This was my first visit to Klondike Country and this is not a bad description of how I found it. The temperature was 21° below zero and that's cold. It reminded me of all those old Hollywood films, with Sterling Haydn yelling 'Mush' and Andy Devine replying 'We've got to get there before the pass closes'. And Gabby Hayes chipping in with 'Which one, Charlier or Hermann?' Micky Hades drove Ricky Jay and myself on his sledge out to see his studio. If there's a book you want and can't find it try Micky. He has an amazing selection.
I was there to tape some TV appearances for a guy called Dale Harney. He hosts a television show which has been running for three years. He has guest magicians on probably every show and has a clever method of putting them over. He brings on a whole bunch of magic acts, puts them up in the same hotel and tapes them all in a period of around 10 days. It's a two-day job. First day you rehearse, the second day they tape you, and they do three acts a day, all in the same stage setting. So, after the 10 days he has all his guest shots taped for the whole series before a studio audience. He tapes his own contribution at a later date and the editor then cuts all the pieces and puts them together as he thinks fit and — hey presto — you have a magic series in the can. It's real magic.
Most of the acts are either Canadian or from the US and it isn't often they have any performers from this end of the world. By the good auspices of John Shirley in Chicago who was the programme coordinater, plus the heavy pressure of Mike Caldwell my Los Angeles press agent, Dale Harney decided to gamble on me, sight unseen. It worked.
To help minimise the expenses I took an eight-day ticket which meant I stayed in the same hotel for eight days with magicians coming and going every day. It was like being resident host at a continuous magic convention. They were coming and going from everywhere. Mike Caldwell stayed four days just to keep me company. Ricky Jay stayed over a couple of days just to keep me company. There was a girl in the hotel who kept everybody company (it's a joke wives).
Glen Heywood flew in from San Francisco, Reco from Las Vegas, Ricky Dunn following him all the way trying not to burn his fingers in Reco's back pocket. Johnny Thompson's doves flew in from Los Angeles, Johnny rode his bowling ball all the way and never scored once. How can you win with just one ball?
There were others. Danny Orleans from Chicago with Geoff somebody (sorry Geoff I can neither spell nor pronounce your surname, why don't you change it to Patrick Page, it's getting popular).
I must have seen every magic trick in the catalogue, any catalogue, all dressed up in different styles. They had a Scottish act, a Mexican manipulator, a Polish prestidigitator, a childrens' entertainer, an ageing hippy, a class Vegas act, a modest magic dealer, a four-eyed ventriloquist and a fat pick-pocket.
Eat your heart out Ripley. In just one week I saw them all. It was a great week. Thank you John and Dale.
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