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Abbotts 49th Get Together 1986

by Frances Marshall

With 49 years backed up in the history of Abbott Get-togethers, somebody with time and patience should sit down with their stacks of "TOPS" and "NEW TOPS" and chronicle a fun record of nothing but highlights of the various years.

For instance: The time an act made the corn flake people mad because he used swear words (when a trick didn't work) over in Battle Creek. Or, the fellow who performed a pseudo(?) crucifixion - or Duke Stern and his long love-affair with broken eggs (like the time he sat on a dozen and they ran through holes in the chair seat. How about the blue candy in the grab bags which Percy Abbott sold (or gave away) in the old tent - candy that wouldn't dissolve in the mouth and to which a dog in the street turned up his nose.

Remember when Jim Sherman was the big man of the year when Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy and a bunch of other Californians came. Or when the first English party came over with brand new personalities, voices, and tricks (they were the first of many foreign stars to delight Get-together crowds). Percy Abbott demonstrating to the conventioneers with his great "win 'em over" ability that sold out whatever he was showing. I can still see Gerrie Larsen driving off with Russ Walsh in a wild rainstorm, on her first trip to Colon. There are a million memory pictures of those years. Remember how mad Percy got at Chick Schoke for taking the guest of honor (whoever it was) to his cottage for hours and hours to visit with the Chicago people? He made a public announcement that nobody was to steal away the important people. Events of long ago and far away...

The 49th annual Get-together is already a memory, but a lot of people had a happy time and are already planning on being at the 50th. Neil Foster jumped the gun on this one, because he was celebrating his 50 years in magic at the 1986 gathering. More on this in a minute.

The big shows got off to a start on Wednesday night with Paul Diamond as M.C. Paul is one of the most controversial characters in magic, a guy with the ability to make people love him and hate him all in one breath. He works very hard at maintaining his reputation. The show he introduced featured Gordon Miller; Todd Karr, showing his prize winning act with roses; Dave Devon, featuring the fine Japanese Three Card Monte number so popular this year; Earl Ray Wilcox with his familiar sleight of hand act (but always done to perfection); Bob Little, one of the wild men of our day who did a number in which he stabbed Paul Diamond to a big round of applause; and Neil Foster, who performed his beautiful act on this show to a standing ovation which was followed by a plaque presentation to him from Dale Salwak, commemorating Neil's 50 years in magic. The inscription read; To Neil Foster - Commemorating Fifty Years in Magic. Your artistry as a performer, your dedication as a teacher, your unconditional love of others, have made you an inspiration to the magicians everywhere. Abbott's 49th Magic Get-together, August, 1986. I have been personally acquainted with Neil all those fifty years and I am well aware of his supreme dedication to this art. The audience was glad to have the chance to show their enthusiasm, too.

On Thursday night Gene Anderson took over the M.C. spot. If this was your first time to see Gene, you were in for a treat. Even if you had seen him before, he brought chuckles and laughs and admiration for his work with a common old newspaper. He has built a career on this material - a career that has made him famous in many world capitols (at least any place where Dow Chemicals operate!). He sprinkled special introductory material through the show this night. Mark Brandyberry, who has been working comedy clubs which gives the magic a little different slant, opened the show. Brett Daniels followed with the type of act I enjoy seeing. The combination with the girl being levitated from the microphone stand - while still singing!

A brand new personality was next, an English girl named Josephine (actually, Mrs. Sefton, wife of Brian, an English magician who later starred on the Friday matinee performance). Josephine did some fine manipulation and won the audience over with her pleasing personality. A surprise act was Franz Harary, originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan but now living on the West Coast. He designs special acts and equipment for rock music groups. He performed one of these - it might have been one the Jacksons used - and it was striking. He put several sheets of glass or plastic together to make a sort of cabinet on a pedestal base. you could see through it and could easily see the girl he led into it. He closed the glass door,. There was some interplay with lights and color although you could still see into the cabinet - or could you? When the cabinet was opened the girl was gone and in her place was a gigantic snake! If you doubted that it was alive you could see it the next day - taking the Michigan sun in the school yard. No wonder life in rock groups is exciting.

Bob Jepson did both magic and ventiloquism, with lots of comedy and the assurance that comes from acts who, play schools and colleges regularly. Bob is a crowd pleaser and he later was awarded the comedy trophy. Stuart MacDonald closed the show performing illusions with a female assistant. At one point, she took over and did a large size Find The Lady monte effect, aided and abetted by a fake moustache and a great and genuine smile.

George Johnstone, an old friend to the Abbott crowd, led the Friday night show, getting good results from his own comedy magic. For a man about to marry off a daughter, with all that that implies, he did just fine. (As I write this, the wedding is just around the corner.) Greg Otto did comedy material; Mithc Williams performed the act he showed at Long Beach during the I.B.M. convention. (Jay Marshall goes on record as saying that if Mitch's act had gone as well in California as it did in Colon, Mitch would now have the Gold medal) As it was, Mitch was later awarded the manipulation trophy. Two favorites, not seen for some years, brought strong applause - Tom & Sherrie. With new hair styles, attractive as always and with great wardrobe and good magic. Earl Canapp, the Senile Sorcerer, brought back his nostalgic ancient magician number of fond memory, Joe Eddie and Betty, those shockers from last year, were back with more scintillating material including the production of a live boa constrictor (or similar), so startling that it made the front page (with photos) of the Battle Creek, Michigan newspaper. Jay Marshall performed on this show with his hand shadow act and followed with Lefty - both very well received. He also helped fellow Chicagoan, George Johnstone, with comedy bits and crazy stuff with toupees.

