IBM/SAM: The Convention of the Century (?)

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby Dustin Stinett » 07/29/08 05:38 PM

The Convention of the Century. Thats how the organizers of the recently held IBM/SAM 2008 Combined Convention billed their event. So, they have set the bar for not only other organizations' events, but for any other combined soirees the IBM and SAM might hold over the next 92 years. Lucky for them, this bar will not be too hard to step over.

Dont get me wrong: I thought the convention was good. It had some great moments and it had some not great moments. So that puts it somewhere in the middle which makes it good. And theres nothing wrong with good.

While I suspect that Richard Kaufman will make mention of the convention in his Genii Speaks column, the magazine will continue its tradition (since RK took the helm) of not covering most conventions. The reasoning is sound: In todays Internet world, real time reporting of events like this make magazine reports of themfor the most partoutdated; they are old news by the time the magazine report hits the street. The responsibility of reporting them for the historic record falls to the organizations organs and/or MAGIC.

This is good for me on a few levels. Had I written the report for the magazine I certainly would have been limited to a word count. No such restriction exists on the Genii Forums. Also, I would have had to write in the third person as an objective reporter with only a little leeway for opinion, but not as much as I get here. And that I get to use the words me and I in this report makes me very happy.

In the past I have done my daily BLOG of such events. I knew going in I wouldnt be this time because I needed a break from the site and the convention gave me that. Craig Mitchell did an admirable job of it. That he went to all the preliminary contestssomething I had no intention of doingmeans he actually gave a more in depth daily report than I would have.

Youth has its advantages.

The convention started Sunday night after an uneventful flight (the just the way I like it) and a taxi ride to the Galt House Hotel with the aforementioned Craig Mitchell. Not that this was planned. In fact, both of us just thought we were sharing a cab with some guy until we introduced ourselves and we discovered that we were sharing a cab with some guy who also contributes to the same web forum. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world

I arrived at the hotel in the evening and must admit that I was surprised at the level of activity. I had already missedmuch to my displeasurea showing of Paul Gertners one-man show. Apparently this was one of the surprises promised. Too bad more people couldnt have enjoyed it.

The registration line took me about a half an hour, but rumor had it that the wait had been as long as an hour and a half. Much of this had to do with a check-off process of all the items in the envelope. A good sized book-bag emblazoned with the convention logo, a close-up magic kit, a couple of pins, the tickets to the shows (likely the real reason for the check-off list that acknowledged receipt of all this stuff), the badge, the stunning, well written and produced program*, and a few other bits and pieces.

(* Bias Alert: Richard Kaufman, Brad Aldrige, and I produced said program.)

The Dealers Room was already better than half full and jumping with the noise of commerce: a sound that would not stop until the following Saturday night. (Over the last couple of days I asked many dealers how their week went. Every one of them was more than pleased with the results.)

I reconnoitered the hotel and found that the Conservatory (a glass enclosed bridge that connects the two towers of the hotel) was going to be the happening place during the event. Though the producers admirably set aside a room with tables and chairs, I never saw a single person in there. Why bother when the Conservatory offered 24-hour air-conditioned comfort, plenty of space with couches, chairs, tables, etc., a bar that served hot food, a reasonably priced and decent enough coffee and snack stand (Thelmasalso open 24-hoursmust have made a mint during the week; there were two conventions being hosted by the hotel)?

Overall, I liked the Galt House. The facilities are good, the service and staff very good, the dcor rich with an old-style elegance (lots of wood and marble), spacious rooms, a comfortable bed, andthe number one issue for mea shower with decent water pressure; thank you very much.

Sunday night I had two roommates: My roommate for the week and one who spent just the one night (his room wouldnt be available until Monday). We stayed up chatting until 4:00 in the morning. If this, I said to myself, is any indication, the conversation alone this week is going to be worth the trip. I was correct.

MONDAY

The Dealers Room opened each morning at 9:00. I didnt arrive untilperhaps11:00 or so (I really dont recall). Most of the dealers had set up shop by then and I had a good look around. The Genii booth was situated between Mark Mason and Axtells (the puppet maker). These two guys were cranking out the business at an unbelievable pace. Mason sold out on several items quicklyyours truly actually getting the last one of a particular item (and I swore I wasnt going to buy any tricksdamn you Mark Mason, you evil SOB!). No, Im not going to tell you what it was.

Axtell had an animated toucan and monkey that were drawing the crowds, but it appeared to me that it was their wonderful hand puppets that were flying off the table.

The first show of the week, the Welcoming / Opening Show, like all the shows except the banquet, was held at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. Its a very nice facility within easy walking distance of the hotel. My seat was a few rows from the back of the orchestra level (Row U), house right, on the islethanks to Neal (sp?) who traded for my seat which was about four seats in (I prefer to have the isle so I only inflict myself on one person instead of two)and the sightlines were really quite good. The stage is large, but not overly so (see my reports on the 2005 and 2007 IBM conventions in Reno).

After what seemed like an eternity of Keith Emerson-light music and a light show to (sort of) go with it, Brad Jacobs and Roger Millerthe convention co-chairsopened the event. The outgoing presidents of the IBM and SAM were presented proclamations by a representative of the mayors office (chosen because, Im pretty sure I heard, that he is a member of the local magic club which represents both organizations). This was not the rousing kick-off I would have planned, but its their ball and they get to make the rules.

The subtitle of the opening show was Its All About the Magic. Except for Mac King, the show forgot the magic part.

Mac King being, as Penn and Teller note in their introduction to Kings Tricks for Your Brain, is a god. The convention was damn lucky that he came and that he stayed the entire week, making himself available to all of us who wanted a piece of his time, an autograph and/or a photo. I cannot say enough about this talented and wonderful guy. He was one of the great parts of this event. He certainly made the opening show which included a local illusionist, David Garrard, who performed a Zig-Zag with a blow-up doll (which would become something of a running gag through the rest of the convention shows) and a broom suspension with a Christmas theme (taking the photo for his personalized cards being the excuse and premise for doing such a thing in July). He also performed a dueling magicians bit with he and a friend doing the Linking Rings. His act is passable at best.

Yevgeniy Veronin performed his wonderful mime act which is something of a parody of magic. It has many funny bits that must be seen to be appreciated (though some who saw it still didnt appreciate it, much to my confusion). Marty Pollio, a late addition (his inclusion into the program was almost a stop the presses moment), performed his terrific stand-up, magic parody, and juggling act. Marty is a seasoned pro who delivers the goods. The problem is, this was supposed to be a magic show kicking off a magic convention. So what the hell happened? Thank goodness there was Mac King because what we got besides him was an okay at best illusionist and two comedy/parody acts.

So heres what happened: I found out after the convention that the magic act that was supposed to kick off the showTakamitsu Uchida of Japancouldnt get his work visa from the US State Department in time, so he and Veronin switched spots (Veronin was scheduled for the International Gala). This too was a change in the schedule that just made the presses. (So close was it that the text was already off my desk when the change happened so I was not aware of the change and, since I had not committed the schedule to memory, I didnt notice the difference.)

The next event was one of the highlights for me: Jim Steinmeyers never to be repeated lecture, The Secret No One Tells You.

When scheduling the talent for this event, Hank Moorehouse decided he wanted some exclusivity when it came to the lectures. So he asked his presenters to create something theyve never done before and would never do again. Looking back, Im not so sure about the wisdom of this strategy. What do you get when you ask for something thats never been done before? You get something thats never been done before! Even the best presenters need a new talk to be presented a few times for it to become polished; to work out the kinks as it were. Steinmeyers was the only one of the six whose presentation was a close to perfect as could be expected under these circumstances. He was also the only guy who taught tricks, and that was under the umbrella of a theoretical talk; the tricks being object lessons. Fortunately for those who were there for just the tricks, they came away with several really good ones!

That was it for the day for yours truly. A fantastic dinner with the Chief Genii and his family capped the evening. The Dealers Room opened for a couple of hours (the only time during the entire event that the room would be open past 6:00PM), and then it was off to the Conservatory for mingling. I do not recall what time I made it back to my room, but it didnt matter. My roommate and I were up until 5:30AM talking. I might be pushing 50 years old, but its nice to know that when it comes to information Im still a sponge thats nowhere near its saturation point. Fortunately the next event for me was not until 3:30PM on Tuesday.

TUESDAY

If competition was one of the underlying themes of this event, they couldnt do a better job than pitting Vernon-philes against Marlo-philes and then making it all okay. Jon Racherbaumer and David Ben each spoke on the two men who, at the last FFFF convention, were voted to have had the most impact on close-up card magic.

The notion of such a survey, it seems to me, is kind of like those government subsidized studies where the answer is obvious to everyone but the government and those who get the results only reply, Duh! But the bottom line is that the talks were interesting. Racherbaumer dropped a bomb on many in the roommyself includedthat Marlo was also something of a singer (not a great singer, said Racherbaumer, but a singer). Besides showing a photo of Marlo in a white coat behind a mic with his wife accompanying him on guitar, Racherbaumer admitted to owning fifty vinyl records of Marlos music; mostly Marlos crooner favorites.

