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

Reported by David Corsaro • Photographed by Dale Farris

4F 2019 – Convention Review

On Wednesday April 24, 2019, there were two very significant events that took place. The first event was the 49th annual Obie’s FFFF Convention in Batavia NY. The second event was the movie “Avengers: Endgame” was released in theaters. These two events have a lot more in common than most think. Both brought together an elite group of people who have incredible magical powers. Both contained people who have skills that are so unique, they are world famous. And finally, both are shrouded in secrecy. But that is all about to change. So, sit back, relax and enjoy the new movie, “Avengers: 4F edition.”


We open our movie in the quiet town of Batavia NY. This normally peaceful town is about to become the home for the best magicians in the world. They are all gathering together to combine their collective superpowers and learn, teach and do whatever is necessary to accomplish their mission: to advance the art of magic. This will all take place in their secret headquarters (which bears a striking resemblance to a Clarion Inn and Suites.) The headquarters has everything this group of superheroes need for the weekend including a free continental breakfast (even superheroes need to start the day right.) It is Wednesday April 24th and our heroes are arriving at their headquarters with all the supplies they need such as cards, coins and music on flash drives. These are the tools necessary to succeed in their mission.


As our heroes are entering the headquarters, they are greeting each other with the secret handshake (which looks a lot like a normal handshake and maybe a hug.) For some of these people, they have not seen each other since the last Avengers: 4F gathering one year ago. Others have seen each other recently as many of our heroes travel the world and visit with each other quite often. Once the pleasantries have been exchanged, everyone gathers in the main conference room to begin our mission.


Our fearless leader, Captain Obie O’Brien (who is a lot like Captain America except Obie is from Canada) assembles the troops and opens the event. Obie mentions that the key to successfully advancing the art of magic lies around one key person: Mike “The Math Man” Powers. Obie explains that we need to do whatever is necessary to protect The Math Man or else the whole mission could fail.



Our movie jumps to a planet called “Opening Gala” which is ruled by Meir Yedid. Meir welcomes our heroes to his planet and tries to make them feel comfortable with some jokes. Then he introduces his own team of Avengers starting with 2 new superheroes. First, Daniel Mormina casts spells with a magical looking lamp and then Bernardo Sedlacek proves that he can make any card appear at any number in a deck (which could prove to be crucial when protecting a Math Man like Mike Powers.) Next, Nicolas Pierri uses his mind power to influence the decisions of his spectator. Alfonso Rituerto creates illusions using a magical juice known as “coffee” (which proves to also help push people through sleep deprivation, another key aspect to a successful mission this weekend.) Next, we watched Bryan Saint, who himself has defeated (and fooled) the mighty Penn & Teller. George Iglesias accessed a brain-stone to predict which product someone would purchase (and hide it in a jar full of marshmallows.) Johnson Huang and Horret Wu both traveled a great distance to change the law of physics (mostly using cards and light.) Quentin Reynolds showed how metal could melt and reform (almost like a ninja). Finally, Henry Evans closed our first meeting by proving that he is one step ahead of anyone who dares challenge him. We have taken our first step to advancing the art of magic.


But this international gathering of great warriors is not just about displaying their skill. We now join one of the great teachers who will be relaying his own knowledge onto our superheroes. The first teacher is David “The Master’s Voice” Regal. While David showcased many different examples of his powers, the one where he made beer appear seemed to delight this group (which is also a theme that would reoccur later in the weekend.) After David taught this group all about his own magic powers, everyone retired to a large banquet area and consumed the fuel necessary to survive this weekend…pizza.


After a successful first night, we move to Thursday. Some of our superheroes who were not able to arrive on Day 1 are being seen checking in now. This is significant because now the collective group is complete, and things can really get underway. The learning continues as Olmac from France teaches his recommended techniques that we can use on our mission. It turns out that his incredible skills result in 2 amazing powers…invisible card sleights and perfect hair.


We then moved to 2 more showcases where various heroes illustrate for the group just how they will help advance the art of magic. Emcee Gary Morton took the stage to introduce Miguel Ajo from Spain who controls light to make everyday objects change color and Mike Spade uses mind power to con everyone with 3-card monte. Steven Himmel said that he would go to Las Vegas and blend in by disguising himself as a human slot machine. Chris Westfall and John Dahlinger both controlled money and Nobuyuki Nojima manipulated paper. Jeff Christensen decided to help by blending in with everyday people and channeling his inner Gilbert Gottfried. Hayafumi showed his super-power by turning the world upside-down (or at least, just his prediction.) Finally, Eric “Ice cream cone” DeCamps crafted some of the finest sleight of hand ever seen. After this group was done, you could feel the balance of the world beginning to shift as the level of magic was rising. But things are not done yet. What if the next group of superheroes could not match the level of skill and talent as our first? Would the quality of magic in the world suffer? The world watches in anticipation….



