Google is today celebrating what would be the 137th birthday of legendary illusionist Harry Houdini with a doodle similar to the posters that announced Houdini’s magic acts.
Houdini was born as Erik Weisz in Budapest, Hungary in 1874, but his family moved to Wisconsin shortly thereafter. Houdini started out as an illusionist and a circus act at a very early age, but he gained notoriety for his escape acts, in which he was able to escape handcuffs, shackles, chains and straightjackets.
Perhaps the most well-known Houdini stunt was his escape from the Chinese Water Torture Cell, in which he would escape a water tank while suspended upside down and shackled, while holding his breath for 3 minutes. The exact nature of Houdini’s torture cell and the way in which he escaped is still a mystery.
Houdini died due to complications after a ruptured appendix in 1926. His name is still synonymous with escaping from extremely tough situations
So I am back from the World Magic Seminar and I am ready for my report.
I woke up at 4:30 am and headed out at 5:15 am towards Las Vegas. It was about 40 degrees and I was a little worried about the drive in because it just rained and it snowed as low as 1000 feet. There was ice patches on the road but nothing that seemed to be to dangerous.
About two hours into the drive, I realized I didn't have my coin pouch with me. This sucked. I was wondering what I could do. I thought maybe I could stop off at Primm to see if I could get 50
cent coins or possibly dollar coins. I was able to buy a roll of half dollars but there was not any bigger coins available. I then drove to Jean to Gold Strike and checked if they had any
interesting coin selections. I saw their $5 coin and it was about the size of a jumbo coin. I decided to pass.
I got to the Orleans Hotel about 9:30 am and checked into my room. At 10am I went to the convention area to get my credentials and schedule.I received a light material, cheap feeling bag with my
schedule, a convention program, my lanyard, and two advertisements.
After checking my schedule I saw I had nothing to do until 5pm. I was miffed about this. So I spent seven hours waiting for the first event of the convention. Last year I remember at least the was a 2pm or 3pm FFFF gathering where we met new people and we
5pm, the first event for my group, group b. It was Reminences of Channing Pollock: Featuring Silvan, Norm Nielsen, James Dimmare, Johnny Thompson, and Marvin Roy. We watched an old video and watched the panel share heart felt stories. Even though I believe we stand on the shoulders of giants, this panel was not really educational to the upcoming teen magicians and
wasn't as entertaining to witness. It would have been nicer to see this talent perform instead of talking of memories. It also felt that it cheated other dead magicians such as Ron Wilson or Steve Dacri.
The panel ended at 6pm and I had another hour and half of free time and then headed to the
Welcome Party: Featuring Jeff McBride’s World Magic Seminar version of Wonderground. This party featured a cash bar, slices of different wraps, shellfish payaya, cracker, cheese and bread, then a huge roast. I got to hang out with my pals Wesley and Jeff. It was an ok party but it ended at 9:30pm.
I got to hang out with a bunch of people after the party but it felt the convention was already lacking. Last year's schedule looked like:
10:00 AM Registration Opens 2nd Floor Lobby
Noon Dealers Open Esplanade Room
2:00-3:30 PM Teach In (The Experts Teach a Trick) Bienville Room
4:00 - 5:00 PM Close Up Lecture Bienville Room
6:00 - 7:00 PM Teen Contestant Meeting Salon A
7:30 - 9:30 PM Snacks and Sorcery - Welcome Party Mardi Gras Room
10:00 PM Las Vegas Magic Club Lecture Bienville Room
11:30 PM Bowling with Magic Stars Bienville Room
My schedule this year:
12:00 - 6:00 PM Dealer's Room Open
5:00 - 6:00 PM Reminences of Channing Pollock: Featuring Silvan, Norm Nielsen, James Dimmare, Johnny Thompson, and Carlton Beck
7:30 - 9:30 PM Welcome Party: Featuring Jeff McBride’s World Magic Seminar version of Wonderground
9:00 - 11:00 PM Dealer's Room Open
Day 2 Monday, a chance for redemption. I woke up at 8:30 am and headed to the Teen Preliminaries at 9:30pm. There I saw some great magic. I wish I had written the names down of the teen competitors. There was one guy who did a floating table and bubble illusions. Another did a sketch on falling in love and it was very funny. From 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM it was the Johnathan Pendragon Lecture. He was teaching the Sands of Time trick and I didn't feel like I was going to get much out of it so I didn't stay for the full lecture.