David Ben spoke on Vernon as best as a man who never knew the subject of his biography possibly can. His depth of knowledge on Vernon is remarkable (I think if he was less scrupulous, he could probably fool many into believing that he did indeed know Vernon) and yet I know for a fact that he has not yet tapped all the sources still available to him for information. Mr. Ben also flabbergasted many in the room with his chops with the cards as he expertly demonstrated several card moves and tricks (on film). The murmur in the room afterward was when will part two of the Vernon biography come out? When indeed.

Its worth noting here that all of the lectures and most of the Special Events took place in the Grand Ballroom of the convention facilities. With enough space for all 1,900-plus attendees, the room was cavernous. But with two large screens flanking the stage, it worked. The camera work was sometimes a bit suspect, but it could have been worse. By coincidence, planning, or just sheer luck, all the lectures were of the sort that those who could best see the screens were in the best position in the room.

The next scheduled event would be the first of the Gala shows, which was scheduled for 8:00PM. That left me about three hours with nothing to do. Nothing at All to Do was another of the underlying themes of the convention, by the way.

Dinner with my good friends Steve Schlanger, Bill Bowers, and my new pal Bill Coomer, was terrific. We ran into current World Champion of Magic Rick Merrill and family at the restaurant. He graciously greeted my friends and told me to have your people contact my people. Now I just need to find out who his people are and get some people of my own to contact them.

Dinner, conversation, and a few card tricks ran long, so we arrived at the theater just in time to see the same light show that opened the first show. Oh the humanity: I never thought Id prefer the overture at the Palace of Mystery in the Magic Castle over anything. This, of course served as warning that all the shows would feature this test of stamina. I quickly learned my cues to where I needed to close my eyes so as not to be blinded by a brilliant flash of light.

The North American Gala had a cold opening with Arden James fantastic mime act wherein he came out as a delivery guy dropping off a large box (light enough for him to pick up). A table with some magicians props with a sign reading do not touch was too much for him to resist. He interacted with the props in various and remarkable ways and the magicians assistant was produced from the box. Its truly a lovely spot.

Stan Allen acted as MC of the remainder of the show. He performed his routine with Killer, the lascivious little bunny who divines a selected card. Mr. Allen experienced a technical glitch that left him with no out, but being the pro he is, he pulled it off.

Dale Salwak performed his classic act of manipulationthe first straight magic act of the convention I should note.

Michael Finny brought down the house with an act with just a touch of stand-up comedy and his terrific comedy magic. The kid he brought up for the Card on Forehead couldnt have been better. His antics coupled with Finneys timing and talent made for one of the more memorable moments of the entire convention and also led to its firstand most deservedstanding ovations.

Danny Cole performed his unique act which has a few new elements (to me, anyway). It was skillfully and entertainingly done as usual.

Midway through the performance of Kohl & Company, I felt the need to extricate myself from the theater. I have seen this act so many times that I could write it out in detail; not that I would put myself through such a thing. It was amusing 30 years ago. No offense, but I am no longer amused.

Unfortunatelysort ofI was not let back into the theater by the door attendant. She claimed she couldnt do so during the middle of an act (by this time the last act, James Brandon, was on stage). I pointed out that others (three to be exact) had left and came back into the theater in the midst of the acts because Ibeing positioned on the islehad to let them through. We didnt let anyone through that door, I was smugly told. The look of complete surprise from this woman when I asked, So you are calling me the liar? had to be seen to be believed. Youd have thought I hit her with a two-by-four. The door attendant won the battle, of course, so I spent the rest of the show watching on the big screen in the lobby. All I missed was what appeared to be an onstage train wreck, so all was not lost.

This time my roommate and I stayed up talking only until about 2:00 or so in the morning, so I was fresh for the first event of the next day: The Business of Being Funny with Mac King, David Williamson, and Michael Finney.

WEDNESDAY

I have one question: Whose friggin idea was it to have the comedy guys do their thing at 11:00 in the morning? After all, wasnt it Jay Marshall who once observed that even the guys in the band arent done throwing up until noon?

Just to set the scene, I got there early enough to get a decent front row seat (though house right) and saw Mac King show up with his bag-o-Starbucks. A bag that someone had to point out to him was leaking. I didnt see David Williamson show up and Im convinced that I could hear Michael Finney snoring from backstage. Stan Allen acted as moderator and chose to remain on the floor in front of the stage (for his own safety; a wise decision). He introduced the comedy stars and each took their position on a stool; except for Williamson who decided he would position himself behind the lectern (which he dismantled since it was a tad too high for him to be seen sitting behind it).

While this special event was touted as an opportunity to learn about comedy (something Im not convinced you can actually learn from someone), it was more of an opportunity to learn about these three amazingly talented guys. As a friend noted, it would have been better had the guys been able to share more war stories than answer the questions Stan Allen had prepared or those received from the audience. But it was still a very enjoyable time and another one of the highlights of the event for me. Even if Stan Allen did blow me off during the question segment

With several hours before the banquet (Ill get to that later), I hung out in the Conservatory and the Dealers Room for the duration.

The Southern Hospitality Party and Banquet kicked off at 6:30PM with a cocktail hour. When the room finally opened, there was something of a free-for-all for the best tables. Anyone who rushed Im sure later decided that the show wasnt worth the extra effort.

I had a fantastic table. Not from a standpoint of a good view of the stage or the screens: I mean of the company I kept. It included John Lovick, Mike Caveney, Noel Britton, John Archer, and several others whose names escape me (my apologies). For me, this group was the highlight of the evening.

Instead of having the meal served first and then the show, it was decided that each course of the meal would be served between the acts. Im convinced this was done to keep people from walking out on the show, since to get to the entre we had to suffer through an Elvis impersonator with his wife doing weak magic as he sang various selections.

Arden Jameswho was not on the programwas the one bright spot of the show (he opened it). Not even Terry Seabrook was up to his usual standards, but not even a younger Terry Seabrook could have saved this awful show.

After The King and Presto (the Elvis guy) who, much to my utter amazement, received a partial standing ovation (you people have to get out more often if you think that crap was really worthy of a standing-o) came Todd Charles. I had great hope for Mr. Charles, a banjo playing juggler, comedian, shadowgrapher whose promo clips I had seen prior to the event. Too bad the clips werent played instead. His act was bizarre at best and tired at worst (Whats the difference between an Italian and a Jew? One says YO! and the other says, OY!). He juggled for a grand total of five seconds, played (it seemed) the same song on the banjo, and performed a few sight gags and other nonsense. Thankfully the company at my table made this four hours of my life that can never be replaced worth losing.

A romp through the Conservatory left me looking forward to the Close-Up Gala I would be attending the following day.

THURSDAY

I have another question: Whose friggin idea was it to have David Williamson do his thing at 10:00 in the morning? Not only did he work the night beforehe was the MC for the close-up showsIT WAS 10:00 IN THE FREAKIN MORNING!!!

His energy level was low and his voice horse. Im sorry, but it doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure out that you schedule the kid show guy (David Kaye), who was doing only this one thing for the entire event, in this time slot and give Williamson the afternoon slot on Friday. What the @#%& are these people thinking? Oh, sorry, they clearly werent thinking. Note to self: Do not ever let this group schedule anything of yours.

The reaction to Williamson, whose lecture was titled Organic Magic (impromptu magic) was mixed. He had a PowerPoint presentation that had some amusing bits on it, when it worked, and a film of him walking around downtown Louisville performing some of the magic found inside the magic kit that came in the convention registration kit, as well as some other bits and pieces. He also brought three people with different levels of experience up on stage to perform some impromptu magic with several randomly selected items for some laymen that he enlisted for the purpose. He then proceeded not to perform with those objects. It was an opportunity lost. He was pretty much subdued through the whole thing, never really showing us the maniacal David Williamson weve all grown accustomed to. All that having been said, as I mentioned to several people after the lecture (including Mr. Williamson), there was an item performed in the film that wasand Im not exaggeratingworth the cost of registration to me. And no, Im not telling what it is.

Because I didnt attend any of the preliminary contests, I had (are you ready?) an eight-plus hour block of time with nothing to do (even had I chose to attend the contest, I would have had a five-plus hour block of spare time before my next scheduled event). So now will be a good time to bring up a major issue with this event: The anemic schedule.

While I appreciated some of the free time (which allowed me the opportunity to visit the Louisville Slugger factory and museuma Mecca of sorts for a baseball fan), I also felt like there was ample opportunity for the organizers to add more lectures: And not necessarily never to be repeated lectures.

At the beginning of each of the six special lectures, someone, either Hank Moorehouse or the speaker himself, noted that If you want card tricks, you dont want to be here. The problem was there never was a lecture that just taught tricks; cards or otherwise. So anyone who wanted tricks was simply SOL.

The Wednesday and Thursday schedules, which is where the close-up shows and the banquet were split up among all the attendees, had ample space to add another lecture (even two) that could have also been split up among the attendees. And its not like they were short on people from whom to pick from. Michael Ammar attended as a dealer. Max Maven attended in search of talent for the Magic Castle. Paul Gertner performed his one-man show the day before the convention and also had a dealers booth. And those are just a few of the guys who were already there that could have been booked. Michael Close who, for reasons beyond my grasp, was not booked to do the music at the shows (instead we got the same exact Keith Emerson-Light song each day along with the crappy light show), could have been booked to lecture. Where was Daryl? I could add more to the list, but I think you get the point. The six special lectures were fine, but I know from listening to people that they missed learning a few tricks. This was a major blunder on the part of the booker and the organizers.

