Reported by Robin Dawes
• Photographed by Dale Farris
park your heels. What's a gorgeous doll like you doing in a joint like
this? Oh, you heard I have a story to tell? Yeah I'll tell you – for a
drink. Hey Joe, bring me another Shirley Temple; the lady's buying.
Okay Angel, here's
my story. I was cruising down I-90 on a weather-heavy day at the end of
April. The sky was like lead and the wind was howling like a move-monkey
when he realizes that he's just spent five years perfecting skills that
not even his mother can pretend to be interested in. Yes, it was a dark
and stormy afternoon – when suddenly a beam of light burst through the
clouds and lit up my destination, the Clarion Hotel in Batavia, New
York. I was on my way to Obie's FFFF (Fechter's Finger Flicking Frolic,
the original close-up convention, by invitation only). Seems there were
mysterious things going on and Obie wanted me to investigate – 'cause
that's what I do. I didn't know what I was in for – that's life, ain't
it – but I wasn't going to leave town without some answers.
Obie hadn't told
me much about the case – something about tee-shirts and a shopping
centre. I figured I'd find out more when I got there. No sooner had I
stepped in the door than half a dozen shady characters came up to me.
Every one of them asked me to pick a card. Then they shuffled my chosen
cards back into their decks – then they found them again. I looked
around the joint – the same kind of stuff was happening everywhere. Obie
was right: there were strange things going on here for sure.
There was a whole
lot of whistle-blowing around 8:00 p.m. and everyone stopped whatever
they were doing and sat down on chairs on risers around a stage. Then
– the guy who
invited me – came out and said as how he had invited everyone there –
and that this was the biggest FFFF gathering ever.
Obie introduced a
British dude named
gonna give us a lecture. I figured we was going to get some moral
education, which I thought might do me some good. But this Pinner guy,
he taught us some fantastic magic tricks. There was a beauty of a
holiday location prediction called Travelogue, and a sweet effect where
Richard and a volunteer both predicted where each other's cards were
located in another deck.
After that lecture
ended, Mr. O'Brien (I figure I better be polite 'cause he was blowing
the whistle) told us that we was going to hear another lecture right
away. This time the talker was
Germany. He taught us this amazing Torn & Restored Newspaper, and a
topnotch routine with a cup and a die, and a bunch of other clever
As soon as the
applause ended I aimed to button-hole a couple or ten of the palookas in
the crowd to get some clues as to what was going on here – but they all
disappeared. I tracked 'em down though; about half of them were in a
joint called "The Dealers' Room" – ain't that an interesting name? – and
the other half were upstairs in a little speak-easy called "The
Hospitality Suite," knocking back sodas and doughnuts. Everywhere I
looked, there was magic going on.
My head was
spinning – maybe a little too much of my old pal Jim (Beam that is) –
and I called it a night.
the alarm woke me like a firebell inside my aching head. I sneered at
the ugly guy in the mirror and lurched off to the first event of the
day, a lecture by a British cat named
He made my brain hurt by asking how many different ways you can arrange
a deck of cards, then showed a prediction about a genuinely shuffled
deck. He also made a borrowed bill jump around inside a wine-glass (I
could identify), and taught us what may be the best card trick ever to
perform for the happy couple at a wedding (and I don't mean the parents
of the groom who's finally moving out of their basement).
After lunch (I was
on a liquid diet at the time) it was time for the
session. The emcee
was a long, lean side of bacon by the name of
Turned out he was the Guest of Honor this year. This fellow has written
a serious pile of books, and he published a magazine of close-up stuff
for fifteen years – I guess this Beam is pretty bright. He taught us a
nifty little number using four Queens, then started introducing the
other teachers. My old pal
explained his advanced thinking on the old "baby gag" (are those still
legal?). With a little work you have a chance of creating a miracle.
us some powerful sleight-of-hand from Benzais and Dowd. Then
gave us a
great tip for practicing card magic.
was next with
a clever application of Oullet's Crook Pivot, which he called the
Ishkabibble Sandwich. Then
our socks off with a super clean transposition of two borrowed coins.
was up next, using a "double drop" technique for a version of CAAN. The
Matsuyama Principle to predict a volunteer's preferred liquor. Closing
out the session was
teaching us how to make a King and Queen jump back to the middle of the
We took a break to
get some circulation back into our butts – those chairs are as hard as
the bread rolls at the Day-Old Diner. Then the first show started. The
emcee was a tough-looking bird named
You could tell just by looking at him that he wasn't going to put up
with no guff. He called up the performers and kept them all in line.
