One of the major events in any close-up worker's diary these days must be the International Magic Day organised by Ron MacMillan. Where else can so many topliners be seen under one roof in one day? If you count the get togethers and night before events it would be two roofs, but this is merely being pedantic.
The conditions are far from ideal at the Empire Rooms, where the events take place. The tables are too big and too close together. The artistes have to perform their acts six times without a breathing space and a lot of the spectators have to stand on their seats in order' to see. And yet somehow everybody does see and all the performers do manage to get round, without any apparent signs of strain or fatigue. It must be magic!
This year there were twelve performers in all, each working for about ten minutes at every table. The average number of tricks performed by each was six and it is not proposed here to list all of the seventy-two items seen or detail who did what. Instead, here is a brief summary of the overall impression that the different acts made on the reporter.
First on our table in the 12.30 session was Gert Malmros of Sweden. Gert has a smooth, quiet manner and is such an obviously likeable person with a ready smile, that is certain to ingratiate him with any audience. His magic too is smooth and clean. Without any haste and in an almost leisurely manner he somehow performed nine routines in as many minutes, including the one that has almost become his "signature tune" — the coins to glass, with the glass in the performers coat pocket.
Ron Wilson followed, the only English performer in the session. Ron looks like every layman's idea of a magician, with his slim build and mephistophillian appearance. He scored strongly with his Optical Deck routine, this is the pack which is a sort of combined Nudist, Svengali and Kuller Pack. First the cards are all blank on both sides, then it is a blue backed pack with normal faces, which somehow changes to an all alike pack with red backs. This was a dealer item some years ago, but Ron seems to be the only person around doing it today.
What can anybody say about A1 Goshman that has not already been said a hundred times. Without a doubt he is one of the great masters of misdirection. He is also, without a doubt, one of the most professional performers around. By this I mean that he can be relied on to be where you want him, when you want him. You do not have to dig him out of the bar two minutes before the show starts. Neither does he require ages to reset between each table. Nor does he overrun his time; if you ask for ten minutes you get ten minutes, no more and no less. Magicians everywhere can learn a lot from Goshman — misdirection, presentation, clarity of diction and professional discipline.
Piet Forton promised something different, and delivered it. Explaining that in Switzerland it is difficult to find audiences he demonstrated how he has become his own spectator. Donning a costume that was half that of a typical magician down one side and half that of a Dick Emmery type female down the other he was able to be both magician and spectator, depending on which side was the audience. The result was hilarious, the magic was good too. A signed card placed in the pack appeared in the handbag of his alter ego, while money placed in the handbag was later produced from the card case. As is to be expected from a three-times world champion the technique was flawless.
A blast of mouthorgan music brought Juan Tamariz, bounding up to the table. Tamariz must be about the only magician I know who performs sleight of hand whilst accompanying himself on a musical instrument. It sounds impossible but nothing is impossible to this zany Spaniard. It is difficult to put into words the impression that Tamariz makes on his audiences. To me he looks a little like Mr Punch, but with a touch of impishness like a mischevious demon. He also does some very fine magic with cards and coins, that provide a unique combination of skill and magical humour. The best assessment I can make of his work is to quote the words of A1 Goshman, who remarked to me, "I've appeared with Juan all over the world, but this is the first time I've had an opportunity to see him work. Boy! He's good!" And A1 does not bestow praise like that lightly.
Finally came the Welsh Wizard himself, a regular favourite at these events — Rovi. Rovi to me is an enigma in magic. Just when I think that I have got him weighed up and know most of his stuff, he confounds me completely by producing some new miracle that I just cannot explain. Up he popped again, in cracking form with ten minutes of top class original card magic most of which left us all completely bewildered.
The above was just the morning session. At three thirty there was a second session, with a further six acts. The report on this must be briefer as I was dragged in at short notice to replace Carmillo, of Spain, who was not well. Consequently I did not see this part and am indebted to Ian Keable-Elliott for passing me his own notes.
Roxy from Italy is a very smooth cardician, whose routine, with a gambling flavour, incorporated some dazzling technique. Neat, precise and elegant are the words that should be used to describe both the performer and the material.
Also •from Italy was Paviato Aurelio, a youngster who is fast carving a name for himself in magic's hall of fame. Specialising in coin magic but also including some card stuff, Paviato certainly got all the boys tongues wagging.
The Itallians seemed to be taking over this session. Next on was Count Delia Ragione, one of magic's real characters. Now he is resident in the U.S.A. Although his son was born in England when he was playing the "Pigalle' so is a British subject. I did not see his act on the close-up, but I did see him working impromptu at a party a couple of nights later. His pocket picking and novel violin playing (instead of the proper thing he makes his own instrument from a table leg and a bit of string with a matchbox for sound) were a riot and his routine for vanishing an ashtray by placing it on his head sensational. This routine is similar in conception to the paper balls over the spectator's head. In this case the performer vanishes an ashtray by placing it on his own head, everybody knows where it is except the "stooge".
Ger Cooper, the reigning World Champion stage manipulator, showed his prowess at the close-up table. Again very favourable comments from all the boys but unfortunately I did not see the act.
Also unseen by me was Dick Koornwinder, but as I did follow him around from table to table I could not help noticing that the famous Koornwinder, Car was very much in evidence. Dick has had much experience grafting in department stores with the "Squirble", so certainly knows how to project to the large audiences at this type of show.
As has been hinted several times above, the sixth performer was a certain Walt Lees about whom the least said the better.
Before finishing this report, mention should be made of Steven Hamilton, who joined some of the above performers on the Saturday night in an informal session. Using cards and coins, he made a big impression and showed that he can certainly hold his own among the top international performers. I think that we will be • seeing a lot more of Steven Hamilton.
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