My groupgreenattended the last of the four close-up performances. The shows were held in the Bomhard Studio Theater at the Kentucky Center. Intimate and steeply raked, the theater worked well especially with the inclusion of the big-screen monitor. The camera operator did a great job (I suspect being in the last group was a benefit in this regard), so it was just up to the performers to do well, and do well they all did.

David Williamson acted as MC and did a fine job though, again, he was subdued throughout the night. He did have funny video introductions for each performer that everyone seemed to enjoy. The only question that circulated through the attendees was, Why hadnt David Williamson also been booked to perform?

Good question.

Simo Aalto opened the show, but could not perform his act since it was still in Chicago (the airline lost his luggage). He performed a set that was made up of a Matrix using regular coins and then jumbo coins. It was very well done but, since Martin Eisle was also on the billand his act is based on the Matrix plotI would have expected Mr. Aalto to select something a bit different.

Brian Gillis, a guy who I have seen several times at the Magic Castle, performed his usual set. The guy has tremendous chops, but I have to admit to not being a fan of his quick style. That being said, his was the only act that could be considered an actual close-up set that would be seen at a restaurant or the like.

Hiro Sakai killed the room with his version of Bank Night (look for it in an upcoming issue of Genii!) and several other very clever effects.

FISM winner Martin Eisle performed his award winning act and garnered several audible exclamations from the magic savvy audience.

A special treat for me was seeing the legendary Dr. Sawa perform for the first time. His magic is unique, very clever, and fools the crap out of most everyone.

Rick Merrillthe current World Champion of Close-Up Magicproved again why he holds that title. His remarkable act is both stunning to behold and hilarious to hear. He closed the show for good reason: Who would want to follow that act?

I followed it with some much needed sleep.

FRIDAY

To a person, everyone I spoke with Friday morning was saying the same thing: I cant believe there are still two days left in this thing.

I know of a few people who simply had enough and left early. Like most, I chose to stick it out, but Im not sure who was being silly: those who left of those who stayed.

Friday featured a two-plus hour block between the close-up competition and the first lecture for the day (so yet another unnecessary block of time with nothing to do). The first lecture was not a lecture in as much as it was a talk and demonstration of many old and new pieces of magic apparatus given by Derek Lever. This was interesting mostly to collectors of apparatus and/or those who get off on seeing some of these very clever pieces (Mr. Lever showed how these pieces worked).

Another lecture followed immediately afterward and was David Kaye (Silly Billy) on Kids magic through the 20th Century. It was interesting, and watching him perform some of the tricks as we would have seen them during their time (for a stage full of kids who really enjoyed themselves) was interesting. I think it would have been more interesting on Thursday morning, but I digress.

With about three hours to kill for dinner, the Genii staffRichard and Liz Kaufman (with little Emma in tow), Brad Aldridge, and Icongregated for a better than expected meal at the hotel caf. We were then off to the Whitney Theater for the last of the Gala shows: The International Gala.

Right on cue I closed my eyes so I wouldnt get blinded by the lights during the crappy, Keith Emerson-Light accompanied, lightshow. I still find it remarkable that there were people there who seemed to actually enjoy it. The mind boggles.

Opening the show were the children of Sos and Victoria Petrosyan, Sos, Jr. and his younger brother Tigran. These kids are talented and cute and all that, but that doesnt mean they deserve that long a spot at the top of a major show (that was booked to the gills as it was). They each performed an individual piece (Sos, Jr. manipulating cards and then Tigran with billiard balls). But then, inexplicably, together they donned what I can only describe as Batman Utility Belts and then flung cards in every and all directions for who knows how long. I just know that it was too long.

Topas acted as the MC and did a fine job. Takamitsu Uchida performed his remarkable card manipulation act (regular and jumbo sized cards). Being one of the few straight magic acts throughout the conventionand one of the besthis turn was very well received.

Jerome Helfenstein performed a lovely piece of shadowgraphy and magic that must be seen.

Wayne Dobson performed his classic Spectator Vent act with two guys who had trouble keeping up with Waynes banter (I might have too, if I were in front of 2,000 people), so I dont believe this piece scored quite as well as it usually does. Wayne also rubbed a few the wrong way with his blunt style of humor which can be offensive to some. Overall, he scored well with the majority in the room however.

Huang Zheng, an attractive young woman from China, performed an act of manipulation. From my seat it appeared she was manipulating what was supposed to be leaves, but they looked like cards. Regardless, she is a skilled young woman and the act was quite enjoyable.

John Archer showed an audience largely filled with folks who have never had the opportunity to see him work, why hes a star in the UK. He killed with his comedy and magic (except for one guy I know of, everyone enjoyed his act).

Sos and Victoria presented their fast and sexy quick change act and wowed the room. (I must admit that I was more wowed by Victoria than the act itself, but what can I say? Im married, but Im not dead.)

Roxanne, the wife and partner of Topas performed an unusual act wherein she uses her hair as a Chapeaugrapher would use a piece of felt. She creates different characters by manipulating her hair into different shapes. Its an act that caught my interest for several reasons.

Topas closed the show with his fantastic production of many studio-sized speakers from a cardboard box. I enjoyed this piece very much and it was a nice close to a goodif a bit longnight of entertainment.

Because the gala show ran long, an event I looked forward to started late but closed on time, so not as much time as could have been spent with Mike Caveney and Frances Willard could be experienced. The time we had was excellent with Ms. Willard sharing stories about her time with her fathers show. David Charvet, the author of the new book Willard: A Life Under Canvas (Mike Caveneys Magic Words, 2008) made a surprise appearance and also shared many tales from this storied family. It was a fantastic evening and for me, one of the real highlights of the event.

Now if I could just get myself up in time to see the 9:00AM Wayne Dobson lecture

SATURDAY

My alarm went off in time and I shut it off and then woke up at 10:15. So much for the Wayne Dobson lecture.

Now I was flat pissed off. I was pissed off at myself for falling back asleep, but also at the organizers. Having been involved with the program, I know that Dobsons lecture originally held an afternoon slot. But it was later moved to this early morning spot. I didnt have the opportunity to ask Wayne if he wanted it moved to after his Friday performance, but if so, it still could have been moved to a later time in the day. Given the looseness of the schedule all week, the Eberhard Reise lecture could have been moved to any number of spots. But no, we cant have that. We have to have a man whose health is fragile perform the night before lecture the following morning. Genius! (I was told by a trusted source that Wayne was indeed fatigued and his voice softer than normal during the lecture, but that he still did well.)

With less than an hour to complete my morning ablution, I was worried I would miss the first act of the close-up finals, but I made it. Held in the big theater, there was a single video screen that projected the acts so everyone could seesort ofwhat was going on. From Row U it didnt matter all that much, but I struggled through (imagine how the performers felt doing close-up magic in a 2,000 seat theater).

Hosted by Obie OBrien, he confirmed something my roommate told me and I didnt believe (that will teach me to never again doubt him), that the Peoples Choice Award wasnt just a Peoples Choice Award. The People would be choosing the winner of the competition. The winner winner winner. The one who gets the $10,000. Of course the same would hold true for the stage contest as well. Apparently the IBM/SAMs idea of a FISM style competition is more like Americas Got Talent. As soon as I dropped my ballot into the box I knew I made a mistake even voting (not that my selection won, nor did the guy I probably should have voted for). So now we are putting the results of a contest in the hands of people who give standing ovations to Elvis impersonators. Outstanding!

Latko was the first performer. He had an interesting actperformed to musicthat involved cups and balls and a chess set. Normally this kind of act does little for me, but this had a clear plot (or through line) and was nicely performed. This is a typical contest act that I think we will see more of as this young man tweaks and tightens it.

Tallon and Gorman, a pair of Texans who performed a poorly executed and abysmally acted dueling magicians cups and balls act should not have been in the finals. Just knowing several of the acts that were in the prelims, I can think of at least two that are better than this act and oneDanny Archerwho clearly should have been in the finals before this pair. Unbelievable.

Satoru is a young Japanese man whose act revolved around a prediction of a selected card. This is another act the inclusion of which I would question.

David Minkin is the only guy of the six who performed an actual close-up show. His only problem, and Im afraid I too fell victim to it, was that enormous room. His quiet, romantic, and very intimate style (read CLOSE-UP!!!) was lost in there. It cost him. Too bad; hes very good.

Shawn Farquhar was a favorite going in. His act is designed to win contests; his style is bigger than life, so he did what he needed to: Performed to the room. His act would play quite well in the Parlour of the Magic Castle (where it belongs).

Marc Oberons act came in two parts: The first a card sequence that floored many in the room, and the second a series of items being changed to gold. It was in the midst of this section, where he simply did the same thing over and over again, that I voted for someone else. Had he changed things up a bit, I may have been compelled to vote for him. But one thing was certain: He had the audience in his corner.