Not to worry. Emcee Joe Turner took the stage to ensure everyone that the next round of heroes would not disappoint. First up was Mike Maione who had to speak in his native language, emoji’s (he is from the planet “Puns.”) Next up was Liu Sing Z who was delicate as a cotton ball. When you need to lighten the mood and add some comedy to your magic, you reach out to the American trio of David Schwartz, Jeff Eline and Gino Mozzarella (who sometimes can hide in plain view under the name Danny Archer.) In order to keep his identity a secret, David Schwartz even had someone else read the punchlines to his jokes. Martin Braesass unleashed his inner “Human Torch” and had fire (and coins) coming out of his hands. But sometimes to beat the bad guys, you must outsmart them. That is why Al Chen played an old school version of “Find the Queen” to distract the enemy. Finally, from Belgium, Think Nguyen controlled the colors of the world to obey his commands.



We closed out our Thursday at headquarters with 2 incredible lectures. First, our Guest of Honor Mike Powers illustrated why he is a legend in his field. He walked through all types of magic with some of the most creative methods ever. Granted, even some superhero’s keep secrets to themselves as Mike never revealed his greatest accomplishment, getting Maria to marry him.


After Mike, Howard Hamburg took the stage. He not only demonstrated some of the best sleight of hand I have ever seen, but he told stories of the last generation of superhero’s (including some guy named Vernon.) When Howard speaks, his love of magic is evident.


At this point in our movie, the bad guys were scared. The 4F team was way too overpowering so they began to adjust their plans. The only way the 4F team could respond was to act quickly. Therefore, the next day, Mike Powers organized his quickest-thinking team to teach everyone “tricks to be done in less than 1 minute.” First up, a trio of Canadian superhero’s named Michel Huot, Marc Trudel and Yannick Lacroix amazed and amused the crowd. Next up, Jeff Eline, Gene Gordan, Dave Neighbors and Steve Friedberg from the US performed, explained and astounded the audience in the blink of an eye. We closed out this teaching experience with Derek Finn, Keith Randolph, Geoff Williams (at least, I think it was Geoff Williams…..tough to tell with a hand in his face the whole time) and Will Fern (who with the help of Boris Wild, performed an entire trick with his back to the audience.)



The 4F team was taking over the world. The bad guys were retreating. But this is not the time to rest. The only way to continue saving the planet was for the 4F team to continue to grow their knowledgebase. So, a series of TED-style talks were organized by the incredible…. the talented…. the amazing Katalina (and her husband Christian.) The first talk was Boris Wild who explained what is necessary to compete (and hopefully win) at FISM. Rolando Santos walked everyone through his extensive history of teamwork and making connections (which for any group of superheroes’, is essential.) Maria Schwieter proved to have possibly the most important superpower in the world by explaining how she works with South American kids to expand the art of magic. Next up, Vince Mendoza transported the group to a beautiful, emotional place by going through the history, creation and presentation for the napkin rose. At the end, Mike Seege reminded everyone about the core reason why we all partake in this incredible art with his own “happiness project.”



But learning great magic can only take our team so far. In order to keep the bad guys on the ropes (3 ropes, different sizes), our team needs to demonstrate their skill. Leading the next round of prestidigitation was Steve Beam. The glare shining off the top of his head sent a signal to the world that this next group of magicians was not to be reckoned with. From Japan, Takamiz Usui rocked by solving Rubik’s cubes faster and in increasingly more difficult ways. Occasionally a new superhero enters the team and must prove his worth. Thomas Solomen did just that and proved his mastery of magic with nothing more than a cup and a cone. Matt Baker from the US followed Thomas by showing how he can control cards at will. Jiang Zhenghua made metal melt through solid metal and Christopher Quintero caused cards to disappear in front of everyone’s eyes. The cards that Christopher made disappear must have reappeared in Chris Payne routine while Daniel Hank showed mastery over…a hank. Finally, our show concluded with Christian and Katalina proving that even if the bad guys tried to kill Christian, they would not be able to.



Of course, world domination can only exist if you showcase talent from all over the world. So, the Montreal Trio took the stage to welcome acts from France and Canada. First up is the legend himself, Boris Wild followed by Edouard Boulanger (both FISM winners.) Alexandra Duvivier made one of the most unique entrances of the weekend and blew away the audience with a family secret. Billy Debu was masterful in front of the watchful crowd while the first half was closed by the always unpredictable, David Stone. After a short intermission, the second half was kicked off by JB Dumas. Next, William Watt continued his tradition of magic with alcohol (it’s a long story but a good one.) Remy Robert followed William with some dazzling sleight of hand and the showcase was closed by Olmac who, despite teaching his secrets the day before, still had plenty of tricks up his sleeve. At this point in our movie, the evil of the world is basically on their last legs. They cannot fight this level of talent and amazement. But our 4F superheroes are not even close to being done yet.



