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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Scott's Thoughts - by Scott Wells » » Columbus Magi-Fest 2006: A Review (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Scott Wells
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Dateline Columbus, OH - Thursday February 2, 2006: This is the 75th annual Columbus Magi-Fest and as you would expect, it appears that the organizers have pulled out the stops. They have pulled some of the talent from the past that have been sure fire winners plus some that have not been seen here before now. And the result so far has been like a real mixture you would expect...great to mediocre.

Of course as we enter the hosting Marriott hotel, they always show us exceptional hospitality with cookies and drinks and festive decorations around the lobby. They even set up tables in the lobby for late night sessioning and convening with friends. The 23 dealers were set-up in their usual outdoor area in the parking lot adjacent to the hotel in a heated tent. The dealers opened late in the afternoon before the registration was open which gave a few of those early arrivals the chance to get a sneak peek. The registration opened at 6:00 p.m. with the first evening stage show that started at 7:30.

The first evening show was hosted by Hank Moorehouse who introduced several contest winners beginning with the young talent of Nathaniel Rankin. His theme of Air Magic was used as he produced a ticket, bag of chips, bottle of soda and an oversized suitcase. During the act he also produced an LED sign that proclaimed that "the flight will be delayed for five minutes." Beyond that, there really wasn't anything that was related to the theme. But he had some upbeat swing music as he produced a ball, did a little one ball manipulation then some hat juggling, color changing CD's then cards from toilet paper (?) then juggled three balls and a hat. He received a polite response as he threw streamers into audience to finish.

Brian Cook was the Senior Winner whose running theme was his color changing gloves. He opened with a ball production from a plate of glass, a ribbon and rope production, more ball productions ending with two large balls that were larger than basketballs. It appears that he might be still looking for the right music to work for his act.

Hank Moorehouse did a trio of classic tricks starting with a cut and restored rope routine as an homage to Duke Stern, the pom-pom stick then Sidewalk Shuffle. This marks Hank's ninth time as the emcee of the contest winners' show here at the Magi-Fest.

Danny Alan, who graced the cover of the February 2006 issue of M.U.M., showed an engaging personality that captured the audience from the beginning with his warm charm. He opened with a silk production then a ball produced from a torn hole in the silk then balls from mouth. He concluded with the canary from egg from lemon from orange. This was one of the better versions of this trick I have seen. Very well done proving why he is in such demand and booking over 350 shows a year.

Closing the one hour show was an unusual variety act Glen Singer, or as he is better known, El Gleno Grande. I can't say that he was hilarious, but he kept a smile on my face for his whole turn. He opened with some different hand gags that involved the audience then the bulk of his show was him "riding on a horse" (actually it was a stuffed horse with his feet underneath). As a seasoned street performer, he had a lot of lines that have been honed from years of work in the real world. Very funny act and quite different for a magic show to close with an act that has no magic. (Hmmm, could this be a harbinger of things to come?)

The professional close-up show featured some of the best talent that would make most registrants at any convention salivate. It's amazing that the organizers brought together such stellar talents on one night rivaling the larger, international conventions. Tim Conover opened with a classic reprise of Al Goshman's coin routine with the salt and pepper shakers. His bent coin routine would rival what I have seen Banachek do. He displayed six coins that were put in a glass. When dumped out, five were bent excepting the one previously selected and noted by the volunteer. When that coin was returned to the glass then dumped out, it too was bent. Incredible! His bill routine is a dream, too, with ones that change to fives, to tens to twenties to fifties then to hundreds. He did a shot glass production followed by Ramsey's coins and cork trick finishing with Chinese coins production.

Rich Bloch had a volunteer select a card from a pack of cards while his back was turned. When he turned around, he had the same card from a separate pack stuck to his forehead that matched the volunteer's card. He then did an "impromptu" Sam the Bellhop type routine where he made up a story on the spot from a "shuffled" deck as each card was turned over. Rich finished with a blindfold routine where he duplicated a signature on a whiteboard.