The last lecture of the event was quite good as Eberhard Reise, with an assist by Topas, watched a young lady named Jeanette Andrews perform her act based on My Fair Lady. He then went through and showed her where and how the act could be improved. I have no doubt that it was eye-opening to some in the room who had never seen just what a director can do for a magic act.

A FISM update I didnt attend (that could have been held at 9:00 in the morning given the limited interest) added to the four-hour block of nothing to do until the stage finals. (Nope, we couldnt have had Wayne Dobson somewhere in there; no, no. no.)

The stage finals were the last show of the convention and somethough I am not among themfelt it was the best show of any convention let alone this convention. I have only two words that can completely dispel that notion: Duane Laflin.

Mr. Laflinwho also happened to be the guy who thrilled the crowd with his Elvis impression (I will give the guy this one thing: he does have a good voice) acted as the MC for the show. Granted, he has to remain unbiased in regard to the introductions of the acts, which he was. But everything else was weak, with several moments of dead time as he waited for the signal that the next act was ready. This is not what a good MC does. I couldnt help but wonder if the producers were even aware that one of the best emcees in the businessMike Caveneywas in town. (He only presented the talk with Frances Willard, but theres still no telling given all the other booking and scheduling blunders this group managed to pull of throughout this convention.)

As for the acts themselves, well, I guess I wasnt as enamored by all of them as everyone else seemed to be. Dont get me wrong; they were good, but to say that their acts together constituted the best show is going overboard.

Tony Chapek performed his popular interactive act. He has tightened up the magic in this piece; now I wish he would put just as much work into his acting.

David Souza performed a terrific manipulation act that has tons of promise and should be a force to reckon with.

Red Hat (Korea) performed an act that included masks. I have it on very good authority that there is a single element of this act that is proprietary (in method and effect) to someone else and as such this act should have been removed from the competition. I know for a fact that the judges were indeed aware of this issue but apparently chose not to act on it. The act is good, but I could not in good conscience enjoy an act that overstepped this line, particularly with that much money on the line.

David Kaplan performed a magic/variety act. There was perhaps too much variety for a magic competition, but this is a terrific act and a crowd favorite.

Timo Marc performed another interactive act with a TV monitor. I was so unimpressed that I nearly forgot what his act consisted of. All I do recall is that his stage persona reminded me somewhat of Topas.

An Ha Lim (South Korea) devastated the room with his card manipulations. I caught hell from almost everyone when I said that it went on too long. At one point he stood in the same position producing cards in the same manner for what appeared to be a very long time. After the sixth production in that position, I got it, so move on please! After all, the guy is doing the same trick over and over again! Yes, his technique is brilliant, but lets see some variety in that technique, please! I only want to see about a minute trimmed from this act and I believe he will have something really special. The audience already felt that he had something really special virtually leaping to its collective feet for a standing ovation.

Any bets on the winner?

During an intermission while the Elvis fans votes were tallied, I wandered around asking anyone who might listen if the one guy was done producing cards yet. Only a few people got the joke.

After the intermission, the winners were announced: Sort of. We first had to listen to each of the producers of the conventions that were offering performance contracts as additional prizes to the various acts of their choice. The clear winner in this regard was David Kaplan. If he elects to accept all of these offers, hes going to be a very busy guy.

After this period of promotional pontificating, the winners were finally announced:

The Close-Up Champion (make that Selection) was Marc Oberon.

The Stage Selection was An Ha Lim.

All I could think of at the end was, Junior, Big Red, lets go get us a pizza (thanks Elvis).

A Farewell party closed the event and it was well attended. I circulated through the room once and said my farewells as I needed to pack, ablute, and prepare for a very early flight home (wheels up at 7AM).

As is always the case of conventions, the best part is seeing old friends and acquaintances and making new ones. This Convention of the Century was no exception to that rule. But the event itselffour fun-filled days crammed into sixwas only good. But it certainly could have been great.

Dustin
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Postby Kenardo » 07/29/08 06:07 PM

Great report. Thanks.
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Postby Joe M. Turner » 07/29/08 06:08 PM

Dustin Stinett wrote:Hiro Sakai killed the room with his version of Bank Night (look for it in an upcoming issue of Genii!) and several other very clever effects.


I loved his Bank Night routine when I first saw it a couple of years ago at FFFF.

As for the rest of your convention wrap-up... well, you probably saw my post in the other thread. Despite a number of excellent moments that happened here and there in the convention, in the end I felt underwhelmed and overcharged.

If there is truth to the rumor that there will be a combined convention every five years, I hope they pull back on the hype until they can back it up a little more convincingly.

Great seeing you again, DS!

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Postby Q. Kumber » 07/29/08 07:04 PM

Thank you for such an in-depth review.
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Postby MaxNY » 07/29/08 11:00 PM

Thanks Dustin! My report will follow in a few days, as I took extensive notes...but just found my deodorant five minutes ago! I will need more time.
Oh yeah, your interpretation of my applause after the "Junior Intellibeam" show, was in mock appreciation. By the forth day, there were a few of us giving the light guy a standing "O"
And, just to start the ball rolling in the right direction, according to Paul Critelli (SAM Contest Chair, for the past ???20 years) he wasn't even asked to help with this convention contest. Sooooo, the guy who probably has the most experience throwing a magician's contest wasn't even asked for ANY advise.
I am thoroughly convinced that FISM bypassed America due to our own problematic politics.
There was a total black out between contest acts...with several announcement type apologies, with some sort of "level playing field" explanation.I attended FISM Portugal, and don't remember such a black-out. I would like to know just who came up with that dopey rule...So, instead, I sat near an aisle and ran over to some dimly lit stair-light to jot down notes. From my second flood balcony, you should have seen the flicker from the cell-phones, as many took notes directly to their cells...
The shoe shine guy wasn't seen for the rest of the convention...
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Postby CraigMitchell » 07/30/08 03:14 AM

Great report - Dustin - thanks for sharing with us !
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Postby mai-ling » 07/30/08 08:07 AM

i didn't get the feeling it was as exciting as it could be.
hopefully the next combined convention will be slightly
more exciting. the ones i've read about in the past
always seemed to be exciting,

But then, the organizations have grown, considering the
last one had just under 500 attend, where as this one had
almost 2000. Plus 6 days to fill. Where as the last one was
only 4 (I think).
you will remember my name
http://www.mai-ling.net
world's youngest illusionista

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Postby John Archer » 07/30/08 10:49 AM

Very thorough Dustin.

For your info the other guests at our table for the banquet were Rob James, Noel Qualter and Alan Hudson (Three top close-up 'workers' in the UK). We were also graced with the prescence of Kerry Scorah who, as well as being a nice little close-up worker herself is also establishing herself in the UK as a lecture tour organiser.
I think I can safely say that we all enjoyed your company too.

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Postby Jeremy Greystoke » 07/30/08 12:19 PM

Dustin Stinett wrote:
Intimate and steeply raked, the [Bomhard Studio] theater worked well especially with the inclusion of the big-screen monitor. The camera operator did a great job (I suspect being in the last group was a benefit in this regard), so it was just up to the performers to do well, and do well they all did.



I sat through all of the preliminary close-up competitions and the camera work was passable at best. So, I was a bit worried when it came time for the Close-Up Gala. I was in the first group on Wednesday evening, and the camera work for the Gala was absolutely top-notch from the very beginning. Being in a later group wasn't necessarily a benefit in this case, Dustin. It was excellent from the top. I wish the same could be said for the Close-Up Competitions and Finals.

Entertaining wrap-up of the convention, Dustin. Many thanks for your detailed thoughts.

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Postby MaxNY » 07/30/08 04:33 PM

With ten years in the MTV Studios, and 25 years in NYC Post-production, I too have a few questions about the camera work... I tried for the life of me to see where the camera, or cameras?? were mounted, and couldn't figure it out. I think it was mounted way back, up in the catwalk with the spot ops. Since you can not have a hand-held blocking the judges views, the question is.. where to put the camera? I kept thinking it was on the first balcony, but just could not locate the op. This would have been the logical place to put it. There were several jump-cut transitions used, like a disolve of a two shot to a two shot, it really jars the viewer's perception. Jump-cuts are usually covered in Com 101. The camera was either "soft" ;(like some old tube job of the 80's)...or the iris was opened too much. The result was lack of color, and definition. A new Hi-def set-up would have solved these problems, all for twice the rental price.
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Postby Paul Q » 07/30/08 06:41 PM

Dustin,

Great stuff, thanks for the report.

I am part of the S.A.M. in Austin that will be hosting the T.A.O.M. convention in 2010. We would love our event to be more toward the "Wow!" side of things and less toward the "Sucking" side of things. So I wonder if you might give your two cents on what, for you, would be the perfect convention.

(Max Maven was there and he wasn't used for anything?1?!.........a crime!)

