an hilarious prediction of a prison ID number. Rick Wilcox (USA) accidentally destroyed... then magically restored... a volunteer's credit card. Kristian Nivala (Finland) performed a very visual and magical routine of cards materializing from the air. Roger Benoit (Canada) showed his ability to hang coins invisibly in the air. Domenico Dante (Italy) spoke in memory of the late Vanni Bossi and performed one of his classics, the coin in light bulb. Pat Page (Scotland) produced matching cards from a repeatedly shuffled deck -- an effect which gets stronger the more it is repeated. Jean Emmanuel Franzis of France closed the show with coin effects that paid homage to famous coin magicians from our history.

David CorsaroAfter a short break, the "Friends Old and New Show" began, with Meir "Ay Caramba" Yedid doing the MC duty. Meir introduced Roger Nicot, who made a brilliant recovery when a prop went astray -- Roger simply restructured his act on the fly to adapt to the situation -- the sign of a true professional. Pablo ("I can't help being elegant") Kusnetzoff -- who also served as interpreter for Henry Evans -- performed a very elegant thimble routine. Bruce Kalver spoke in memory of Rick Johnsson, then performed a routine with cards used as blindfolds. Bob Ingalls borrowed a deck of cards and was able to sense the colors of cards without seeing them -- this was very magical. Karl Hein offered a super-visual torn and restored signed playing card. Ali Shelly won over the crowd with an airline-themed act that combined a Sam the Bellhop type routine with a series of outrageous puns. Ray Kosby showed shrinking cards and a torn and restored ticket. Joe Rindfleisch performed rubber band magic, and happily reported on his continuing health recovery. David Corsaro took the stage and in honor of Howie Schwarzman presented an extremely audible and aromatic version of the cups and balls. The final performer of the show was veteran street magician Kozmo, who magished a borrowed bill into a Sweet & Low packet.

Friday's Finger Flicking Frolic Show

The Friday evening "Friday's Finger Flicking Frolic Show", MC'd by Obie "Olé" O'Brien, opened with Dick Cook's heartfelt memorial to Eddie Fechter and the Forks Hotel. The magic performance began with Garrett Thomas, working with coins, rings and a Rubik's cube. Giacomo Bertini followed with a coin routine in mime. Then Geoff Williams convinced a drawing of a radio to create music. Dai Hewga from Japan performed a creative coordination of card magic and music. Spain's Willy Monroe captivated everyone with his yoyo skills and balloon magic. Will Gray performed a personalized ambitious card routine with a drawing of a rabbit. The magical David Jade from France offered a short, powerful routine in which a card visibly changed as it was pushed through the deck. Martin Lewis performed his famous Sidewalk Shuffle, and a very strong cards across routine. Next up was Giacomo Decarlo, who cleverly used a deck of cards and some magic to recreate a soccer match between England and Italy. Eric Jones showed us an excellent rendition of 3-Fly. The final performer of the evening was Helder Guimaraes, who made magic with Queens and Aces.

Martin LewisSaturday morning brought everyone back to the rock-hard seats for Martin Lewis' lecture, which included mentalism, card magic, and the Maccabee rings. Señor Lewis offered two very clever extensions of his famous Cardiographic effect, both small enough to carry in one's pocket. His explanation of his cards-across routine, Point of Arrival, was wonderfully comprehensive -- he explained and justified every move. This was a great lesson in the design of effective magic.

Marc OberonImmediately after lunch, Marc Oberon lectured. His lecture covered visual magic such as linking playing cards, very clever and practical mental effects, psychological forces, floating wands, and magic with borrowed finger rings... truly a smorgasbord of magic.

The first Saturday show, "Fechter's Fabulous Frolics" was ably MC'd by Dan "Gaucho" Garrett. Following long-standing tradition, the show began with Bruce Trigg distributing awards to some of the attendees who risen early to play golf. Performances began with my friend Brian Roberts, exploring the magic powers of popsicles. Then the renowned Claude Rix took the stage. He spoke movingly of the passing of Ali Bongo, then performed a classic cups and balls routine, followed by an astonishing routine with 5 small beads. Señor Rix is a true follower of the magical muse. Next, Jason Allen presented a very strong 4 ace routine. Mike Miller engaged us with a version of the Piano trick, using lemons and limes. Bill Citino magically made coins appear in a volunteer's closed hand. John Starr magically made a named playing card appear inside an empty purse frame. Canadian Charles McBurney presented Vernon's progressive elevator card trick. The Dean of the Society of American Magicians, George Schindler, performed a very smooth version of Ring Flight. Gianfranco Preverino offered a set of very strong card effects. Bob Bengal, surely one of the nicest people in magic, worked with cards and coins, then presented a long-stemmed rose to each woman in the audience. What a classy guy!

Saturday at FFFF is always a marathon session, and by the time 8 PM rolled around I felt like I had already seen enough magicians to form a line from Buenos Aires to Tierra del Fuego... but nothing was going to keep me from seeing the final "4F Grand Finale Show", with Obie "loco del sibildo*" O'Brien himself as MC. The show began with announcements of the next few Guests of Honor (in order, from 2010 to 2015, they will be Obie O'Brien, Steve Beam, David Stone, Steve Bargatze, Shawn Farquhar, and Oscar Munoz). The traditional presentations were made to last year's MVP (Boris Wild) and this year's Guest of Honour, Henry Evans.

Saturday Night Show

The magic began with the inimitable David Stone. David astonished with cards, coins, wine bottles, and a tape measure that seemed determined to haunt him. His act ended in chaotic hilarity. Oscar Munoz performed rope magic, and touched everyone with his beautiful linking rings routine. John Archer not only performed an incredibly impressive book test, he also sang and played the ukulele... a true Renaissance man. Paul Gertner offered a very funny routine involving removing the Aces from under a volunteer's hand. Chris Capeheart showed the amazing predictive powers of the Book of Facts, and amazed everyone with his superb linking rings routine. Closing out the first half of the show, the one and only Rocco conjured with flags, confetti, wine, bills, gum, cigarettes, water, newspaper, eggs, scissors, peanuts, rice, lollipops, and much more -- nobody else does magic like Rocco.

Before the second half began the 2009 MVP was announced, as selected by secret ballot by all the attendees: Dick Cook was voted the Most Valued Participant for 2009. We also voted, by open vote, for the theme for the 2010 Pate Page Workshop: "Magic with No Props". This will be an interesting challenge.

The second half of the show kicked off with Marc Oberon. Marc had the amazing ability to turn everything he touched to gold. Marc was followed by Mark... Mark Mason that is. Mark transported a signed card into a sealed deck at a position chosen by a volunteer -- simply amazing. Hungary's Jupiter performed elegant magic with silks, ropes and cards. Terry Ward's alter ego Jack Diamond introduced us to the hazards of the old shell game. The penultimate performer of the evening was my buddy Shawn Farquhar. Shawn performed his brilliant cups and balls routine. Closing the show, and closing the convention, was the hilarious Steve Bargatze. Steve did a brief review of the whole convention and had everyone roaring with laughter -- not a bad trick at the end of a show that was over four hours long, and stretched from one day into the next!

2011-2015 Guest Of Honors

And so, like all good things, FFFF 2009 came to an end. All I can say is "Don't cry for us, Argentina, we had a great time!" I am already looking forward to next year. 2010 will be the 40th FFFF convention, and I am told Obie has some very exciting plans.

*sibildo = whistle
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