Patrick Przysiecki presented his award winning close-up routine with a travel theme where he opened by producing a globe. His running gag was spinning the globe then stopping it precisely on the country he was talking about. He did a bill in globe and a three shell game. His finish was a unique and entertaining presentation of "The Magic of the Big 10" where he used buckeyes and audience volunteers. Regardless of how many buckeyes were laid down, there were always still ten buckeyes in each row. A real mathematical fooler.

David Williamson, that wacky wizard from the Midwest brought his charm and charisma to the room along with a drum, a wooden knocker and a set of chimes. A volunteer was enlisted to play the instruments as he did the cups and balls and a card spelling trick. It proved how you can make a small trick play really big to a larger audience, though I must admit that this act didn't pack flat. Smile

Paul Gertner had some picture perfect card forces for a series of wonderful card tricks including his trademark "Unshuffled" trick. He also did a matrix with multiplying coins and the Gemini Twins card trick. Of course it just wouldn't be totally satisfying if he failed to do his quintessential steel balls and cups. And we were not disappointed. Well done, Paul!

Closing the show was John Carney who opened with coin productions then coins to glass, some thimble work, color changing cards, acrobatic aces and assorted ace assemblies and cards across. John finished with one of my personal favorites, the multiplying cigars from the tiny purse. What a show of professional conjurers all.

The late night lecture by David Brizius and Carl Day featured the care and handling of pyrotechnics. They showed the film of the recent "pyro that went bad" in the nightclub where the stage caught fire during the pyrotechnics used by a rock band and people were killed in the stampede to evacuate the building. They discussed the laws that relate to what types of fire and other pyrotechnics you can and cannot use in theatres. A very informative and sobering lecture.

So ended the first evening of the 75th Magi-Fest.
"A magician who isn't working is only fooling himself." - Scott Wells, M.I.M.C. with Gold Star

The Magic Word podcast: http://themagicwordpodcast.com Listen to convention coverage, interviews with magicians, pictures, videos and more.

Magic Inspirations website for all things Banachek: www.magicinspirations.net
Scott Wells
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DATELINE FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3: Following the Friday morning close-up contests with about 13 mostly excellent performers, the first lecture of the day was by Rich Bloch who talked about staging and the importance of finding a director. He also taught some card tricks and clever switches. The afternoon lectures were divided between Chavez instructor Dale Salwak and the two balloonatics, Tom Vorjahan and Daniel Herron. Then came one of my favorite parts of the convention…the professional forum.

Imagine if you will what kind of questions you would ask you would want to a few of the world’s top, most successful magicians. Then imagine a dream team on the panel. Well, most of those who would be on my list were on this panel today. Tim Conover, Paul Gertner, John Carney, Dale Salwak and David Williamson fielded questions from Jep Hostetler as the moderator then from questions from the floor in a forum entitled, “What does it take to be a professional performer?”. Aside from some funny remarks and stories, there was some excellent information imparted by these gentlemen. To wit, allow me to quote a few here:

“If you’re working on your business, then you’re not working on your magic. If you’re working on your magic, then you’re not working on your business. It’s a fine balance.” – John Carney

“I’ve probably made more money with (my trick) Unshuffled in corporate work than any other trick. I have about 700 decks at home with different corporate names on them.” –Paul Gertner

“I have fewer tricks now than in years past. My working repertoire has shrunken over the years.” – John Carney

“I look at ideas and trick selection like Woody Allen works through comedy material. He rejects 19 out of 20 jokes thinking that most other comedians would have stopped then.” – John Carney

“Picture the best magic tricks from the shows of the best magicians you have seen and put them together as your show. Next look for routines that will fit that sequence in your own show with ethics in mind so you are not going to copy the original. You are just looking for the essence of the idea to complete the perfect routine.” – Tim Conover

“Darwin Ortiz told me that if you’re going to do magic as a full time living, then you have to know that it’s a whole different thing. And you owe it to your family and the ones you love to make money.” – David Williamson

“You should have a set fee so it’s either the fee or free.” – Jep Hostetler

“Your fees should go up a little each year rather than large jumps every few years” – Paul Gertner