Grace and Peace,
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Postby Bill Evans » 07/30/08 08:10 PM

As far as the close up theater, it's my understanding that they used the camera in the booth. From what I was told, the in-house theater techs were surprised that it had the ability to zoom in that close.
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Postby Steve Bryant » 07/30/08 08:31 PM

While I was having a terrific time in Louisville, I kept checking my iPod Touch and encountering Craig's somewhat negative take on events, which I took as a complete surprise. I don't dispute his take on things; it's just that we were experiencing things differently. This is not to say all was perfect: I stood in line an hour and 20 minutes to register. I encountered the same theater attendant Nazi that Dustin did. And I suffered through one or two acts that shouldn't have been hired, yet seem to get hired repeatedly. But I considered these minor infractions next to the overall fun I was having and the stuff I was witnessing. With 2000 fantastic folks to hang with from all over the globe, it was hard not to have a good time. As to the organized events, I felt I got more than my money's worth, especially during the contests and lectures. For a longer appraisal, check the July installment of littleegyptmagic.com/magic.html which I just posted. (Note: if you encounter an Endless Summer poster, hit the reload button and it should be replaced by a photo of Dai Vernon and the proper text.)
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/30/08 08:48 PM

Dustin... great write up.... I agree with you about how dopey so many convention schedules suck. The guys that do the schedules must go to bed too early.... yech
Stay tooned.
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Postby Steve Bryant » 07/31/08 07:06 AM

I forgot to mention ... we DID miss Pete Biro at the convention.
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Postby Bill Palmer » 07/31/08 01:58 PM

There were at least two acts in the competition that used material that is proprietary. One was an item from Jeff McBride. The other was an item from Eric deCamps.

I know for sure that Eric has not given anyone permission to use his particular bit.

I don't know about Jeff's bit.
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Postby Matt Richman » 07/31/08 02:43 PM

Since that was my first convention, I thought it was pretty cool having a lot of down time to "session" and just have fun. However, some of the lectures I wouldn't even call lectures. Also, some of the acts I wouldn't even call magic related. On the bright side, it was nice meeting all of the people that I look up to and realizing that they are just "average joes".
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/31/08 02:43 PM

Bill, are you talking about Red Hat's mask-changing business?
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Postby Bill Palmer » 07/31/08 02:53 PM

That's one of them. I don't know if Jeff gave permission for that. The other is Latko's use of Eric deCamps' cups and balls climax. That one I am absolutely certain of. I got an e-mail from Eric last night about it.
Last edited by Bill Palmer on 07/31/08 07:53 PM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: request of owner of item
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/31/08 03:05 PM

Someone e-mail McBride and ask him.
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Postby Matt Richman » 07/31/08 04:52 PM

What could happen to Latko and Red Hat?
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/31/08 05:01 PM

They won't get jelly beans next Easter?
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 07/31/08 05:04 PM

Matt Richman wrote:What could happen to Latko and Red Hat?


Nothing, since they didn't win. And had they won, it was the "People's Choice" so the judges are off the hook (though an argument can be made that they should not have advanced to the finals, and that is on the jurys shoulders).

Something must be made clear regarding the masks: Jeff McBride has no claim to mask magic. There is, however, one element of Red Hat's act that is undoubtedly the creation of McBride.

Since Mr. McBride has been very generous with his material by publishing it for the masses, and given that this particular piece has not been published, it seems doubtful (albeit not impossible) that he would have granted permission in this regard.

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Postby Bill Palmer » 07/31/08 06:08 PM

Actually, there is a possible consequence. If the people who lost out on the contracts that were awarded to the two performers in question informed the people who awarded the contracts that they were gained with material they used without authorization from the originators, then there may be some question as to the validity of the contracts, especially if they are booked "as seen" and the originators in question manage to somehow prohibit them from performing those particular parts of their acts.

These people would be considered "sore losers."
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/31/08 06:32 PM

You have to be very careful in your language: the material is not "purloined" or "stolen" because the law does not recognized that it can be owned by its creator. If someone sees a trick and figures it out, they are free to perform it, sell it, and do whatever they want with it. That's the law.
If you have a moral question about it, that's something else entirely.
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Postby Bill Palmer » 07/31/08 07:55 PM

Item corrected.
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Postby MaxNY » 07/31/08 10:54 PM

I went through all kinds of BS back in October trying to get permission to use the little plastic red caps that any six year old can buy from almost any "Convient Store". I have been hand crafting a routine for the past twenty years, and have witnessed an escalating fire problem. I think there were three or four acts that caught fire at FISM Lisbon. So, I thought of a way to use a red cap as punctuation of the appearance of the geodesic finger manipulation balls that I have been working on. The top "female" dog of this competition gave me such a run-around...and I probably ruined my relationship with the Jimmy "Dean" sausage man as well.
"A simple red cap...like the kind you can find..."
"We are trying to not have a problem like in Massachusetts, where all those kids died.."
"I'm not asking to use sparkle cannons with ten foot ceilings...I would like to use a red plastic cap...I'm not going to empty them all out an make some sort of blast.."
Back and forth, back and forth....No wonder my application got zinked!
I tell you this now because ...And if I'm wrong David, I will apologize, but...wasn't that a bomb you set off in your suitcase? I mean the smoke ring was a foot in diameter, and traveled up a good fifteen feet...
I grabbed these rules from the application......(Property of SAM-IBM 2008)
"There must be absolutely no pyrotechnics. Anyone not abiding by this rule will be immediately excused from the competition, will receive no refund of fees, and may be subject to prosecution by the fire marshall. Only flash paper, flash string and candles may be used"
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Postby MaxNY » 08/01/08 05:10 PM

Hold on to your tophats...here we go...

It took me four days to collect my thoughts. I was very pleased with the convention, even though the slogan "It's About the Magic" didn't live up to its promise. Like all conventions most of the fun is found around the dinner tables, lobbys, or back in the rooms. For the guy who mentioned that there were too many wheelchairs and power chairs running around...I wonder if you went out of the way to hear their story. Most guys were seasoned, and have attended many conventions. I'll give you an example of what happened to me during the Dinner Gala. My roomate (that I met here on the Genii Forum) (let's just call him "Joe") and I tried to get good seats during the open seating Gala Dinner. We decided to sit with some fossils, but before I would sit down, I wanted to make sure these were guys who "knew" magic....I was trying to get everyone around the table talking, by keeping the ad-lib humor flowing. I soon uncovered that one gal was once married to a New York Yankee, and her new magician husband was very instrumental to inventing the internet, (way before Al Gore). After a couple of hours one chap was very queit, in fact I joked that "You can't get this guy to shut-up"...Only to find out that we were sitting with the only American FISM Winner for Illusion!! Humble? very...Well that beat the hell out of the Ex to a Yankee pitcher...Everyone has a story. On the other hand, the saddest moment for me was walking past Ali Bongo sitting by himself one very late night up at the Bridge Bar.

Opening Day Gala. Most was covered by Dustin with precision. There was one funny moment where Mac King was doing a shadow tent illusion and "bonked" the load in the head with his flashlight! Perhaps my favorite act is/was Veronin. It has been 15 years since I have seen him. I ran out of the Portugal theatre after the water tank expolded, thinking that the water would shut off the power and lights...missing an impromptu Veronin. As many things would come full circle for me at the convention, I wound up 24 stories up, looking out at the Ohio river with Veronin, and JT (documentary maker) late late Saturday night talking mostly about televised magic till 4am. This was the highlight, until the next day as I was sitting on a airliner next to... who I thought was the best contest act...more on that later.

(Sorry this whole review is dis-jointted, as a black bear just walked past my back deck!)

David Garrard spent about 1/4th of his time on stage with his back facing us...

How sad is it that Lance Burton didn't show up? He has at least two years to reserve the date(s), That may well have been the biggest disappointment.

The "never to be repeated" lectures didn't work for Jim Steinmeyer. In his case I would have rather sat through a lecture he did perhaps hundreds of times for book stores during his "Elephant Tour", than sit through the teaching or four or five tricks like it was a local SAM meeting. This may well have been the biggest disappointment...(shoot, I think I awarded this to another guy). Jim is perhaps the biggest and best we have, I wanted to hear stories about working with the top illusionists...or how one day a solution finally came about during a visit to a toy store, or where he thinks this art is going. His big lesson? "Don't perform junk"...Thanks Jim.
Close-up competition:Day 1

Bob Swadling (UK) Single cards changed, Coin in bottle, 4 cards signed, found,kept throwing and spinning, aand dropping. Bad Trouser joke. Malini Card Sword.

Dai Hewga (Japan) He had one of the only original tricks of the convention. Cellophane card wrap (by itself), cards slowly appear inside the Cellophane. Di provided his own I-pod boombox, and was used later when a signed card was found inside an I-pod. He may have failed to find 1 of 3 cards...

Cory Bragar (NY) Lawyer routine filled with jokes, puns, magic. She has a nice voice....Character changes into a Ninja, but by the third or fourth time trying to crack a baord in half, my arm was hurting!

Rod Chow, (Canada) Mr. Money. Better than he was in Boston.

Geno Mozzarella (CO). Mobster style. Good jokes. 4 cards to 4 pockets. Dice under Fedora.

Omar Ferret (FL). Couldn't decide if he wanted his sleeves/cuffs up or down. Lots of abrupt music changes. Nice appearing shot glasses, bottle, Ends with a teapot?