It isn't every day that the International President of the Internation Brotherhood of Magicians takes over an M.C. job but on Saturday night Karrell Fox did just that. He even got some respect - for about five minutes. The memories of duke Stern and Saturday Night Live (the Foxy Follies) on the Colon stage makes it hard to be real serious all of a sudden just because a guy won an election. Anyway, he is a good Master of ceremonies.

He introduced Dale Salwak, long absent from Colon, now living in California, a professor at a college, the author of a number of books and married to an attractive young lady. Dale performed in the beautiful style he teaches his students at the California branch of the Chavez school, an activity he handles in his spare time.

Then followed Robert Baxt who has been seen on several national convention shows and will, undoubtedly, be seen on many more. He goes for the big laughs and gets them - a clever fellow. You'd never suspect he was a potential lawyer. ("Your honor, let my client go free and I'll make you balloon animals!") Harry Blackstone has become the patron saint of the Get-togethers. He performed, as only he can, various selections from his shows aided by his wife and daughters. From Switzerland, Pavel was this year's European contribution. He performed with rope effects which have made him famous. (He also lectured and performed close-up on this day - a busy man!) There was still another act on this closing show. One that created interest and excitement all week long, day or night as he moved among the conventioneers. This was Senor Rai, right out of the circus. He always wore glittering clothes and greeted you as if you were his long lost best friend. Everybody enjoyed being included in his circle, especially Bob Lund, to who he presented an old costume, all glitters and fur which had previously appeared in some of the best circuses and which belonged in a museum. His parting remark to Bob (ownder and curator of the American Museum of Magic in Marshall Michigan) was to hang it up in a good spot in the museum and be sure to "fluff up the mink!" On stage, Senor Rai had a five piece orchestra and did several illusions featuring a lady from the Christiani family, a famous circus line.

On Friday, the Senior Citizens' Luncheon was held, followed by a show of talent M.C.'d by Jay Marshall. The show was organized by no less than June Horowitz and since her forthcoming Presidency in the I.B.M. was announced in USA Today newspaper we may lose her as a local drum thumper for the Senior Citizens. but, by then, maybe Sam (Horowitz) will be looking for some action so I recommend him for the job.

This time around June had some great assistants: Ginny Lewis, Peg Weikal, Marj Bamman and look at the line up of the acts: Tommie Edwards, Matt Jacobson, David Allen, Warren Stephens, Frank Dailey, Dr. Jerry Burgess, Sid Lorraine, Howard Bamman, Bruce Posgate, and Rober Baxt. Robert did a great bit with a ruler - I'd like to know more about that.

Music was furnished by Connie Pelham (official orchestra of the Abbott Get-togethers) on organ assisted by Howard Bamman on guitar. Howard did a beautiful eulogy to Bob Lewis (missed very much by this group especially). He performed Bob's favorite comedy song, "I Want To Go Back To Springfield But I Don't Know Which One It Is!" Over 200 seniors attended, aged all the way down to twelve years. Ginny Lewis did a powerhouse job of seating and smoothing over the complaints (and you know how cantankerous us old people can get!). Everyone said it was the best one yet! Come again next year! The traditional Special Benefit Matinee staged on Friday featured a newcomer, Brian Sefton from England. Also on the show was Buddy Big Mountain, a ventriloquist and our old friends, the Amazing Conklins. Proceeds from this show go to the Colon Lions Club (the co-sponsor of the Get-together) for thie r work with the sightless and sight impaired.

Saturday afternoon is also the time for the close-up show. This year's show featured four heavyweights; Pavel from Switzerland, Paul Diamond from Florida, John Cornelius from Texas and the inimitable Al Goshman from California. I also must mention that gospel magicians and magic ministers have a special session on Saturday morning and all through the week Dan Blasius mans the novelty counter for the benefit of the hundreds of non-magical tourists who flock to Colon for the week. When you add to this the scheduled and non-scheduled performances of street magicians and entertainers, the sidewalk sales and the yard sales, the Saturday Arts and Crafts Fair, you can see why Colon during Magic Week is a festive occasion!

A special event took place on Tuesday, preceding the official opening. Brett Daniels, who was so excellent on Thursday nights show, performed the Houdini Water Torture Cell Escape. This was staged in front of the Abbott plant and drew capacity crowds, including three television news teams and representatives from all the regional newspapers. Brett, in a highly theatrical and nerve wracking style, successfully made his escape to the applause and relief of those present.

And so another Get-together was wrapped up, with the exhilarating thought that next time the 50th Anniversary of this famous magic Company's convention would be celebrated. Plan now to be there!









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