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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Immediately 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.
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
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!
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