Reported by Robin Dawes
• Photographed by Dale Farris
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
Thursday 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.
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
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.
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
Auke van Dokkum, Adam Spigel, Will
Houstoun, Paul Gordon,
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.
The 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.
After 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.
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”.
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.
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.
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
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).
At this point,
Obie O'Brien takes the stage to announce the winner of the 2008 Lou
Gallo MVP award: Boris Wild!
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.
Au revoir mes amis, jusqu'à