While I have a moment or two between meetings, I thought I would just mention some of my thoughts and highlights about this years conference.
First, as Ive said in the past, if there is only one magic event that Im allowed to attend, this is the one Id pick. This is not to say that other events are not good, its just that the LA Conference on Magic History is the one event that brings everything I love about magic together in one place. The producers do a phenomenal job. With most events, by the last day, I am ready to go home. With this event, I want more. Clearly they have found the perfect amount of time to dedicate to a magic get-together because, like all great entertainments, you are left wanting more, not glad that its finally over. Kudos and thanks to Mike Caveney, Jim Steinmeyer, John Gaughan, and Frankie Glass!
Besides the whole event itself, the biggest highlight for me was seeing the friends and acquaintancesold and newthat I have made over the years. From cartographers to photographers; scholars to actors; dealers to performers: I am so lucky in this regard. My only regret is that there is not enough time to spend with everyone.
All of the speakers were great, so by pointing out my favorites does not in any way mean that I didnt enjoy the others. Its just that there were several that covered subjects most interesting to me or that were particularly entertaining to me.
John Gaughans recreation of Selbits Mighty Cheese was a trip. Even though you know how its done, its still interestingand yes; entertainingto see it, especially when it seems to have a life of its own.
The clips of Tommy Cooper during Chris Woodwards talk were great. Dr. Timothy Moores talk on (and performance of) Germains Spirit Lock was a great delight for me (Germain is one of my guys). Later, Dr. Moore allowed me to hold the one-of-kind piece of apparatus as well.
Several have made a big deal about Peter Lamonts comments about the Jamy Swiss review of his book, but, while funny, it wasnt the funniest part of his talk. I still giggle when I think about him paraphrasing the gospels: I was in tears. (In regard to Jamy, who was just two rows behind me, he had just as good a laugh as everyone else at his expense).
Chris Power, who emerged long enough from his dungeon to give a talk on the British Museum, was another one of those from the British contingent at this years event whose humor I particularly enjoyed (Ive always loved the deadpan delivery of British humor).
Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Levits performance of Palingenesia was spectacular! I really enjoy these reenactments of old entertainments such as this that the conference puts on. I know that an unbelievable amount of time and resources goes into these once in a lifetime performances, so I soak em up as much as possible. I put myself in a mindset of being completely unaware of optics and other well-known principles and just allow myself to be amazed. Jim Steinmeyer (designer) and Craig Dickens (builder) are to be congratulated as well on this incredible illusion.
Mr. Mysto (John Carney) attempting to perform with every piece of antique apparatus he acquired (borrowed from the John Gaughan collection) was a hoot! But even with all this amazing old apparatus surrounding him, my favorite moment was when Mysto went over his list in order to make sure he didnt miss anything; a wonderful touch!
Speaking of Carney, his performance of Hofzinsers Rose Mirror on Saturday evening was wonderful (as was his entire turn). Carney will be performing his show in Hollywood again in December. If you are in the LA area, be sure to see it! Hopefully he will be adding the Mirror to the program.
Mike Caveneys performance of the Egg Bag, where he produces two-dozen or so eggs from a cloth bag, had me scratching my head a few times. And Kalin and Jinger are, to me, two of the most talented and inspiring performers in magic today. What a great way to close a great event!
As usual, the dealers rooms were a hub of activity (though the air conditioning seemed to be lacking somewhat) and I picked up a few treasures. Tops on the list was a first edition of Greater Magic signed by Jean Hugard. This was part of Max Holdens original allocation of books which he sold upon its release. Offering editions signed by Hugard was Holdens marketing ploy to get magicians to buy the book from his shops instead of his competitors. I also acquired a nice first edition Hatton & Plate, but I waited too long and missed out on a nice copy of Spirit Slate Writing and Kindred Phenomena to Dr. Albo of all people! (Cmon; he must already have a copy!) Much to my wifes pleasure, I did arrive home with money still in my wallet: a miracle!
I was sorry to not see George Daily this year, who was under the weather and couldnt make it. (I hope youre feeling better George! I hope to see you in April!) I also missed seeing Michael Weber who was not in attendance this year. Perhaps hes still looking for his special copy of Extraordinary Exhibitions.
While I mentioned that it was great seeing so many great people, there are a few I would like to mention in particular. It was great seeing Michael Albright again. It seems the only time I get to see him is at this event, so that makes it that much more special to me. Its always nice to see Norm and Lupe Nielsen, who have become my personal interior decorators of late. Seeing Mark Kalin and Jinger is always a great pleasure for me. They are wonderful people as well as wonderful performers. And finally, to Bill Bowers, whose kindness and generosity is beyond compare. I have no idea how I could ever repay such gestures, except to give you my everlasting admiration and respect.