What can I say… In my report of this remarkable magicians’ gathering, my last blog post ended in describing our experience of the David Copperfield Museum.
Most conventions would have ended with such a highlight. However, we were only half way through the event.
After the tour I returned to my sales booth, and remained there from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, while most of the attendees were enjoying the Copperfield Museum. However, it was at this time that the organizers did something quite brilliant for the dealers: The opened the Dealers’ Room to all the local magicians that were not able to register for the sold out event. I had a blast! I got to see local friends that I had not seen in over a year due to the pandemic. Some locals came out of the woodwork, and it was a great opportunity to catch up.
My gratitude goes to my friend Alberto Rene Telles, who came all the way from El Paso, Texas, and who helped me behind the booth during the event. I loved his company and he made things easier for me. And… He took a picture of our little booth too! Lol!
After a brief dinner break, we all gathered in the main ballroom from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm for another presentation, titled: “Blackstone Assistants Reunion”. This reunion was moderated by Stan Allen, who interviewed Blackstone Jr.’s assistants: Gay Blackstone, Bill Smith and Allen Bracken. It was a fun conversation about what it was like to be on the road in the Blackstone Show. Sharing stories and anecdotes about the show, some of the mishaps that occurred during performance, their experiences in performing the illusions, etc.
After the presentation, I went back to my perch at my sales booth until midnight. It was a party atmosphere, with a cash bar outside the ballrooms, and people eager to talk magic throughout the night.
The Dealers Room was open from 10:00 am – 11:00 am, followed by a series of magic lectures:
Richard Hughes – Lectured on the history of feather flowers as used by magicians. I learned a lot from this lecture. Did you know that feather flowers go back to circa 1855? Richard went ahead and told us about the different effects with flowers and the many manufacturers that have produced them like Conradi, Willmann, Mephisto Huis, Schlosser, Abbotts, etc. He even told us the story of his company which started with Horace Marshall between 1926 – 1976, that was followed by Marie Marshall with Charles Bronstrup and Richard himself (who was trained by them) between 1976 – 1985. From 1985 onwards, Richard became the owner of what would become Hughes Magic. This lecture was followed by Richard giving us a demonstration of how he makes a feather flower. It was truly amazing to watch his skill and craftsmanship.
Gabe Fajuri – Lectured on John Fisher’s latest book offering: Heroes of Magic. The book is about the most influential magicians that he has met and why.
Les Arnold – Awesome lecture about his grandfather: The Great Leon. The Great Leon performed a very successful show during the vaudeville era.
After a brief lunch break, the Dealer’s Room opened at 1:00 pm, and the next and last set of lectures began at 2:30 pm.
Phil Schwartz – In his lecture titled “Death by Magic”, described various magicians in history that have died while performing magic, either by accident or by sheer stupidity. Examples were given about escape artists that botched the escape, or performers that died from fuel accidents and fires, etc. A notable death was that of Washington Irving Bishop, that had a medical condition in which at times he would lose consciousness in such a way that he seemed to be dead. This occurred during a performance in 1889, in which people thought he was dead. Instead of letting him recover, an autopsy was performed on him which actually killed him.
Retonio Breitenmoser – Lectured on the history of quick changes. Evidence suggests that the earlier writings on the subject were in 1580. Since then, there were many performers that called themselves tranformists. However, the one who is considered to be the “Father of Quick Change” was a gentleman called Leopoldo Fregol. “Fregoli” ( as he was known) has influenced the contemporary method and presentation of this type of act like no one else.
Lance Rich – Presented the last lecture of the convention, which was aptly titled “Neon Dreams – Vegas Greats, Dates and Firsts”. It was a remarkable lecture about the history of magic in Las Vegas. He spoke about all the great performers that have graced our fair city, from Marvyn Roy, Jack Kodell to Siegfried and Roy and others. His research revealed the very first performer to ever work at a hotel stage in Las Vegas. Her name was Gloria Dae. The most amazing thing is that she is still alive in her late 90s, and Lance was able to locate her and interview her for his presentation!
Once the lectures ended at 3:30 pm. My helpers and I struck our booth in record time, I went home, unpacked and returned to the convention for the closing events. Whew!
The Convention closed with a Cocktail Hour, followed by a Dinner and Magic Show that started at 7:00 pm.
For this occasion the ballroom was transformed from auditorium style to a dinner setting with round tables of ten people per table. There was great camaraderie in the room, and at least the table I was sitting in was lively with great company. Dinner was followed by a magic show featuring:
Mac King as the Master of Ceremonies (who performed great pieces from his act: Tom and Restored Rope, Cards Across with his Mantle of Invisibility, etc.)
Retonio and Natalie – Featuring him as a ventriloquist and her as a quick change artist. I actually lost count of the number of changes. She probably did over twelve. She was quite impressive.
Les Arnold followed with a Nest of Boxes effect that belonged to Marvyn Roy.
David Sandy and Lance Rich performed The Great Leon’s Pillory Escape.
David Goldrake closed the show with various stage effects, the most memorable being the Winston Freer puzzle with which he closed his act.
And that is the report, folks! It is a wrap.
As a dealer, I was quite happy. I accomplished everything I wanted to do: Met new people, saw a lot of old friends and acquaintances, did good business, caught up with what was going on in magic and had a great time.
Next year, the Magic Collectors Expo will take place in Austin, Texas, on April 13 – 15, 2022. It will feature a visit to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas (which contains the largest collection of Harry Houdini’s material purchased from Bess Houdini in 1958). Plus, we will get to enjoy the Esther’s Follies Show which is one of the longest running magic and variety shows in the the United States. It should be epic! Mark your calendars everyone and I hope to see you there!
That concludes my wrap-up of the 2021 Magic Collectors Expo. I hope you enjoyed my summary of the event as much as I enjoyed attending.
Until I see you again…
– Lupe Nielsen
(September 26, 2021)