Scott asked me to post this ...
This marked the third year for the MINDvention but my first year of attending. But then if you were a mentalist, then you would have known that. With more magicians gravitating towards mentalism recently, it is no surprise that the attendance this year at 160 was an increase from prior years. Of course that number may have been aided by the announcement of Seinfelds Jason Alexander being added to the bill. Danny Archer and Robert Allen really put together a great little convention and I predict that it will continue to grow as its reputation grows.
First of all there is no place in the world like Las Vegas for hosting a convention for entertainers like us. There are so many magicians working and living in Vegas, it is a treat for us to come to their hood and Im sure its an equal luxury for them because they can just drop in just for an hour or so without having to travel long distances. Some of the locals who dropped in whom I noticed were Jeff McBride, Eugene Burger (who happened to be in town for another conference), Banachek (who is in Vegas for several months working with Criss Angel), Luke Jermay, Jon Stetson, Charlie Frye, Teller, Stan Allen, Paul Harris, Michael Close, Steve Bedwell andheck, I dont know who all else. Im sure Im overlooking many others who poked in their heads. As to the hosting hotel, the Palace Station may be more than a little off the strip, but it was adequate for our needs.
The dealer room was free and open to any magician / mentalist so you didnt have to be registered just to come in, hang out and pour over some of the wares from many of the dealers which included Mark Strivings, Alakazam Magic (Peter Nardi), Jheffs Marketplace of the Mind, H&R Magic Books, Patrick Redford (George Tait), Taylors Magic (from Australia), Bill Pierce, Bob Kohler and a couple others whose names escape me now. But all in all, a nice assortment of books and props geared for the mentalist.
Of course one of the main joys of smaller conventions is the quality time you can spend with people. In larger events, one can get pulled in so many directions that it makes it difficult to have any meaningful conversations. But to paraphrase Goldilocks, this was just right. I understand that Danny and Robert intend to keep this intimate, and when it gets to a certain point, they will cut off registration.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to me is the registrar dynamics. Rick Maue says it best when he says many tricks are easy to do but nothing is easy to perform. I believe that mentalists appreciate that more than magicians. That is to say that mentalists put more time into the scripting and presentation of their routines and acts than many magicians. A magician can literally (and disappointingly) buy a trick this afternoon and put it in their act tonight. But a mentalist works on what to say, the nuances of the effect, the stage blocking or in other words, the subtleties that make up the backbone of believability and conviction in the eyes and minds of the audience. A magician often walks out on stage but cannot perform without some type of apparatus. A mentalist can walk out with nothing but a microphone and be ready to perform. We both create miracles in the minds of the audience, but the mentalist is more fat free (as John Riggs would say).
I believe that successful mentalists have engaging personalities and are more charismatic than many magicians. They have to be interesting just to hold their audience with minimal stage accoutrement. Magicians on the other hand create mystery with boxes, props and other apparatus. Now Im not saying that one is better than the other by any means. To quote Sean Connery as James Bond in You Only Live Twice when Ling asks, You think we better, huh? James responds, No, just different. Like Peking Duck is different from Russian Caviar. But I love them both.
Having said all that, I found all of the registrants personable as many of them engaged me in conversation more so than magicians at a magic convention. I made more new friends at this convention than I have at many of the other conventions. Perhaps it was because of the intimacy of this convention, perhaps it was because of the common bond, or maybe, just maybe mentalists are more used to playing roles and engaging in conversations with strangers. Whatever the reason, I had a great time. Now on with what went on at the MINDvention.
Francis Menotti opened the MINDvention on Sunday with an excellent lecture on creativity. He was introduced by Rick Maue, himself one of the more creative minds in mentalism, who spoke highly of Francis and we were not disappointed. Francis is well adept at speaking from the stage and his thoughts on creativity were excellent. He later joined a panel that included Michael Weber, Brad Henderson and Docc Hilford who continued a joint discussion on creativity followed by a Q&A. What a classroom learning experience that was! The afternoon session of attendee performances was entertaining and enjoyable. There were about a half dozen of the registrants who signed up to perform just one effect of about six minutes or so each. I must say that it was much better than a magic club show as many of these performers were full time pros and delivered polished performances. Rick Maue delivered the evening lecture with a number of polished effects that best displayed his brilliance in details and subtleties.
