25th World Magic Seminar, Las Vegas, Nevada January 13 – 16, 2002
Reported by: Pete Biro
After gathering Terry Seabrooke up at the Los Angeles Airport, resting long enough to finish off a bottle of Dewars and take a nap, we jumped into my Jeep Grand Cherokee (Seabrooke's luggage was nearly unliftable by the two of us!) and five hours later, following lunch at Denny's in Barstow… we arrived at the Riviera Hotel, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
They weren't ready for us, (the hotel) but Terrance looked like he really needed a place to rest, so they let us check in early.
We missed Obie's “Bull Session” (everybody gets five minutes to perform) and Dan Garrett's lecture, but all that made them said they were excellent.
We got to the opening night party (being on the committee I was in the reception line) which is a long-standing tradition started by Joe Stevens, and was fun, the food and drinks were excellent and the music … well… It wasn't Mike Close (darn). Cleverly, Rich Bloch did not book anyone to perform. That kind of room is certain death for an act. Nobody wants to see magic, they are there to meet and schmooze, relax and have a good time. Which they did.
Monday morning Group A went to Boris Wild's lecture and the B cl*** watched Tim Ellis and Sue-Anne Webster. (I wanted to watch Sue-Ann so you know where I was). The highlight for me was Tim's cups and balls routine done with milk shake canisters to the music “Run Around Sue.” Funny and magical. Boris did some great and clever work for the close up crowd. He's good!
Dedicating much time to the youngsters, Lance Burton hosted 50 Teens to a splendid lunch with help from his friends. Each “pro” sits at a different table and chats with the kids. They included Channing Pollock (who started all the popularity to dove work), Lee Grabel, Johnny Thompson, Gary Darwin, Mac King, Fielding West, Billy McComb, Ali Bongo, Jeff McBride and Jay Marshall. Jay is looking good, and Lance produced a new gl*** eye for the left handed glove worker!
After lunch the conventioneers moved into the Versailles Theater, which seats around 900, none with a bad view (Splash Show is there nightly) at 1:00 pm to be greeted by the indefatigable Terry “Lump of Sugar” Seabrooke. It was Seagoone's first time at the Seminar and he was as usual great (I'm a big fan). His Bunt Note Routine, although many have seen it a number of times never fails to get the big laughs.
Ray Pierce opened with fast moving illusions, well staged and well done. His broomstick suspension, a standard, still wins with his excellent presentation. Ray is one of the under rated performers. Not only a fine performer, Ray worked like a demon backstage helping with tech for a number of events.
Scott Cervine, with his “the first show I ever did” act was funnier (and cleverer) than I had remembered. Good set, as they say. I loved his one line at the finish of a jumbo three-card monte, “A hundred dollar reward for anyone that can come up with a better finish than this.” Imagine marking the money card with a toilet plunger!!! Do I wish I had thought of that, or what!!!
Johnny Lonn, from Sweden, does one of the funniest “magician in trouble” acts you could want to see. He produces his suspenders (like a dove steal) and from that point on his pants keep falling down. All the gyrations and moves he goes through to keep them up are a perfection in performing.
The Pendragons came on with a variety of material, including Jonathan's version of the Himber finger rings and a card trick playing Cyrano d'Bergerac. Ok, he did three great illusions, including his clear gl*** box sawing, the fastest Metamorphosis in world history, and a new Steinmeyer created (Bill Smith built) illusion that takes off where the Origami Box left… by folding FLAT after Char got in. Fooled all, but to me his small magic was a true delight.
I always (after seeing Blackstone Sr. and others of that era) judge illusionists by how well they do the small stuff “in one” while the stage is being set.
At 4:30 groups A and B split up to see two fine lectures, Vanni Bossi and Steve Beam. Both have great reputations and both lived up to them. Bossi had a new “pencil through banknote” that had all wondering. Get this. You hold a bill out flat, he takes an ungim****ed pencil and jabs it through the bill. You hold it, you can take the pencil out. There appears (it is a hole) to be a hole in the bill. He rubs his fingers over it and… it is restored. Slydini and Chanin's Rip It are the roots, but how he “mends” the hole is not to be believed.
Loir Manor came over from Israel to lecture on mentalism in a special 6:00 pm effort. I missed it, and knowing his reputation believe it was a good one for those interested in the subject.
OK, now we come to the highlight of the convention, the 10:30 pm Cabaret.
This show was packed with talent. Fielding West, one of the really funny men MCd (his paint over his bald spot had me on the floor) and introduced Whit Hayden, who's originality and routining are a delight. Whit did his Mongolian Pop Knots, Silk to Egg and his great four ring routine and encored with torn and restored newspaper.