Michel & Yannick (Canada). Human deck of cards. Best joke so far.."Did you know that Alex Elmsley had four children? But we've only seen 3 of them..." I didn't think this act was "close-up".

Eric Leclerc (Canada). Enters in a bathrobe. Plays the part of a psycho. "When Rice Krispies talk...I listen". Very funny. Bottlecap in bottle. A sellable act. His bathrobe sleeve rolls up by "Invisible friends", very inventive... Signed card in pill bottle. With a manic voice he points to the first row ...and asks "Hey, are you guys judging me?"

Ali Shelley. (NY) Stewardess character full of jokes, puns, probably written by Cory Bragar. Only bit I remembered "Oxygen masks will drop and Oxygen will start to flow for a small surcharge of....."

Christian & Katalina (In.) A Mentalism team, not a close-up act.

Pat Petty (Swiss) Finds cards as a mime, Spanish dancer, Ninja card sword.

David Minkin (CA.) With the aid of Miss Lambert. He was a close-up act, using Sugar, Egg Timer, watch, and "Feels Like Rain" where he made rain appear.

Stage Contest Day 1.

An-Ha-Lim.(So. Korea) Split fans galore! What was really cool is that the fans were color coated, so if he dropped a certain number, it had to be precise, so the next deck could be the next color. I loved the way he turned his back to the audience and did an interlock production against his black tux, looked nice.

Just Alan.(Woodstock dude) He was Just.

Magic Chiaki. (Japan) He floated several boas, never the same one. The idea would be to use several methods, but use the same boa...Costume changes that didn't work.

Yuko (Japan) First of many gals. I love the international flavor, I couldn't figure out if the frilly things shes producing...are they Cheerleader pom poms? or ? but then she throws them to the ground where they break-up like spring flowers. I still have to idea if they were??? I dunno.. from my vantage, she had a nice appearing mask.

David Boyd (NY) Silly string to doves, nice. Old music (Planet Rock, 1980's). Billard balls that appeared with little splashes of confetti, good. His birds were not used to the blinding spot. Good choreography, weak ending, large cards with no pips. There is a problem with guys handling large decks of cards like they were all hinged together like they are 1 piece...the illusion should be like you are holding 52 seperate cards...

Bin Lin (China) Pink puffy things again, what are they? She would spin them around, and every now and then a silk would drop from them. Best costume! Billard balls the size of marbles. Pink balls against her pink outfit. Nice ending with the silk streamers on a stick, I heard from the top FISM dog that this was not her real ending, as she felt she was rushed on stage, and things went wrong. I guess she left the stage in tears.. Too bad. And here is my international revelation # 1. I sat through her three minutes of dancing ribbons...and thought this isn't magic. maybe more like an Olympic sport, like Olga Korbet with her ball... but later that day I was thinking, I should show that ribbon on a stick stuff to my 2 year old...and thought that, to a 2 year old....the ribbons ARE MAGICAL.

Michael Tallon (TX). Tried to find a card as 400 pieces of music are edited together to tell the story. The audience loved it, but?? You couldn't sell this act due to Copyright crap.

Sterling Dietz (WA) Black lights and ribbon dance. Strong music, Nice choreography. Rings, Split fans.

Roger Benoit (Canada) Multiplying bottles with? 20 or more bottles. Nice Gold outfit. Music at the beginning "I feel good" didn't work. He had some nice bits with a silk in the shotglass, jumping.

Fuji Yama (Japan) Nice costume. Rings. Some nice juggling style moves. 3 rings, with one flipping up over his head, landing around his neck. Vanishes the rings at end, weak...then appearance of a large 6 foor ring, and he does a German Ring-Cirque style acrobatics. Too long, as he made sure he hit all of the ring figures, and tricks.

Zihao Liu (China) Split fans with confetti, costum change at the end, to??? A Bed-sheet?

David Kaplan (Ohio) I haven't laughed so hard in ten years. Thanks David, you probably made my convention.

Elliot Zimet (NY) Roller shoes, spray paint, doves, cell phone to glasses, appearing bills, lots of bling. END OF CONTEST

Johnny Rock on Marlo. he had this 8mm footage of Marlo that was beyond words.
There was a rumour started by Dorny and a few old timers about this monkey at the Lincoln Park Zoo that could do a double lift. when they got to Marlo, he asked "does the monkey use a double push off, or a strike!" Very funny.

David Ben on Vernon...David had video of himself doing card stuff that was nice.

Evening Show...North American Gala Show. Dale was stale. Isn't that Neil's act? Finney stole the show. Stan needs a new bit. Danny Cole has this invisible chair illusion that is to die for. Kohl's old. James Brandon should have invested his earnings from the Icy Hot spot somewhere else. Craig covered this show best.

Day 3 . Comedy lecture. Finney had a great line "My grandfather used to tell me to eat your spinach, don't you want to grow up and be Popeye...At 9 years old even I knew that Olive Oil was no prize!". There was great bits going between Mac, David and Finney about who was voted # 1...

Stage Day2.

Derek Selinger (Canada)Top Hat production, great levitation with a street lamp and garbage can. Flip stick, split fans...should have ended with the illusion,

Jason Bishop. Illusion with a 80 pound girl. Origami syle, fold n fold stuff doesn't work with teenaged waifs. Sad story about growing up in an orphanage, split fans.

Omar Ferret (USA) Lots of appearing drinks, split fans, appearing bottles, good floating Martini glass.

Trigg. Unique appearance. He had an illusion that I will say was the best of the convention. He starts to pull a really really long streamer from his tophat. The hat is sitting on a niteclub style table that is draped with cloth. Well, the cloth accidently drops revealing a large spool of the streamers from below the table. trigg doesn't see this, and proceeds to grab the hat from the table, and continues to pull streamers from the hat...but now you see the large spool in the table spinning up, and streamers from the hat...but??? no streamers between the table and hat, a great bit of buisness. Congrats to Trigg, I thought this was the best bit of the convention.

Red Hat. (Korea) Masks, great fun. Color Changes that I just couldn't keep up with. He has dozens of appearing masks. The only problem is that the masks were a tad small, maybe only four inches around.

Andost (IL.) New stuff, magic with lamps, lots of color changes with colored lamp lights and Delite. I thought the stage was too dark.

Tim Trust and Julie. (Germany) Mentalist bit. Couldn't figure out how? Hard to sell to a magic audience, probably really strong to lay audience.

Kyoko (Japan) What's with the jet-pack on her back? It's like the Geisha girls have mattresses strapped to their backs. 5 minutes of Butterfly and fan.

Reed Sisters (Ohio). Dove to rabbit, very strong. There was a jailhouse rock themed cage, and a Metamorphosis. The problem is that the sisters all look the same. Same hair, same glittery costumes....They need to be different. Too many guys said..."like a blonde, a red-head, and a brunette"...have they not heard this from anyone? Huge potential if they can work out three different characters. Music changes were abrupt. Someone take these girls under their wings and work out an act, I can see them going far with just a few tweeks.

Shawn Farquhar. (Canada) Great close-up. Shawn I know you reed this Funny Forum, and thanks for pointing out that DVD "need not apply" thing, but where did you ever get the idea that a stage contest consisted of a camcorder, a widescreen, and a deck of cards?? I loved the bit, but this wasn't a "stage" act. And, with a tight close-up like that, I really felt your hands shake. I was like, give this guy some Jiffy Pop kernels, and a Rocco routine with popcorn.

Darcy Oak (Canada) Nice suede suit, doves.

Close-up show. I was fooled many times. Brian Gillis forgot to give some ladies watch back. Glad I finally got to see Dr. Sawa...

Day 4.. Started out with a David Williamson Lecture. Someone get him some blow. He "just missed" all week. Each at bat was like a grounds-rule double...nothing out of the park. His best stuff is with a camera crew and a late night of editing. Give this guy a television show. His wit is so fast. I love the way he can take a politically correct situation, and quickly reverse it to make you cringe. He gets a great deal of humor out of taking to opposite of correctness and exploiting it exponentially.... To some guy jostling his pants. "Are you????(laugh) or are you???(laugh)..Oh, he's fitting a Thumb-tip!" He had laypeople on stage with three hand-picked guys, with different years of experience, trying to do tricks with ordinary objects, great fun!

Stage #3

Tony Chapek (US) Gets better and better each time.

Jei-Min (South Korea). Lots of Costume changes with Disney themed plots, multiplying apples. But, the biggest illusion was his floating girl. Fabulous! She was floating right in front of him, smooth... on, up, down, off. Stabilty is the key, and this one looked nice!

David Sousa (Portugal). There was a time when I think I liked this act. But, this time it was pretty annoying. First of all the music has three lyrics "I knew a girl" or whatever, and it is sung with 46 chord changes. David doesn't move, its like his shoes have been glued to the stage. The crowd loved him, I think the first time you see him, you like the act, after that.....He manipulated cards, envelopes, hearts...I wrote in my notes.. Black on black against black..lack.

Skilldini. (US) Tim has been better. I believe a grad of Chavez, some of his smoothness is well practiced. His best bit of business is after he produces four balls, and keeps trying to take them away one at a time into a hat...gets the crowd going to a mini frenzy. I miss the sword swallowing, tooth brush comedy.