On Monday morning, Ken Weber, current president of the Psychic Entertainers Association (P.E.A.), hosted an interview with Gerry McCambridge. Gerry was the first mentalist in 50 years to have a network television show. Most recently he has had a successful career in Las Vegas as The Mentalist at the Rampart Casino followed by a run at the Stardust Casino. His insights and stories about his career path and behind the scenes on stage and in the studio provided an interesting perspective of events. Dennis Laub lectured next though I cannot comment as I did not get to see much of this event; however, the second attendee show that followed was just as strong as the one on the previous day. The evening lecture by Docc Hilford was more than we expected. He began with his full 30 minute nightclub act then he explained all three effects in great detail. This was another tremendous lecture.
The late night, off color one-man show by Francis Menotti waswell, perhaps not scheduled late enough. The audience was warned about potentially offensive material before coming into the room then again as Rick Maue introduced Francis. Rick went through a litany of offensive and politically incorrect words and phrases and as each was spoken, he would check them off the list and everyone stayed. What followed was a really delightful though rather distasteful and occasionally disturbing theatrical production that had the crowd practically rolling on the floor with laughter. There is not much I can say in print about any of the routines so suffice it to say that it lived up to its name of the Off Color Show. Francis said that this was a one time event but we hope that it will become a staple at the MINDvention.
The final day of convention began with perhaps one of the best lectures I have heard in years, and thats saying a lot. Perhaps it was because of the information but it had a lot to do with the lecturer and his qualifications. Anton Zellmann, the millionaire mentalist, shared secrets of making big money working trade shows. He didnt pull any punches or hide any facts. His PowerPoint Presentation complimented his words as he showed what to do, what to say and how to ask for more shows and more money. Yes, he is selling his system, but the free ideas he shared werewell, worth the price of the convention. After lunch the third show by attendees was presented, again with some really cool mentalism performances. The panel discussion that followed on The Use of Stooges in Mentalism included Gerry McCambridge, Rick Maue, Docc Hilford and Michael Weber. There were differing opinions on the topic and it occasionally drifted to pre-show work but the overall ideas discussed provided some real gems.
The late afternoon show was what many had waited forJason Alexander. Though some of his effects were rather standard, there was nothing standard about his performance. As expected, he was able to deliver a powerful program with a well-scripted and rehearsed performance. His opening effect, Silent Treatment by Jon Allen proved to be a great opener followed by Charles Gaucis Super Deluxe Eye to Eye then Mental Epic and finishing with a prediction of what was going to be selected in Mental Epic. Just naming the effects does an injustice to the strong presentations that Jason infused into his performance. But I wanted to name the effects because he later explained the evolution of his act and how each item was specifically selected for exacting reasons.
Briefly, he knows he is recognized as George Costanza who was a funny guy. He chose Silent Treatment as an opener so the focus would be on the effect and not on him. Also he would not have to say anything funny or anything at all for that matter. After the trick was over then he developed an intelligent and rather serious and believable character as he proceeded from one routine to another. After his show, he spoke candidly about his interest in magic and mentalism since he was a very young man but he realized that he could create illusions from the stage or television without performing magic or mentalism. Now that he has a level of success, he is returning to perform and develop his mentalism act. It was wonderful lesson in character development and great insight into the mind of a successful individual.
The final All Star Show was emceed by Greg Otto, a funny cruise ship magician. The bill included Dennis Laub, Anton Zellmann, Francis Menotti, Danny Archer as the Psychedelic Psychic, Rick Maue and Docc Hilford. What a powerful show with great performances by one and all that wrapped up this third annual event.
As mentioned earlier, Danny and Robert really know how to organize and book a convention. And the MINDvention is just one example. When you register for next years MINDvention (mindvention.com), you might want to consider also registering for their close-up convention, the Las Vegas Magic Invitational (LVMI.net) which will be June 10-12 at the Palace Station. I know Im planning on trying my darndest to make it. I hope you will, too.