Those who were not in attendance would probably be surprised and perplexed to learn that John Carney opened his presentation on Friday night with the words "We got a Disco Inferno in here!"
Why on earth would a group of magic collectors, gathered to hear some scholarly lectures, have a disco inferno in there? It's a fair question, I would think.
The answer is that it was not actually our disco inferno, but a disco inferno belonging to the "Thunderbirds" group holding their dance right on the other side of our wall. Of course I can't speak for others, but for myself, I only got swept up in the music and lost my place in the lecture for one song. Not bad. The rest of it seemed like a soundtrack, and I did not find it particularly distracting.
John's presentations at conferences are always outstanding, due to the fact that he performs the effects he discusses, which really brings the ideas to life! He presented three tricks for us, and his selection of "Do The Hustle!" as musical accompaniment was, I felt, excellent. (Oh, wait - I'm not sure that the selection was made by him, now that I think of it.)
As mentioned above, the point of David Parr's talk (that you can go home again, and in fact "you should go home again) was well-appreciated by me, especially since I also owned a copy of Spooky Tricks (his first magic book) when I was a child. He and Gordon Meyer and I discussed bringing out a compilation of our own individual variations on "Look At This Gross Dead Finger That I Found" - but we ended up agreeing that the effect was much too vital a part of our personal repertoires to tip these important subtleties.
I very much enjoyed Michael Claxton's survey of the way magicians have been portrayed in Punch magazine (through 1916, anyhow), especially since (with the notable exception of a big slug at birthday party magicians) most of the satire was directed at politicians who were trying to be magicians. Politicians, not magicians, are usually the bad guys. I can live with that.
David Charvet had a dramatic story to tell about his newly expanded edition of Alexander: The Man Who Knows. After the release of the original version, the elderly son of Alexander came forward with scrapbooks and new information - so much of it, that a major revision was clearly in order. The book was duly prepared, and arrived from the printer on March 31. On April 1, author Charvet and publisher Caveney phoned the assisted care facility where the fellow resided in order to arrange a time to deliver a copy to him - only to learn that he'd died that morning, at age 90. I see this as a form of the old adage "Half of art is knowing when to stop," merely replacing "art" with "life" and "stop" with "die."
It may well (and fairly) seem that attempting to deliver a magic lecture over an intrusive disco beat might constitute the worst possible performance conditions for a magician, but I know for a fact that this is not true. Richard Hatch described a recent performance, where he had been asked to entertain at a small dinner party honoring an author. He even went out and bought some of the author's books in order to feature them in a trick. However, the night of the dinner party coincided with a championship basketball game, and several of the party couldn't bear to miss any of the game, even for the sake of seeing a magician magically honoring their Honored Guest. The host's solution was to turn on the game with the sound down, and have Richard perform in front of a gigantic television! He said that he was unable to tell if the audience reactions were about his magic, or about the game.
Ouch! Give me "Burn, Baby, Burn" over that, any day of the week!