First up was
who made magic around the story of Soapy Smith. Next was sound-man
everyone up with Lime and Coconut magic.
coins appear in his pocket – mine usually do the opposite. Then
a solid billiard ball out of his wallet.
with Aces and Kings as he talked about his magic teacher.
his cards separate out into reds and blacks. Then
about bad advice from old magic books, and amazed us with a very visual
As soon as that
show ended, another one started – no time to even unbutton my collar.
This show was helmed by
Gary "GMan" Morton,
who went fishing in midair and caught a live goldfish.
took the stage
and sent some Kings crossing. Then
magical lesson in poker dealing.
took us into the
realm of weird science with cards that were attracted to red and blue
successfully attempted three-way mind-reading. I was of two minds about
that. Actually, it takes single-minded determination to do mentalism as
well as George does.
audience member the power to predict the color of cards in a shuffled
gave a comedic
history of coin magic, then used a zipper to open a hole in the table.
Japan), tiny and perfect as a porcelain doll, performed a Japanese style
cups and balls routine. Then the droll
performed strong card magic.
Cardshark hombre) used an MIB Neuralyzer to modify the memory of
everyone in the audience. Closing the show,
was able to
instantly solve a scrambled Rubik's cube.
By this point we
was all exhausted and thirsty. Luckily there was a dinner break; then at
8:00 p.m. we was back in the chairs for the Guest of Honor Lecture,
I already told you about his books and all – now I'm telling you that
those books are full of solid magic. In fact they are so solid that I
have it on good authority you could use those books for housing. His
lecture was outstanding: a ton of great semi-automatic stuff, and some
super-practical sleight-of-hand, including the real work on the third
After the lecture
I tried to track down some answers. I'll tell you sister, those guys
were the oddest bunch of swans I ever did see. I watched them spend
hours hunched over a deck of cards or a handful of coins, saying stuff
like "That looked good, I didn't see anything." I spent most of the
night just trying to see the same things they wasn't seeing – or was it
the other way around?
Next morning I
woke up with a headache that felt like I walked right into a concrete
ceiling beam. I mainlined about a gallon of coffee and carried my skull
back to the main hall. There was another teaching session starting up,
this one called the
Workshop. The boss was a guy named
Mike "Make My Day"
I'd heard of this guy – dangerous as they come – with a corner on the
cardmagic game. The workshop was all about Give-aways – souvenirs to
give your clients so as they will remember you.
was first but
he must have been a little shy about appearing in public – he was
projected on a screen, being filmed in an undisclosed location. Dan
explained how he borrows a bill, tears it up, does magic with it, then
restores it with Scotch tape.
showed us how
to make holes move around on your business card before you hand it out.
bent a couple of
coins, one while it was held in a volunteer's hand.
two tips: getting your face printed on fake currency (not counterfeit!)
and getting a QR code printed on the back of your business card.
us a little magical toy that can be made from a couple of playing cards.
was with us in spirit, and recommended finishing Card Warp by creating a
hyper-card and giving it to your volunteer.
us part of his excellent Jumper routine, ending with an intriguing
memento. The always dapper
gave us the
idea of presenting your volunteer with an origami bunny. Closing out the
He taught us how to produce any flat object for a give-away from between
two flat pieces of cardboard.
After lunch we had
another lecture. I tell you, babe, I never learned so much in one
weekend. This one was by
who goes by the moniker
He specializes in coin magic – really slick stuff. He even made a signed
coin appear inside a green pepper.
Before we knew
what hit us, we were into the Friday afternoon show. Head honcho for
this round was
I'd seen Oscar before, and I'm happy to say he's half the man he used to
be – and he's ten times better. He had a line-up of real heavy-hitters
with him. First up was
making magic by linking finger rings onto large silver rings. He was
who told us of
gems found in old magic catalogues. Then
to the furniture kings.
the uncanny ability to cut to named cards.
proved to be a
man after my own heart: he produced a glass of whiskey from an empty
took the stage and
presented a strong card routine. Next up was
with a wonderfully creative act in which he tried to lull his cards to
used a can of
spray-paint to effect a colour-changing deck. The inimitable
super ACAAB (B for Birthday) – very very strong! After Boris,
magically changed a stack of bills to ever higher denominations – I wish
I could do that at the end of every month. The show closed with
who did the funniest sponge ball routine I have seen since I quit the
After dinner there
was another show – these close-up guys are like Energizer bunnies – they
keep going and going and going. There was a hush when emcee
Meir "Mickey Finn"
took the floor. Actually the hush fell after he told his first joke.
