Magicpalooza has come and gone with lingering memories for years to come. Naming this years Florida State Magic Convention as a “party” was an understatement highlighted by so many events within an event, heads were spinning wondering what was to come next during the May 27-30 conference held in Orlando over the Memorial Day weekend, traditional with the Florida Magicians Association.
Chairmen Dan Stapleton and Ben Mason, along with a strong ensemble of chair-folk. Lynn Fitzgerald-Registration, Greg Phillips-contests and a host(s) of twenty other staff members moved the three days to a fast-paced weekend of eclectic fun things to see and do. Thinking “out of the box” was obvious when, even before registrations began, a large table containing over 1000 old magic magazines free for all to take helped move along the registration check-in process. In one corner of the hotel’s large lobby was a wonderful “artists studio” where (Ravelli) was putting finishing touches on a small Houdini sculpture
next to his unfinished large (signed) painting of famous magician Shimada…a “work in progress” to be auctioned off later at the convention.
In the other corner of the lobby was Professor Phillips (Dennis) Flea Circus, to be performed later, three times. And those who registered early in the year called “The 1st 100 Club”, received a free souvenir poster which included photo’s of all the Magicpalooza performers, to be signed by the entertainers, later at The Party.
The “club” also received a popcorn bag for each of those hundred members that had small pocket tricks and gags as an extra bonus. Two doors separated the 1st 100 and the “later” group as a “fast pass” allowed those into the showroom for the best seats, before the post-100.
First lecture was “Bad to the Balloon” hosted by magician and balloon sculpture Mark Byrne. But the first (big) event was the three hour party held inside of the Dealer’s
room, where non stop mingling (and cash bar), autograph signing, complimentary portraits were drawn, raffle prizes were sold by tickets by the two cute magic-ticket-girls and a display of programs from the past fifty years of Florida State convention programs took us down memory lane. What great fun.
At 10:15pm, the other doors open to reveal an amazing ballroom set up to look like a carnival sideshow, complete with free popcorn and cotton candy for all. But it was the three stages, set up around the room, and the authentic huge sideshow banners that made one feel we were back in time to one of those “1-in-10” shows that were popular in the 1950’s. Professor (James) Changefield, took us from stage to stage on a one-hour journey in witnessing fire eaters, glass walkers, Electra the Electric Girl, and other oddities. It was a wonderful event seeming like a dream….or mild nightmare perhaps.
Lectures at the convention included, Byrne, John Tudor, Mark Howowitz (magic comic books & vintage magic sets), Robert Moreland (coin and card magic), Ariann Black, Gustavo Raley(personal creations), Danny Orleans, Dan Garrett, Michael Ammar and Adler & Changefield(character development).
Close-up performances were by Danny Orleans, Ariann Black, Dan Garrett, Michael Ammar, Robert Moreland and John Tudor.
Just as Producers Stapleton and Mason did two years ago at the 50th anniversary of the Florida State Magic convention, held also in Orlando, the stage shows were a cornucopia of acts, and not just magic. Stapleton, especially likes to have “variety” which he notes, “Usually gets the standing ovations”. And this note certainly came true once again this year. But, there were three stage shows, one that should be highlighted, that of the exclusive Club MagicoMiami. This club of Spanish origin (mostly from Cuba) includes sixty Hispanic magicians who are a family all their own. And it showed the camaraderie during their afternoon performance at Magicpalooza. Under the leadership and guidance of Nelson de la Prida and RenePerdigon this group of five performers delighted the audience with their own show of magicand comedy.
Two other afternoon events were both enlightening and entertaining as Sammy Smith hosted a “Meet Shimada” where the audience got to know the inside and intimate background of this “living legend”, Shimada. From his humble beginnings in Japan to his million dollar contract in Las Vegas, this forty five minute “talk” gave us more anticipation to his performance the following day.
Dan Stapleton also hosted an afternoon event, the next day, in giving tribute to a trailblazing female magician from the 1950’s, Celeste Evans. What wonderful photographs were projected up on the screen before Celeste was escorted to her chair, fittingly, by two young tuxedo clad young men. Evans spoke of her travels in the far East, performing at some of the top clubs in America and performing on top television shows such as To Tell The Truth and an unprecedented thirty three appearances on the popular television show of the day, The Bozo Show.
Opening the evening show was Steven Marcus, dressed in classic black tux and tails, with his dexterous manipulations, a seldom seen Topsy-Turvy Chairs illusion and closing with his Cube Zag and doves-to-dog finale…a great opening to the show. It’s so nice to see a “classically” dressed magician and Steven certainly looked classy.