Oh Young Jung (So. Korea) The gals of the East spare no expense on costumes! This outfit was just beautiful! She worked in the obligatory costume changes, lots of appearing fans, with a big 5 foot fan finish. So, now I am starting to question the way some parasols are produced, top of parasol (or nipple) towards the audience, with the body of the parasol heading back stage, and starting to question if this is really the way we should be making parasols appear, the handling in un-natural.....great for hiding the buisness, but awkward upon appearance. Unless you quickly flick the parasol, and grab the base. I think umbrella workers should look for better ways to make them appear.

Christian and Katalina. (In). Mid-way themed Mentalist act. game of chance with four gals from the audience. All kinds of predictions matched, too many for words, fast paced, too busy...maybe too many predictions, with no real zoink at the end. Katalina was hot!

Soma (Hungary). Great bit with a self rolling suitcase. Hand (ala Adams family) inside suitcase. Newspaper tear with a dropped piece, Music rewinds, piece jumps back off the floor into packet, restored..Nice.

Tim Trust (Germany). This was my favorite act, by far...and how he didn't reach the top 6 was beyond me. What was so wrong with this act, that the judges didn't give it that extra nod? This was the most sell-able, entertaining, promising act I have seen in years. Tim sports a huge Top-hat! Great look. This Tim Burton style costume was bigger than life! Not, just "I'm a magician"...but " I am THE magician", and he wore it with confidence. This was a Hans Moretti style act with Julie getting into the box, and swords being not just pushed into the cardboard box, but slung through the cardboard, with the music also building to a wonderful crescendo. With a stop for some dramatic blood drippings, the music builds again louder and louder as even more swords go in....Applause, then her hand rises from the top of the box....Wilting in death, Tim proceeds to pull off her wedding band, and offer it to some gal in the front row...But wait! Julie's hand says, "come here with that ring" it points. The ring goes back on her finger, swords come out, Julie is now in a new Costume, waving a huge flag on a staff. Both bow to the audience, and as they leave Julie keeps waving the flag, and tries to knock Tim's head off with a round-house, Tim ducks just in a nick-of-time. Pure fun, lots of entertainment. I talked to a lot of guys who were of the opinioin this act was going to pull the pot....A real disappointment they didn't even make top six. I sure would like to know why...

Kouyou Sugaya (Japan) The genuine thing about "The Zombie" is that the illusion to the audience is of some futuristic liquid Mercury moving about a silk cloth. Anything else... is a boa on a stick, or a mask on a stick... I have only seen one other thing levitate behind a cloth, that looks "real" and that is McBride's mask. Kouyou had a Geisha (I think) girl mask that "came alive". It bounced, jittered, and stunk..

Nathan Kepner (Penn). Zoot suit themed, with appearing Fedoras, great appearing saxaphone, a few split fans, and also pulled the knob off his jukebox, and used it well. My only problem with this act was that the two props he used...were mis-matched. He had an easel, next to a jukebox...Those two never got along. The easel was used to produce a flute , and that was fantastic. If he can get the easel out of the act, he will have a very nice show. The disappearance of the saxaphone at the end was really strong, and a great way to end.

Charming, Charming Charming Choi (Korea). Talked about the Disney movie The Little Mermaid. He performed underwater cups and balls. The best bit is the last load of dozens of fish swimming about. Boy, there is something "kicker" about making hundreds of fish suddenly appear in a tank of water...it is because they all swim in lots of directions, kind of like throw streamers, the way they just branch out...

Kieko Muto (Japan) Silks, loud American Pop music, flip sticks...what are they? Oh it's not a stick, its a fan... Then more fans.

Chin Chin (USA) Really bad crap to heavy loud rave music. I really wanted some rave guy to suceed, but this one couldn't be seen. Snowstorms were lost into the blacklight. Somebody needs to fill the rave/magic void. This one missed.

Peter Pitchford (Penn). Tribute to Cardini. Some of the local clubs should hire him as entertainment...

Timo Marc. (Germany). Interaction with screen. I see a great many acts like this in the future, as we saw three last week. I think the new generation of kids are having a difficult time differentiating between reality and say...You-tube. This could be exploited by magicians. The question is, what is the plot? Timo had a bunch of well-timed interactions with a stupid monitor....and? His shadow stuff behind an even bigger monitor fooled me...I did not think it was half-dozen worthy.

Close-up Day 2

Apparently FFFF owns the only half-mooned close-up table in the World...

Charming Charming Charming Choi, (Korea) Coin matrix that had coins moving by themselves! Not too sure if this works for the lay crowd.

John Born (NY) I liked the way he took his close-up table into his lap. I don't think I have ever seen this. Copper Silver. Another sad grandfather-taught-me-never-got-to-see-me-perform story...The best, was when he was so smitten with applause, he just walked off the floor and left his guest just standing there...with prop in hand. Welcome to New York Jack...I ain't splitting no applause with you! Get your own!

Galambos (Hungary) Cups and balls to music "77 Sunset Strip"..Too fast, way to fast. Big balls and coins finish. Bald guy, who should have powered his dome. he used smoke as an appearance...I think smoke should be used as a disappearance, and never as an appearance. Lots of big-really big coins at end.

Marc Oberon (UK). Best in show. Here was my choice. Card named to wallet, gold balls multiply, appearing apple to big chrome ball, color changing roses, orgami swan to gold swan. A very nice patter that talks about Myths and life. Coins for an encore...

Tallan & Gorman (TX). Dueling Cups and Balls. Some nice bits, nice costume shtick. Don't know who to watch as they performed side by side...Not a sellable act.

Toto (Japan) This was an interesting act whereby he always led you down one path, maybe even with a slight reveal...but then zoinked you in the head with something even better...to the tune of... thumbs to the ears wiggling fingers and the words "It's maaaaaaagic". Great fun, lets all get drunk and go downtown to see this guy work the bar. He makes sure he is having fun with you, and it was very fun indeed.

That is all I can report as I got caught up in a trip to visit "The third largest Antique and Flea Market in the Nation"...only to be real disappointed to find "soxs from Walmart, expired cosmetics, knock-off sunglasses, and Hank Williams CD's...So, let me stay on this topic for a short bit...When you throw together activities for the wives, keep in mind that you should also do whatever research it takes to make sure that they also have a good time, even if you don't see any of their money. Ask the local magicians, or read up about what you are offering. Just don't go by what some fly-by-night magazine tells you. There were maybe 100 dealers, not the "thousands" offered by some mag, and only two of them sold "Antiques"...I got in a big stare down with one of the top dogs over "false advertisement", and demanded a cab ride refund. Its simple...know what you are offering outside the convention, or don't offer it.

Derek Lever's lecture on inventors was fun...not too sure if any of it was usable today, but there was some pretty ingenuous methods kicked about. I really liked this, and I would like to see more of this at conventions. Too many times, the lectures are cards, cards, cards...this was props! I would study the shots from the Klosterman, or Copperfield collection and ponder..."What the heck is that?" This guy had...THAT, and revealed the thinking behind it object. The next day at the Jay Marshall auction I met this guy who has a website www.oldmagicprops.com where he has a section called "What is it?"...Terry Harris used to run something in a trade mag, but they nixed it, because the answer may not be revealed for six or seven months...but you may find this webcrib interesting.

International Gala Show...Craig covered this very well...I really have nothing to add, except I really would have liked to see Roxy's regular routine. The hair stuff didn't work. Jerome Helfenstein (France) was really entertaining the way he interacted with a shadowy/monitor. The problem with the act is, you never get to see his face. The eyes are the gateways to the sole. I want to meet you first, get to know you, then let you do your tricky shadowy things, but not until I know who you are. His cat-like movements under the screen was more interesting than the objects on the screen. If this guy walked by me on the street today...I wouldn't know who he was...It was very entertaining, but it wasn't even like watching automatons, they have faces...

Sos and Victoria (Russians I believe) Here the question is...do you want the audience to see that you are struggling inside the tube/screen?...Most of the costumes were exchanged inside 2 foot black tubes, but you saw arms and elbows protruding left and right, many times in the exchange...wouldn't it more magical if they went with a three foot curtain, with no body parts bouncing off the fabric? I heard they will be rocking The Big Apple Circus next month...Good for them. The kids were cool, but I would have liked to see the time slot filled with a more professional act. They had a lot of time too. Topas was fun, as always. Wayne Dobson was cool...I think he had a great time too!

That was all the notes I took. There was a Lobster Dinner for 1000 somewhere in there...

Comeback player of the year goes to Sandy Marshall and Magic Inc...they are doing one hell of a job getting that back on its feet. God bless Sandy!

You never realize just how good Ketchup is until running around these style conventions... God Bless Ketchup...and Sandy Marshall.................and butter.

The only thing I wanted in the Dealer's room was a $700 locking reel!

To my suprise I got to spend four hours talking to Tim Trust in the airport and flying to Detroit. This was the highlight of my convention. In fact that night the seven of us New Yorkers fried each other over Pizza, Veronin 24 floors up, and Tim Trust on a plane...stuff that wasn't paid for...the "paid convention" stuff sucked old eggs...but the chance to meet a few of the guys you admired, either your whole life, or just learned about yesterday...this made my convention.