An hour later I went to the Opening Day Show. It was low energy. Fielding West did his best to get the crowd going but it was an uphill battle. One thing I noticed and discussed with Wesley and Brad Hendersen was about our seating. Wesley had a better seat than Brad and I when we bought our tickets for the convention first. We were so far stage left, the flashing was hard to avoid. Nathan Burton performed and his magic was ok but it was hard to see some of it, like the head twister. The Barbie illusion felt it lacked motivation with the dancing and stuff too. They made a big deal that he took the day off to do the convention but Nathan Burton is dark on Mondays. Skilldini was awesome. Stan Allen was very funny and fin to watch. Ty Tojo was a wonderful juggler. Dimare performed a couple older illusions but explained later that he was doing things he never does in his regular act. He wanted to perform some illusions he enjoyed performing. One annoying thing throughout the show was the bad production. Music cues were off, equipment was not being removed and illusions were slow to set up. Dimare tried to make light of the situation but did show his impatience. A positive sight was Jeff Hobson made several appearances and lit up the audience with background sight gags.
After the opening show there was a screening of Make Believe
a documentary that was produced last year. The screen in the showroom was small which made us wonder why we weren't renting out one of the 18 movie theaters inside the Orleans Casino. The film is a great film and it was my second time seeing it. After the film Kristen Lambert, Bill Koch, Derek McGee, and Hara Haroki were on hand for questions as well as the producer Steven Klein.
At 6:30 I was able to attend the second group's chance to see the Jon Armstrong lecture. I have seen Jon lecture many times and he is very knowledgeable and helpful. I went to the lecture for mostly support. I didn't imagine I was to see many new items because I have seen him lecture multiple times as well as owning his DVDs and other DVDs with him on them.
I then had two more hours of free time before the Encore Foundation Show staring Asi Wind.
Asi's show was a $20 charity event but I do have to say that Asi did a great show. It had some real magical moments even if I did have two of the effects he used, I was thoroughly entertained. The show ended at 11pm and I got to hangout with AJ Olsen, Weslely and Jeff.
Tuesday, March 1 9:30 am, was part two of the Teen Prelims. Again there was some great teen acts and Bill Koch was a great emcee and kept the show running smoothly. I do have to say there
was one act that made me very entertained with originality. This act was Spencer Korcz
. He had the room busting out in laughter. He will be something when he gets to emcee himself someday.
Right after the Teen Prelim, was the Peter Samelson lecture. It had some good notes about theatrical magic but it did seem like it dragged on with his credits and stories. He did show a coin trick but it was in a style I would never use. He talked about mime actions on coin work for 40 minutes. He is a great magician but the lecture did not seem to be valuable to my character. I wish I could have gotten more effects out of it. Others enjoyed it I believe but it seemed long to me.
From 1:30-3:30 was the International Stage Show. First up was Circe Martinez from Cuba. She did a good bird act and it was entertaining. A problem occurred with her bird cage but she recovered nicely with a bird hat production. I enjoyed her a lot. Next was Jordan Gomez from
France. He did a CD production act that was reminiscent of Han Seol Hui but it was too fast and lacked some magic moments. Hun Lee did a manipulation act it was good I didn't think it was going to win. Mantas performed a memorable Sweeny Todd type act with manipulations of mirrors, scissors, combs and razors. It was well scripted but some of the props were hard to see from my seat. Maybe I need glasses. Jason Andrews did his classical magic act and was very similar to Lance Burton. It was very beautiful and classic. Jeremy Pei performed his ring act and he has such great stage presence. Most memorable was Romany. She was a Magic Circle Magician of the year and it was apparent was she started to speak. She is great at making the audience laugh as she performed her magic. She even created funny moments with the two elder gentleman she chose for volunteers. One of them had to crawl up the stairs but she made people laugh at the incident rather than have it turn to a sympathy moment.
I do have to comment that the international competition was not without problems. Least of the problems was that between the acts Abbi McBride. It seemed to be more of a history lesson instead of warm up for the next act. At one time, she introduced Bob Rossi, who brought the crowd down with stories of sick and convalescent magicians and supporters. This was done before another performer was to take the stage. It was not entertaining and it was unfair to whomever was to perform after his speech. He also plugged pre-registration for next years event. It was very unprofessional. Another issue was that Bob Rossi or his team neglected to get fire permits. So there was no flash paper or anything related.
After the stage show, it was time for the closeup show. First to perform was Reuben Moreland, a
teen competitor, who performed a signed selection to film canister inside a disposable camera. He also performed a matrix with miniature dice. It was a great act. Next was Mark Gibson was next but his act didn't make a connection with the audience. His cards and coins were clean and well performed. Jeff Pyzocha performed some card magic and made a good connection with his spectator. I took pictures of his act so I found it difficult to concentrate on his sleights.
