2003 Convention Review

Blowin’ Away in Lubbock
By Scott Wells, A.I.M.C. with Silver Star

I love it when I my expectations are exceeded. Like when I was hoping at least to get my money back when I put change in the slot machine only to have it pay off big time. Well, that scenario never happened to me…but I was pleasantly surprised at the overall quality of the 2003 T.A.O.M. convention in Lubbock, Texas. Nice segue, huh?

Little to no advertising and unrequited e-mails meant we would have to go on history, rumors and faith that we would not be disappointed. Short weeks before the convention an e-mail notice was surreptitiously sent through the “network” advising that there were a significant block of hotel rooms available. Then we learned of Aldo Colombini’s last minute cancellation (due to a scheduling conflict) that exacerbated the problem. It appeared that things must have been in “flux” up until the last minute since the printed program failed to list who was performing/lecturing when. There were only a dozen magic dealers (much scaled down from usual) in a small but comfortable room. It’s also interesting to note that there were no substantial large-scale illusions presented during the whole weekend. However, when all was said and done, the smaller convention allowed the attendees to spend better quality time with each other and there was better viewing for the close-up events since there were no video monitors. Moreover, the lecturers were as varied as they were informative.

As the weekend arrived, nearly 300 people blew onto the dusty plains of Lubbock. Friday began with a dealer’s show followed by the stage contest that was the Friday night show. Fortunately, the quality of the performers was at an acceptable level that did not disappoint and in fact, some were quite innovative. Ron Wilson kept the proceedings moving along quite well as emcee. I always love his impression of Harry Blackstone, Jr. MarcoM capped the evening with his timeworn Man-Eating Plant routine. There was a late night, extra cost close-up lecture by Trini Montes that drew a small group of dedicated finger-flickers.

Saturday saw our group split into three with each assigned to different, repeating activities. Baltazar Fuentes lectured on misdirection and taught some excellent close-up routines; Jeff Crilley, Fox TV news broadcaster, lectured on how to get free publicity, and; underground close-up legend Chuck Smith came out of hiding to teach us some of his killer commercial effects. The professional close-up show had a few fill-ins for some missing in action and my notes do not include all those who performed and, as mentioned, the program didn’t list the scheduled performers’ names, but briefly as I remember: Boris Wild performed his F.I.S.M. award-winning close-up routine using music, cards and kisses…well, lipstick kisses on cards at least; Torkova presented some well-routined card effects including a wonderful signed, torn card effect; Baltazar Fuentes showed us some card tricks that have earned him many awards including a T.A.O.M. trophy; Craig Dickson demonstrated the Wellington Light Board that resulted in increased sales at his dealer’s booth; Trini Lopez showed us some clever card work and those in the know from the night-before lecture probably gave a knowing nod to each other; and, Duane Laflin had some “punny” humor with his close-up.

Most lecturers filled the hall with all attendees and Torkova was no different as he explained some of his commercial card and coin routines. Duane Laflin followed with great ideas for magic with silks and interactive audience tricks.

Kevin James’ “Twisted Cabaret” was the evening’s entertainment and it was both twisted and entertaining from the fire-eater to the half-man. Many said that this evening was the feature event of the weekend. Twenty minutes prior to the start of the show, the audience was treated to black and white footage of vaudeville clips on the big screen that put us in the mood for what was to follow. Kevin emceed the evening with original bits including his bowling ball production, floating rose and a funny card revelation by a mouse! Sophie Evans opened with a sexy fire-eating act that was hot in more ways than one.

Bruce Block was perhaps the highlight of the evening with several hilarious routines including a “Rabbi in the Hat” trick where three large hats were moved around the table leaving the audience to guess which hat had the Rabbi under it. His humor and juggling never missed. His opening was a cute rabbit (“Skippy ala King”) that climbed up on a stool and “spoke” into the microphone then climbed back down and into a suitcase after he introduced Bruce. Very clever and quite memorable. Sophie returned with an interactive card trick using a couple members from the audience and proved that she is more than a pretty face. Arturo Figueroa, Kevin’s diminutive assistant, was “built” piece by piece (legs, torso, head) then came to life as a Charlie Chaplin doll. Arturo later showed his great timing and his circus training as he mimed a funny bit with a couple from the audience that scored well with the attendees.

In perhaps the most remarkable performance of this or any magic convention, Kevin’s chainsaw “accidentally” sawed in half one of his assistants who then hopped around the stage on his hands as his “legs” went off in another direction. It was a most bizarre sight that caused an audible silence throughout the hall. Arturo was later suspended atop a broom handle on a rollaway dolly and the evening concluded with snow…yes, snow showering down on the audience.

Sunday morning’s schedule included an Invisible Lodge meeting followed by the Sunday Service hosted by Duane Laflin. The close-up competition was well done with competent performers both young and old with a good mix of both as they rotated between two rooms giving maximum viewing for attentive audiences. Trixie Bond’s lecture was more than that as she actually performed a complete birthday show for a real birthday child and her friends and family. What a concept! And the ideas that followed kept the rapt attention of the large group in attendance. Boris Wild lectured on his method of marking a deck and tricks to use with the deck. The book he sold also included an easy way to stack a deck. After the performance the previous evening, it was no surprise that Kevin James and Bruce Block both delivered lectures to full houses. Kevin first gave some great performance tips and tricks that he has long featured in his stage and close-up work including the floating rose and coin in bottle. Bruce’s lecture on comedy writing and technique was one of the best lectures among a sea of greats this weekend.

The final night’s show was emceed by Duane Laflin who was obviously everywhere this weekend (dealer, lecturer, stage and close-up performer, and preacher for the Sunday Service). The show included a wide variety of gifted performers like Red Ryder, a perennially favorite juggler who always steals a magic show. Torkova presented his award-winning coin manipulative act that included a pretty coin ladder. Shannon and Rod spoke out of both sides of their mouths as the ventriloquist and his figure that ended in a moving tribute to the September 11th tragedy done in the style of Dr. Seuss’s “Whoville.” Nowlin Craver gave a double performance, the first as a slick talking TV infomercial salesman with a funny linking coat hanger bit then later with his award winning dove act as the comedic Maestro. The Laflins concluded the show with a display of silks and feathered flowers from their shop.

The public was allowed to exit before continuing with the usual ceremonial duties that passed the wand to Steve Burton, President of the 2004 T.A.O.M. and the announcement of the winners from the contests who were as follows: Senior Stage – Kelvin Y. S. Chun from Honolulu, HI; Senior Comedy – Jim Wicker from Arlington, TX; Senior Close-up – Dave Elliott from Carrollton, TX; Junior Close-up – Evan O’Quinn from San Antonio, TX.

Back at the hotel, attendees got a last look at the dealers room before their early closing. Lance DeLong lectured late into the night to a small group of close-up guys. On Monday morning, Nowlin Craver lectured on dove magic to the remaining group as others checked out of the hotel and headed their separate directions.

So, we put the 58th T.A.O.M. convention in the history book and Lubbock proved to be a surprisingly good time with a rating of 6.5 on my scale of one to ten. Next year the stars at night will be big and bright, deep in the heart of Houston, Texas. See y’all there!

Scott Wells, A.I.M.C. (Associate of the Inner Magic Circle) with Silver Star
Houston Association of Magicians (H.A.O.M.) Magician of the Year 2002
President – Texas Association of Magicians 2000
website: www.scottwells.com