Fielding then introduced Whit's business partner in the School for Scoundrels, Chef Anton. He's a multi-time world champion billiard player and he got the first standing ovation of the convention with his amazing skill shots. He lined up six balls and had a spectator make the shot—all six going into holes with one shot. A selected card impaled on a pool cue, and more.
OK…hold on to yourselves… closing the show was the one, the only, GAZZO.
It is impossible to describe Gazzo, one of the great street performers, but if you combined Don Rickles with Dai Vernon, you have Gazzo doing the cups and balls. About 40 minutes of sheer laughter. Sure it's X-rated, but nobody left (they were forewarned).
Next day, while I was Mcing the Teen Stage Challenge, the biggest laugh was when I read an announcement, “Gazzo would like to apologize to anyone here that he failed to offend!”
Following the show (short break) the trio presented the highlights of their School For Scoundrels, teaching the street way of doing the 3 Card Monte, Shell Game and Endless Chain.
A couple of hours of sleep followed.
Tuesday was a repeat of the previous day, except Martin Lewis lectured in place of Loir Manor. Martin's material is greatly original and practical having been audience tested over the years.
Instead of the Terry Seabrooke Show, at 1:00 pm the International Stage Contest (People's Choice Award) show commenced with Martin Lewis as MC. Even with almost 1,000 in the room, Martin's torn and restored cigarette paper was the highlight. He also did a comedy mind reading bit with a pendulum attached to his forehead with a suction cup that I wish I had thought of.
The Hamners opened with two “HUGE” illusions. One an escape before the lady fell onto nasty pointed blades and the other an elaborate levitation where “in a flash” the floater and the floatee changed places. Very original, but in my opinion suffered with very bad lighting. It didn't give anything away, you just could hardly see anything.
Roxanne, who was supposed to appear last year but her luggage was lost, presented a very cl***y, cl***ical manipulation and prop act that, too me (what do I know) was definitely a contender for the top prize. She works closely with Topaz.
John C***idy did a balloon act. But what an act. Finale found him INSIDE a giant balloon, and a card selection was revealed when his ***istant shot a giant dart across the stage, popping (exploding) the balloon, impaling him in the rear-end with the selected card stuck to his behind. You had to be there.
Bin Lin, a young lady from China, dressed in a colorful costume (not flowing robes, almost like a short skirt and an elaborate headpiece) came out dancing and produced maybe 500 cards? Cards were flying everywhere. She began to “shoot” cards out with both hands at the same time, one at a time, then two at a time, going high into the air, then three at a time, then four, then FIVE AT A TIME… like a juggler's cascade really. This was truly incredible.
Richard Forget's act centered around a telephone booth. His manipulations were world cl*** and well staged.
Yuji Yasuda charmed the audience with expressions and body language while producing wine bottles, champagne gl***es, and doing what resembled billiard ball manipulations with large silver spoons. He was strong, skilled and entertaining.
Yazuma closed with what could be described as a cl***ic, formal Japanese parasol act. Reminiscent of Kikuchi and Shimada.
Next morning yours truly MCd the Teen Challenge stage competition. 14 acts, all silent to music (I wish there were some talking acts coming along, but not here yet). The acts ran the gamut from marshal art fights to little kids in tuxedos with doves and candles. It ran long, but nobody complained as it was fast paced and showed a great variety of effects (although the snowstorm still prevails).
Time to find out who the winners are.
Rich Bloch MCd, with “hired act” Otto Wesselley opening AND closing the show. His opening featured his inept comedy act (currently working the Crazy Horse in town) and closing with his Manic Cane Productions and the 1,000 or more Razor Blades. I know how he does it, but I don't know how he can do it.
Anyway the winners: Lance Burton presented his awards, with help from Nick St.Erne, who coordinates for Lance, to the Stage winner Dan Sperry (manipulations and doves) and close up to Danny Hill (cups and balls as a shady character—well thought out). The latter had been coached by Johnny Thompson.
Siegfried and Roy (never more relaxed and funnier) presented the Gold Lion's Head Trophy and $5,000.00 to Bin Lin. Their Sarmoti Award, and another $5,000.00 was given to Roxanne.
Ken Fletcher of Magic Masters presented his creativity award to the Hamners.
Once again, no one could argue with the choices. The people know. This method of judging has worked out to be very fair over the years.
Lance Burton made a special presentation to Lee and Helene Grabel as the “Honorees” of this, the 25th World Magic Seminar. The mantle had been p***ed from Kellar to Thurston to Dante to Grabel, and now is with Lance.
Rich announced that the next in succession was Gazzo!
On that, so long "til next year! It was a good one.