Steve Sandomierski performed a cups and balls routine. I was a little turned off by his character. I found it a little inappropriate when he asked "How many do I have" and related material. This convention is a family oriented convention and it seemed a little blue. Kevin Viner did a bottle production of two wine bottles. Then performed a dual signed card that went from inside a card box and exchanged places with a card with "Your Card" on it. He then had coins inspected and did some coin magic. He ended with the two signed cards in the two wine bottles. It was awesome
and was profession magic. Andost performed a color changing card trick, then into a color changing deck with a LED colored light bar. It was very interesting concept. Last was Scott Xavier who performed some mentalism. It was good but the last trick missed a bit due to miscommunication.
After the closeup, I got my chance to see the second showing of the Juan Tamariz show. Juan is a delight and his magic is amazing. I saw Juan perform in San Diego last year and he is so fun. I noticed Banachek and Criss Angel in the audience. At one point I saw Criss Angel yawn during the show. Sorry to keep you up with real magic Criss.
At 8:30 pm was the Tim Wright lecture. Tim's character is Skilldini. His lecture was funny and covered in great detail the zombie. Even though I do not do the zombie, it made me think of ideas and I want to do the zombie. Tim is a funny guy.
Right after, I headed to the close-up show. The close-up show was emcee'ed by the charming Lupe. First was Jon Armstrong who did his amazing card routines. He pleased the audience well. After Jon was Sophie who noticed right away, the audience was not into the layman jokes. I hammed it up and she ended up picking me to be a volunteer. We seemed to have a fun time working together with the nursery rhymes we chose during her act. Right after was Ginny and Simon Aronson. They are amazing. They have to be one of the best mentalist couples that I have ever seen. I could not see how they achieved their telepathic connection with each other. Chris Kenner introduced Peter Samelson and he was awesome. He is very theatrical and presented a super show with a key/lock act as well as a snow storm.
9:30 Wednesday morning, time for the Teen Stage Finals. Cody Sanders was first with his sketch like performance of two people falling in love it was very funny and I enjoyed it a lot. Next was Eli Portals, who is very young but is a mirror of many famous magicians. He is entertaining but I think he needs to play down the magic and find character. Reuben Moreland performed his billiard ball act and it was awesome. He combined balls and drinking glasses into the act. His ball manipulation skill is great for such a young rising star. T.J. Tana did some ball manipulation and also in style of a card manipulator but it was a smooth act. I would like to see him with more character on stage.
Timothy Cripe performed a beautiful bubble routine with levitations and zombie effects. He also did a floating table and a colored sands/water bowl with singing act. It was wonderful. Eric Gilliam performed his billiard ball act and turned his shoes and outfit into orange. He performed Andrew Mayne's bisection illusion with a good motivation. Daiki Fujimori performed some of the best ball magic I have seen. He was smooth and classic. He did not have to use large movements to produce his great manipulation. Last was Brandon Wagster who was reminiscent of Peter Marvey. He had great stage presence and seemed to know how to present his magic. He knew how to stand and smile as if every frame was a picture.
First performer was Luna and she was very smooth. She performed with such grace with some classical Asian inspired magic. She received a great round of applause and it was a great start to the show. I also remember Henry Vargas performing his ring routine that won him the teen competition last year. Last to perform was Ayala. I noticed he was allowed to use fire and he commented about it as well. This made me disappointed in the production of the show and convention. Ayala had some good illusions but also a lot of filler. One set was just a lot of belly dancing. It was boring. The awards were given between the shows and the results were below. It seemed when Hun Lee and Romany accepted their awards, Sigfried rushed them off stage. Also when Bob Rossi came out with Lance Burton,, they announced Kevin Viner as the winner of the Magic Castle Smackdown and the World Magic Seminar Closeup Contest but they did not have him come up and collect an award or applause. It was despicable.
The farewell party had cake and soda, no bar. There was no real farewell just cake eating.
Later that night I sessioned with Curtis Kam and my pal Tom Frank. It was probably the best part of the convention.
Congrats to the Winners!
International Stage Competition
Golden Lions Head - Romany
SARMOTI Award - Hun Lee
First Place - Kevin Viner
Teen Stage Competition
1st Place - Eric Giliam
2nd Place - Eli Portala
3rd Place - Brandon Wagster
SARMOTI Legacy Award - Spencer Korcz
S&R Fanclub Congeniality Award - Cody Sanders & Patty Winkler
Sorcerers Safari Award - T.J. Tana
McBride Masterclass Award - Jay Tamaat