When someone with the powers of David Stone enters your world, you do not just limit him to one show. Oh no. David was brought back early Saturday morning to lecture for his peers. What makes David such an incredible person to watch lecture is the randomness of his act and the amazing level of thought and planning that makes it seem so random when it isn’t.


After David, Dan Garrett took the stage to kick off the “Mini World Show.” World famous Greg Frewin stood in front of the crowd and not only performed an incredible prediction but even made furniture disappear instantaneously. Clark Payne stood in front of the 4F crowd for the first time in his life and did not disappoint. Next, Rich Marotta brought comedy and magic together (his multi-powers at work.) John Michael Hinton demonstrated why he was asked to be on “Fool Us” by doing just that to this crowd.


Then 2 masters from Japan, Kengo Nakashima and Hiro Sakai both displayed incredible attention to detail as each move, sleight and action in their routines were flawless. Many thought they were seeing double, but they were not as David Regal came back once again to knock everyone on their butts with his magic. Finally, our show was closed out by the energy and excitement of Woody Aragon.



The quality of magic in the world was in top form and many would think that our movie would be over. But every good superhero knows that usually towards the end of the fight, the bad guy comes back for one final shot. Therefore, our 4F crew decided to keep the momentum of success going. Our next show was supposed to be hosted by Michael Dardant, but he was battling the forces of evil back home (and he has the battle scars to prove it.) So, Shawn Farquhar came to host (and every time he came on to introduce someone new, he had his own new battle scars.) Shawn Dunn took the stage and performed his unique brand of magic. Eric Tait took the powers from his mystic beard to absolutely amaze the room. Next we saw Jason Michaels combine fantastic magic with a very engaging presentation. Willy Monroe from Spain celebrated his 11th time at 4F and was immediately followed by the incredible Jafo. The FISM winners from France continued as Ludovic Julliot took the stage. The energy did not decrease as Greg Chapman lived up to the recommendations of his sponsors. Lychee from Japan made everyone’s eye bug out. And our afternoon concluded with the one and only, Paul Gertner giving everyone a sneak peek on what is to come in his next exciting adventure (trust me, you will not want to miss this.)



After a short ceremony dedicated to our guest of honor Mike Powers, the final show was ready to begin. It’s hard to believe that the magic from this weekend could get any stronger, but our superheroes are not done yet. Hosted by the 2 head 4F’ers, Obie “Blue Line” O’Brien and Joan “High Stick” Caesar, the closing show was in good hands. First up was one of the funniest and most mind-boggling duos’ I have ever seen, Ryo Higuchi and Ryuhei Nakamura. The magic with these 2 was happening so fast, your eyes grew tired from looking back and forth. Next Wang Yu from China had the crowd on the edge of their seats with every move. Joad Hsu from Taiwan had small objects moving around the table with lightning speed (and usually without any cover.) Many in the crowd were not ready for Lucy Darling (especially…. DAAAAAAAN.) Lucy brought magic, charm and amusement. Next, Shawn Farquhar continued his tradition of only performing magic obtained that day from Target (an odd superpower I would agree but it does work for him.) The first half was closed by the Italian Stallion himself….no the other one…. Rocco. You might think you know exactly where Rocco gets his superpower from, but even with a clear jacket, he always proves to be 1 step ahead of you.



The second half of our final show was opened by our guest of honor Mike Powers. This was followed by Pere Rafart from Spain who had cards obeying his every command. Adrian Vega returned to perform at 4F for the 3rd time and did not disappoint. Bill Cheung from Austria can make any card named rise, appear and disappear with nothing more than the wave of his hand. Luis Olmedo from Spain had cards and coins flying around the table with incredible speed. Finally, our show concluded with Rick Merrill and Stephen Bargatze doing their own TED-talk about how magic should be done.


Well, as you can probably imagine, with a weekend like that in the books, the bad guys are completely defeated. This collection of over 150 superheroes came to this small town and collectively raised the level of quality magic in the world. But as everyone who watches a superhero movie knows, there is always an extra scene. A quick shot sometime during the movie credits that gives you an indication whether our heroes will need to come back and fight again. And in our movie, there is in fact an extra scene. It is a close-up of a dealer table. And as the camera pans back, we see a collection of heroes watching a man perform magic. This man reveals a secret that gets a huge reaction from the crowd. The man is Mark Mason. And our movie concludes with the words “…. find out the secret, in April 2020.”


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