“I use a sliding scale saying that I will charge this amount if we are two months out. If we wait another month and I still have an open date, then it will be less if you confirm. If you wait until a week before the event, then I will be even less if I’m still available.” – David Williamson

“When T. Nelson Downs was asked to work for less than he was asking, he would say, ‘I am a very patient man and I can wait until you save up.” – John Carney


following the forum, a new feature was offered called “Pitch and Sell”. Pre-arranged sellers had eight minutes to pitch a particular product or products followed by a 30 minute period of selling. All the participants paid a fee for this presentation. I missed the event but those who went got something out of it.

The Friday night Headliner show was perhaps the best evening show I have ever seen at the Magi-Fest. I might stop short of my best show ever seen, but I will say that it is way up there. It was a solid two and a half hour show (including the 15 minute interval), technically perfect from the sound and light POV, well paced, nice blend of talent, and all nicely cohesively together by one of my favorite emcees, Rich Bloch.

Greg Frewin opened with his high energy F.I.S.M. act. Performing in a short waistcoat with no apparent bulges, I think he produced four doves from body loads plus two others during his show. His climax ending is one that I don’t want to spoil if you haven’t seen it, but it was a real kicker.

Rich Bloch took his turn with a borrowed ring in gumball machine followed by a card in mayonnaise jar and card in sock and one card that was not found…until later in the show. Nice interplay with the audience and professionally done.

Junge! Junge! from Germany next performed their F.I.S.M. act with an Englishman in New York circa 1920’s where a Brit is getting his shoes shined and his pockets cleaned but in the end coming out ahead…literally. The shoeshine boy placed a head twister box on the Brit’s head then used it as an arrow head type trick where he impaled blades into the box and when the box was open, his head was gone. And I mean completely gone so you could see all the way through as the shoe shine boy walked around back and looked through. Pretty freaky.

Ventriloquist Mark Wade gave his usual remarkable performance beginning with the baby gag where a volunteer is employed as a baby and Mark throws his voice making the man sound like an infant. He then taught the audience how to throw you voice and how a vent does what he does. He finished with a funny routine using a hillbilly vent figure.

Dale Salwak provided a solid, textbook Chavez performance. But then what would you expect? He’s the teacher! He produced canes, silks and coins, did some card manipulations and ended with a zombie routine. It is an act that can and has worked on five continents.

Rich Bloch finished the second half with a card in balloon revelation, thus completing the trilogy of finding three cards started earlier in his performance.

The stage was set during the interval with a video projector in front of the stage. The Cinematics (comprised of Junge! Junge! and one other gentleman from Germany) presented a live action music video interlaced into a vertical split screen backdrop that allowed the video to be shown on two of the screens while they walked back and forth between and behind the panels in perfect synchronicity. It is easier to explain with my hands than in words, but they changed costumes, threw clothing back and forth and walked back and forth all the time with the video being in real time so it was perfectly interwoven so you couldn’t see the seam between live and video imagery. It was one of the most incredible things I have seen. Absolutely awesome. It was cine-magical.

While the video screen was set up, Rich Bloch played a video where he had predicted the name of a card selected in the mind of a random spectator. As is Rich’s typical humor, there was a fly buzzing about his head on the screen and in the end, he swatted it and the fly revealed the card.

Kohl and Company presented their magical mayhem on the stage where things go wrong, terribly wrong to the delight and laughter of everyone in the audience. Regardless of what happened to his props as they were knocked down, broken, torn, burned or otherwise destroyed, Kohl was ever the consummate magician always maintaining control and dignity even when his pants fell to his knees.

Greg Frewin closed the show with one topper after another. Imagine starting your show with the Snowstorm in China! He did. The curtains then parted and he had an assistant levitate then he walked through her while she was levitating. Very nice effect. He finished with an Asrah as she completely vanished. The dance number by his dancing girls helped set the stage as bringing Las Vegas to Columbus. But he’s not from Vegas…he has his own theatre in Niagara Falls, Canada. He must surprise some of the native and visitors alike to that tourist destination.