Thanks Richard for keeping this Forum open, as the roomates I found here on your Forum were most interesting of all.

I did think it was...as billed "The Convention of the Century".
Last edited by MaxNY on 08/01/08 05:45 PM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: Added paragraph breaks for easier reading. DS
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 08/01/08 09:26 PM

You folks can't imagine the nasty and long e-mails sent out by Kohl & Company and Todd Charles for Dustin's brief criticisms of their acts. Their reponses are longer than his criticism!

Dustin wrote this: "Midway through the performance of Kohl & Company, I felt the need to extricate myself from the theater. I have seen this act so many times that I could write it out in detail; not that I would put myself through such a thing. It was amusing 30 years ago. No offense, but I am no longer amused." Kohl & Company's response, in an e-mail to someone named Gregg, is that they are never going to perform for magicians again.

Dustin's criticism is mild compared to what is written in "real magazines" and on other "real world" websites. Do you think people are as polite as Dustin on other websites, where vulgar language and the words "YOU SUCK" are frequently invoked as criticisms?

Todd Charles had a lot of excuses in his e-mailed response, blaming the room, and so on. The fact is, when I was watching Todd Charles I realized that his act would be perfect in one place: the Borscht Belt circuit that no longer exists, but used to play at the Jewish hotels in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. The act was bizarre, ridiculous, and sometimes funny. But it didn't belong at a magic convention. And neither did "The King and Presto." I like Duane Laughlin--he's a nice guy. Unlike Dustin, I think he always does a good job as emcee for the SAM contest shows. This year was no different. And he can sing! Who knew! But his Elvis act was wrong for the banquet (and wrong for magicians--I'm sure it's great for laymen).

Overall, the banquet show was tough to sit through. It was, for me (and of what I saw), by far the weakest part of the convention.
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Postby castawaydave » 08/02/08 12:22 AM

Reading Craig Mitchell's, then Dustin's, and now MaxNY's reviews of the convention has been great.

Many thanks gentlemen.


[Max: en fuego.

"Boy, there is something "kicker" about making hundreds of fish suddenly appear in a tank of water...because they all swim in lots of directions, kind of like throw streamers, the way they just branch out..."

"... should have powered his dome."

"I would study the shots from the Klosterman, or Copperfield collection and ponder..."What the heck is that?" This guy had...THAT, and revealed the thinking behind it..."

"I want to meet you first, get to know you, then let you do your tricky shadowy things..."

"...that night the seven of us New Yorkers fried each other over Pizza, Veronin 24 floors up, and Tim Trust on a plane...stuff that wasn't paid for...the "paid convention" stuff sucked old eggs...but the chance to meet a few of the guys you admired, either your whole life, or just learned about yesterday...this made my convention."

"Thanks Richard for keeping this Forum open, as the roomates I found here on your Forum were most interesting of all."]

"I did think it was...as billed 'The Convention of the Century'."

Very good.
Thanks again to everyone, for all the reports.

:^D
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Postby Tim Ellis » 08/02/08 03:47 AM

Some magicians do find it very hard to take criticism or review from their peers.

I wrote a reasonably positive review of a poor show performed here in Australia a few years back and the subject threatened some EZine publishers and stopped them from publishing it and has spent the years since attacking me personally.

I applaud Craig et al for having the courage to "tell it like it is".

I agree that there is no need for destructive criticism, but sugar-coating the truth can be more damaging for the industry as a whole.

As for press reviews in lay publications. Unfortunately, often reviewers are seeing magic for the first time and, if it fools them, they say it's great! All this achieves is setting the bar at a new low for magic and further inflating the subject's ego.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 08/02/08 06:11 AM

I am going to admit to being a bit harsh on Duane Laflin. I have softened the words used in my criticism of his work as MC during the stage finals. I apologize to Mr. Laflin for the original wording.

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Postby Ken Northridge » 08/02/08 01:39 PM

Dustin Stinett writes:

"The King and Presto (the Elvis guy) who, much to my utter amazement, received a partial standing ovation (you people have to get out more often if you think that crap was really worthy of a standing-o)"

Yes, one of those standing was me. I was not necessarily standing for that particular act but more for Duane's Laflin's many accomplishments. From what I have heard, the Elvis act started as kind of a joke, soon people wanted to see again. Duane is one of the finest, most honest gentlemen you'd ever want to meet and his magic performances are always top notch. He is a great teacher of magic and showmanship as well. And this should come as no surprise to you--I think his performance as MC Saturday night was also outstanding.

The room where Elvis and Todd Charles performed their act may have indeed had something to do with their performance. I have seen Todd Charles bring the house down with laughter before. I'm a professional entertainer myself and I do not make excuses when the audience does not respond. However, let's be honest, that was not a good setting for a show for 1,000 people.

I also don't agree with criticism of the schedule. I have been to some conventions where I get exhausted trying to get to everything. I really enjoyed the free time. I'd rather see the organizers put their money into a few top quality lectures/shows rather than filling every moment with something. And offering big money for the contest winners was a stroke of genius. This is what attracted the top talent in the world to Louisville and produced that excellent show on Saturday night.

Convention of the Century? Since I have not been to many conventions I am not qualified to answer that. However, I have no doubt I got my money's worth and will go to another combined convention in a heart beat!
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Postby Bill McFadden » 08/02/08 03:41 PM

Many, many thanks to convention correspondents Craig, Dustin, and MaxNY for their candor, and for their discretion.
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Postby sieler » 08/02/08 10:40 PM

Thanks for the great reviews! For me, it was a very good
four day convention spread out over six days :)
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Postby Bill Palmer » 08/02/08 11:47 PM

The whole banquet was a Chinese Cluster ____. The food was efficiently, if not slowly, served. By the time we got our food, it was luke warm. Except for the lobster. It was cold and dry. They basically had half the staff they needed to serve the crowd. Whoever it was who announced that it was the best banquet they had ever been to needs to do two things:

1) Get out more.
2) Go to a Bar Mitzvah.

Regarding "The King and Presto." Duane actually does a fairly decent Elvis impersonation. However, the act would have, in my opinion, been better off if they had either eliminated most of the magic or enlarged some of it to play for a bigger room and a larger distance. This might be a great birthday party show, but I don't see it as a stage show for a roomful of magicians.

Todd Charles was interesting, to say the least. I have played the banjo for nearly 50 years. I had occasionally given thought to doing something like that with one of my instruments. Not now, though. It wouldn't work for me. But he does make it work. Again, too small for the room. The sound balance was WAY out of whack the night I saw it.
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Postby Terry » 08/03/08 07:52 AM

Bill Palmer wrote:The whole banquet was a Chinese Cluster ____. The food was efficiently, if not slowly, served. By the time we got our food, it was luke warm. Except for the lobster. It was cold and dry. They basically had half the staff they needed to serve the crowd. Whoever it was who announced that it was the best banquet they had ever been to needs to do two things:

1) Get out more.
2) Go to a Bar Mitzvah.

... I have played the banjo for nearly 50 years. ...The sound balance was WAY out of whack the night I saw it.


Re banquet - tell us how you really feel. :grin:

My Bluegrass guitar instructor said the banjo was the first "look at me" instrument. :D
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Postby Nicholas Carifo » 08/04/08 12:02 AM

Bill Palmer wrote:The whole banquet was a Chinese Cluster ____. The food was efficiently, if not slowly, served. By the time we got our food, it was luke warm. Except for the lobster. It was cold and dry. They basically had half the staff they needed to serve the crowd.


Interesting.. AS far as the meal itself... I really enjoyed the food, and I am no novice to good food. I didn't experience anything like this during the banquet I attended or at the table I was seated at. I was at the first banquet if that makes a difference.

The food was delicious. The mignon and the lobster both terrific. Nothing was cold and nothing was dry, as in Bill's experience. I thought it was fantastic food. And same with the service. I did not in anyway experience the lack of service others may have. We all at my table really enjoyed the banquet.

Tho, similarly, I have over the years heard many complain about the food and meals at the magic castle... and I have to say... I have never anything but delicious food at the magic castle either. The prime rib is fantastic.



Great freinds and great food.

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Postby MaxNY » 08/04/08 12:22 AM

My experience was fine...You talk about the soup being cold...I think it was called Gesslpoch, (or something) and was supposta be cold....

The band was smoking, at one point I looked out, and the dance floor was filled with couples having a grand time....I would have rather seen a "live" band at the last night Gala, instead of some DJ. They should have moved the money over from the 20 piece bag-pipe band....(what do you call 20 Bag-Pipes, a band? There's a joke there somewhere)....to a Good-bye band. I remember the Vegetable Band at the Final night... SAM Boston, THAT was a party band.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 08/04/08 01:33 AM

It's Gaspacho and yes, it's supposed to be cold. (I couldn't help but mess with the waiter and ask if there was going to be chips served with the salsa. He didn't think it was funny. Oh well. At least I wrote the joke.)

I thought the food and service were excellent.

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