Just kidding you babe, Meir did a super job of warming up the crowd. The
show opened with
Sweden, who did a great routine involving plucking lit bulbs from
mid-air and dropping them in his hat while he told a touching story;
all rolling in the aisles with his personalized version of Cardtoon.
showed why he is
so highly regarded – he dropped coins into a black hole and brought them
made our eyes bug
out with the cleanest card magic in the world. Next out of the gate was
the very funny
(from Japan) who
produced and consumed many drinks – and pulled one of the best gags of
the whole weekend.
the first half of the show with a demonstration of memorizing a shuffled
deck in just a few seconds. That kind of skill would come in handy in my
line of work.
By that time my
legs were feeling as dead as a hustler who tries to pass off a $3 bill.
After a break that was almost long enough to get some circulation back,
the yo-yo master. Willy transported a selected card to the inside of a
balloon. After Willy came
Auke van Dokkum
able to defy the law of gravity. Next up was
something completely unique: he recited the poem Jabberwocky while
eating razorblades dipped in Nutella! There's something you don't see
used coins to illustrate a Bible story.
drew a mental
impression of a chosen movie – and then his drawing became animated and
changed from incorrect to correct. Closing out the show was the urbane
who made coins fly from the hand of one volunteer to the hand of
Later that night I
got to witness
take an idea and
brainstorm it for twenty minutes, turning it into a very visual magic
effect. I gotta tell you Angel, I saw a lot of magic that weekend but
watching those two guys turn on the creativity was just about the most
amazing thing I saw.
Obie gave me some
more info about those mysterious shirts – seems an ex-con tried to steal
them but the shirts were too heavy and he collapsed – all of a sudden I
knew the explanation – it came to me semi-automatically –
was as easy as a stacked-deck reverse-faro down-under speller.
I'll tell ya later.
around 11 a.m. with a lecture from
He designs and makes a lot of very clever equipment that you just don't
see anywhere else, and he explains his thought processes – very
The first show of
the day started at 2:00 p.m., emceed by
Dan "DA" Garrett.
The show started with
who literally made cards vanish in a puff of smoke – and received the
first standing ovation of the weekend. Then
performed elegant magic with an Okito Box.
with a classic "Drunken Gambler" routine. After that
Dr. Jeff Pearson
illustrated memory loss with cards that went blank. Next batter at the
with coins that went through the table, and then a table that went
through the table.
gasps as he linked solid rings together with just one hand.
responded to some
earlier comments about mentalism, then knocked our socks off with some
well-structured act in which a signed insurance policy transformed into
a signed bill that previously had been destroyed. Then the intensely
the stage and made a ripped-up card appear, properly restored, inside a
fortune cookie, inside a locked box that was sitting at the back of the
bleachers. The rope magic that
brought to the
stage was creative and charming, and included several moments of what I
have to call rope-agami – making and animating animal figures with a
length of rope – one of the coolest things I have seen. Those tired
jaded magicians must have agreed with me, because Vladimir was rewarded
with a standing O.
with coins that disappeared when he hung them in the air. To close the
show, the unpredictable
and ate a functioning light-bulb.
The Grand Finale
show was emceed by none other than
show opened with a hilarious video in "honor" of
put together by
This was followed by a number of tributes and presentations to Steve,
after which the crowd rose to its collective feet to show him their
First up was the
with a smooth
cards to pocket routine. Then the sophisticated
with coins and a cylinder in honor of John Ramsay.
still covered in dust from his visit to Columbia, discovered a borrowed
ring in a lemon.
everyone when a chosen card transposed with a hundred dollar bill held
securely under his shoe! Then
Tunnel of Logic and brought the house down.
After a short
break the lights went out then came back to reveal
who performed cups and balls in the style of a madman and received a
loud standing ovation for his work.
professor a nightmare with a transposition of two sets of ropes – very
creative! Speaking of creativity,
high-tech: he attached an iPad to his face. His face appeared on the
screen singing a sad song while he did sleight-of-hand on the table. The
crowd loved it and gave Paul a standing ovation. Next up,
presented his superlative classic rope magic and received a standing
ovation when he was done. Closing the magic for the show and the
convention was multiple FISM winner and the only person ever to win
first place in close-up
stage from the
Shawn presented excellent card magic, concluding with one of his
signature effects: the discovery of a signed card in its proper location
in a sealed deck. The final act of the show was the wild and crazy
called the whole
cast back for a standing ovation. And then it was over. Another amazing
FFFF convention came to a close.
Oh, the shirt
mystery – sure thing, Angel, the answer was right there: "Shopping
Center Shirts Defeat Criminal" ... or in other words "Mall Tees Foil
Con". That's my story, and I'm sticking to it – or my name ain't Trick
Dacey, Private Eye. How about another Shirley Temple? Oh, you gotta go?
Well, here's looking at you, kid.
--For a complete list of formal
performers click: HERE.
*The video was made by Matt Episcopo and Leon Etienne.