Following the dance number, he did a super fast compressed illusion quickly followed by an impaling type illusion with spikes and fire and the production of a second assistant. The music segued to “Living the Vita Loca” as he performed the Cube Zag. Throughout his high energy show, the audience was hardly able to catch its breath before he was into his next illusion. The applause was often still going as he was partway into his following effect. So was the cast of the next illusion that had an African theme with a spiker where he escaped in time to get to the back of the auditorium. Greg then performed a new form of the substitution trunk that he called Shroud of Transition. It was very fast paced and provided a visual with a window so you could see the person inside before and after they appeared and disappeared. He finished with a candle and silk act and the production of a macaw and a parrot. Wow what can I say? It was a breathless performance.

In fact the whole show was completely satisfying with smooth transitions and even flow. Extremely well done and a memorable show.

Back at the hotel, the sessions had begun in the lobby and at 11:00 John Carney started his two hour lecture. He shared some of his unique thinking on the coin in bottle, cups and balls, linking rings, cards to pocket and other tips and ideas. The two hours really flew by. He is today’s version of Dai Vernon and if you’re not listening to him, then I must ask why not?

The sessioning then continued mainly in the hotel lobby well into the early morning hours.
"A magician who isn't working is only fooling himself." - Scott Wells, M.I.M.C. with Gold Star

The Magic Word podcast: http://themagicwordpodcast.com Listen to convention coverage, interviews with magicians, pictures, videos and more.

Magic Inspirations website for all things Banachek: www.magicinspirations.net
Scott Wells
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Dateline February 4, 2004: Except for the morning stage contests, the morning was left for sleeping in after a long, long night and heavy German food for dinner Smile The next official event was a continuation of the Pitch and Sell event and a children’s event which was about science and magic.

The professional close-up shows were reprised while another group got the chance to see one of three lectures: Dale Salwak on stagecraft, Justin Miller on restaurant magic and Tom Vorjahan and Daniel Herron on balloon magic. These three lectures are somewhat mutually exclusive so everyone should have had an interest in at least one more than the others. It could be argued that the balloons can also work for the restaurant, but Justin’s lecture was more about card and coin tricks than about restaurant theory and how to get work at restaurants, approaching tables, etc. The tricks he showed were appropriate for restaurants more so than for corporate strolling which is a whole different area. Unfortunately Justin’s lecture didn’t follow what he was trying to preach. For example, he said openers should be quick, flashy and to the point thus immediately establishing you as a magician. He demonstrated that with an effect that he was selling; however, it did not serve to quickly establish one as the magician. It was a bit long and not as direct as what I think he was trying to preach; however, it was something that he was selling. For that matter, there were a few things in his lecture that he did not explain since he was selling them. I thought the lecture was going to be more about working restaurants and approaching tables, structuring routines, interacting with customers, etc. But instead it was a hard sell dealer demo. I must say that his technical expertise was certainly not lacking and his interaction with the volunteers and crowd showed years of work and professionalism.

Paul Gertner lectured late in the afternoon doing double duty having just finished performing his act three separate times in three different rooms. Jep really works his talent to give the best bang for the registrant’s buck. Paul talked about the importance of going to college and getting an education and following a career path that may or may not follow magic, but you can use magic to be successful in your career and make you a more interesting person and a singular personality among your customers and peers. He also gave some amusing anecdotes about his performances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He demonstrated and explained the Saltshaker Through Table and told how he has made that a reputation maker by having the saltshaker end up in impossible locations including the person’s hotel room! Paul also talked about the problem of working trade shows that can make your performances seem almost robotic. He also said it’s important to remember to perform FOR the trade show audience and not AT them.