Next up was popular magician and funny-man, Dan Garrett, who presented a wonderful linking ring routine and very cute rabbit in hat routine, much to the delight of the adults and especially, the kids. Asami, from Japan, in fully Japanese garb and tradition, made parasols appear and reappear climaxing the act with a triple umbrella cascade which brought the audience to its feet. Beautiful, charming and elegant! MC, ventriloquist, Mark Merchant presented his twenty minutes of topical humor and had the audience laughing with (and at) his different characters. You can tell that Mark performs aboard some of the top cruise lines in the world. Dan Stapleton (and company) closed the show walking on stage with his white dancing cane, then presenting his original “butterfly” routine making a huge “human” butterfly appear. His floating pearl, with large (opening and closing) mechanical clam, was stunning. He closed with his (also original) baffling Human Deck of Cards using fifty-two audience spectators. It is quite a perplexing effect to say the least with audience members, after the show, discussing how the effect might have been accomplished.
The Magicpalooza dinner (and contest awards) banquet was complete with a delicious menu including baked chicken and chocolate cake. Contest Chair, Greg Phillips, then announced the contest winners with Mark Presely (Chicago) taking home two 1st place trophies winning both the stage AND close-up contests. Wow! A 45 minute cabaret show followed with Dennis Phillips (plate spinning…great fun), Jacki Manna (ventriloquism) and Mark Byrne, climbing into a huge balloon only to have it (purposely) pop in making him resemble a giant pink Smurf. Fun. (Placenta Boy…Mark) you have to see the pictures.
The following night was a show to remember for a long time to come. MC Danny Orleans introduced Ariann Black (Las Vegas), new to the East coast magic scene, who wowed the audience with her style and sex appeal performing card manipulations, a card sword and closing with her “snow storm” rendition but this time, with bubbles. She too is an act of class and sophistication. Stage contest winner Mark Presley showed why and how he won the contest by presenting a theme act, that which included, thimbles and a giant pair of scissors. Well done. Danny Orleans and Jan Rose were up next and together, they have one of the slickest mind reading acts in the business. How Rose knows what others are thinking is simply amazing. Gustavo Raley (Argentina) presented a short yet wonderful Shadowgraphy act which isn’t seen as often as it should. Less is more perhaps, because he too received a standing ovation.
Novelty acts! And here came two…back to back but somewhat all part of the same act, a family acts actually. Yaroslav, a young man from Russia, climbed high atop his platform in an act, Rolla-Bolla,
balancing while teetering on a board with the audience biting their nails wondering if he will complete his journey. And that he did, also garnering a standing ovation. His parents, Irina and Gennady then presented a “quick-change” act consisting of seven or eight costume changes in a blink of an eye. Before intermission, Orleans prepared the audience for a four minute film, Magic In Memoriam, acknowledging many of the well known magicians who have since passed on, since the last Florida State convention two years ago. The audience applauded throughout and appreciated giving those, whom are no longer with us, a chance to be “on stage” one last time.
After a brief intermission, only two acts closed the second half of an already stellar show. “The Shakespeare of Magic“, John Tudor, certainly lived up to his name in presenting a few illusions in his own theatrical way. But I think his rabbit, may have upstaged him as it has to be one of the most adorable creatures to perform on stage…doing card tricks! But John’s classic Broom Suspension and Sword Basket illusions reminded us why we fell in loved with magicwhen we first saw these two illusions performed so many years ago.
And now…the moment we’ve all been waiting for. From the moment the curtains parted, we all were captivated by a living legend, Shimada. It’s been a while since Shimada has graced the stages of a magic convention and everyone in the audience will remember this moment for a long time. Every single movement, each glance from his eyes, we could not take our eyes away from this classic performer. Shimada is the epitome of class and grace and at the age of seventy five, he has kept each movement to an absolute minimum in defying you to see where the doves or cards come from. Shimada is the class of magic perfection as we all wish we could be. Shimada was a “rock-star” this night and at the end, the audience rose with a three minute standing ovation.
There were fifteen Dealers displaying and selling their wares and business seemed good. The room became a Flea Market/Rummage Sale the final afternoon of the convention allowing magicians to clean out their garages and magic-rooms at home.
(It should be noted here that the convention committee decided on two particular policies that we wish other conventions would consider. First, any children under the age of ten were admitted free to the convention in encouraging more youth to attend. The other was to have the Dealers room open for ANYONE, even those not registered, for the duration of the convention, and in doing so helping the Dealers business.)
Stapleton and Mason chose this hotel (Universal Double Tree) as the convention site because, as Mason stated, “It’s the only hotel in the area that has a permanent stage that is so important to the shows we want to present.” And it worked, complete with huge magicwands with illuminated gold stars on each side of the stage, certainly making this convention one that will be remembered as…pure magic!