Following Paul’s lecture I headed out again for a second night at Schmitt’s German Restaurant (they just don’t have anything like that in Houston, Texas!) with Tom Vorjahan and Daniel Herron. The All Star Show on Saturday night began with the announcement of the contest winners who were:

Jr. Close-Up
First – Zach Roybal
Second – Graham Fishman
Third – Chris Yantek

Sr. Close-Up
First – John Born
Second – Don Swekowski
Third – Fr. Mark Davis

Jr. Stage
First – Graham Fishman
Second – Christian Compton
Third – Neil Crosswell

Sr. Stage
First – David Kaplin
Second – Tim Kutch
Third – Fr. Mark Davis

The show finally began as our emcee for the evening, Duane Laflin, opened with a trick to introduce the first act, Tim Conover. Tim was…well, energetic to say the least as he literally jumped up and down as it appeared things were going his way. His excitement was invigorating and infectious that kept people wanting to see what he was going to do next. Certainly his mentalism act was far from boring as he performed a book test and a telephone book test followed by a newspaper prediction. His trio of tricks triumphed as the audience leapt to their own feet with the first spontaneous standing ovation of the evening.

The next act slowed down the pace as Dipl-Wirtsch, Ing. Andreas Romer, one of Junge! Junge!, took the stage with what was described as European ventriloquism. He used a talking alligator vent figure but the jokes just didn’t seem to hit with the U.S. audience. But in all fairness, he gave a much better presentation in English than I could give in German.

David Williamson played what appeared to be an experimental version of “Who’s Your Daddy” using a father and young son and six men volunteers. He borrowed their driver’s licenses and asked them to give DNA samples, etc. with the hope of trying to ascertain who was the true father of the young man. It appeared something went wrong with the Attaboy apparatus he was trying to use. Though in David’s inimitable style, pandemonium reigned so it was immaterial whether or not any magic actually took place.

During the interval, raffle tickets were sold for 12 minutes then they took 30 minutes to give away $5,000 worth of prizes. The second half then opened with a short video montage of photos taken of the crew during the previous day as they worked putting together, unloading, constructing and rehearsing for last evening’s show. It was very interesting how much time, effort and personnel it takes to put on a show like that. It certainly made us all better appreciate what was going on behind the scenes.

Paul Gertner was the first performer in the second half where he enlisted the aid of a young girl who helped him with a signed card to sealed envelope in wallet and a bill to lemon trick. He then performed an Oscar card trick with jumbo cards…but with a twist. All the cards had random male names printed on the backs but the card selected by the volunteer had her own name printed on it. He finished with a piece that must have been from his one man show in Pittsburgh, Ten Fingers. It was a cute rhyming bedtime story with a Dr. Seuss-like quality.

John Carney next presented some bits from his one man show in L.A., Carney’s Wonder Cabaret. He opened with producing a glass of lemonade from a hole in a sheet of plastic then a masterful Miser’s Dream sequence that employed a small child to the delight of the audience. As some soft music began to play, he talked about his mentor from his formative years, Faucett Ross. The big screen monitors showed a video montage of photos taken throughout Faucett’s career including a few pictures of John when he was in his early twenties with Faucett. As he talked, John donned a jacket, a tie and glasses. When he picked up a pipe and clenched it in his heeth, his voice and demeanor changed as he went into the character of Faucett Ross. He reclined in a overstuffed chair aside a table lamp as he regaled the audience with some funny anecdotes and did some handkerchief tricks with the white hanky that ended up inside the light bulb. John finally returned to himself and talked of Faucett’s death but his memories remain as he flipped through a photo album that first had letters then when flipped again had photos. A very moving performance piece that moved the audience to their feet for the second standing ovation of the evening.

Closing the show was Junge! Junge! again this time with a chapeauography act that took the prop to a whole new dimension. The three young men found new ways to fold and bend and wear a round piece of cloth with a hole in it. It was very funny and extremely original with music and sound effects that accompanied the piece and perfectly complimented the action on stage. The audience erupted into an automatic standing ovation for the trio as the show was brought to a close by the emcee.

So ended another successful Magi-Fest as the registrants poured into the lobby for more late night sessioning, though no doubt some braved the snow to drive back to their warm homes across the Midwestern plains with the promise return and do it all again next February for the 76th annual Magi-Fest.
"A magician who isn't working is only fooling himself." - Scott Wells, M.I.M.C. with Gold Star

The Magic Word podcast: http://themagicwordpodcast.com Listen to convention coverage, interviews with magicians, pictures, videos and more.

Magic Inspirations website for all things Banachek: www.magicinspirations.net
Scott Wells
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Dateline February 5, 2006: Jep Hostetler and the rest of the “Red Coats” are to be commended to organizing such an excellent event year after year. Yes there are the occasional years that have some real stinker acts, but that can be said about nearly every magic convention. This year, however, was exceptionally good with a consistently strong talent line-up. Jep promised last year that he would have a few surprises this year for the 75th diamond jubilee edition so I knew I had to return. He didn’t fail to deliver on his promise.

Apparently others believed in Jep, too, because attendance nearly outstripped the seating for the final night’s show in the hotel ballroom. This year’s Magi-Fest topped 920 registrants! I don’t know if this is any kind of record for them, but it should be pointed out that these numbers rival international gatherings of magicians even topping the Society of American Magicians average annual convention attendance. As I talked with Jep, people were coming in for one day registrations having heard about the stellar talent that he had lined up. People drove from and near and far. One friend of mine had actually driven over 20 hours from Wichita Falls, Texas to be here.

Jep’s philosophy is basically to book the talent and the registrants will come. That certainly was the case this year. He naturally works with a budget, but he’s not afraid to take some chances and go with some lesser known talent or to provide necessary services to make an event or act perfect. This year for example Jep spent over $1,000 just for the video projector needed to facilitate Junge! Junge! for their live action video montage on the Friday night show. Had he not done that, then we would have all been the lesser for it. Each year they provide image magnifiers and a cameraman that enable people seated anywhere in the huge ballroom to see and to hear even the minutest detail discussed by a lecturer. I’m certain that those come at no small cost.

The Red Coats as they are called for obvious reasons (they all wear red coats) were always clearly visible throughout the convention making them easy to spot should you have any questions or need any help. This group does a great job of keeping things on time, making for a tight and well-organized event. having organized conventions myself I know the problem with trying to make it appear like a swan gracefully floating across the pond all the while the feet are paddling like mad below the surface. The Red Coats announce the acts for the close-up and contests, check in the registrants, assist in moving chairs, pulling curtains, and in general being everywhere all the time. A true trick in itself. They seem to have unbounded energy, but I suspect the real sparkplug is their leader, Jep Hostetler, who also happens to be a past international president of the I.B.M.

They seem to have found the perfect partner with the Marriott hotel who perfectly compliments the convention and the registrants. As mentioned in an earlier posting here, you know you’re at a magic convention the moment you walk into the lobby. Banners and streamers proclaim the Magi-Fest and jumbo cards are hung from the ceiling behind the hotel registration desk. The hotel staff go out of their way to be friendly to our group. They seem to genuinely enjoy magic and magicians, too. As guests arrived on the first day, they were met in the lobby with complimentary cookies and drinks. The lobby was set up with tables for the registrants to have 24 hour sessions. It was a true place for meeting and greeting and picking cards. It was conveniently located next to the bar, too. And the hotel provided special buffet menus especially for our group. They also set up tables for snack lunches with hamburgers or BBQ and drinks. I’m certain that the hotel made out quite well on their food and beverage sales even though good restaurants were within easy driving distance. It is so much more convenient to stay in (particularly on a cold and snowy night) and dine in with friends and make it to the next scheduled event on time.

So again, overall this convention ranks up there with one of the best ones I have attended. Congratulations to all who made this so special for all of us. I’m sure that those “first-timers” are now going to be spoiled into judging all of their future conventions they attend by this standard. A high bar has been set.
"A magician who isn't working is only fooling himself." - Scott Wells, M.I.M.C. with Gold Star

The Magic Word podcast: http://themagicwordpodcast.com Listen to convention coverage, interviews with magicians, pictures, videos and more.

Magic Inspirations website for all things Banachek: www.magicinspirations.net
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