Get-together in Colon!
From Abbott’s TOPS Magazine, December 1967; by Clarke Crandall: ”There were several highlights to my August Colon visit. A short pause at Neil and Jeanne Foster’s homestead was most enjoyable. I would have liked more time to rest and relax there. Miss Merrillyn Merrill, a sweet child, took me to visit her parents at their lakeside home. Her mother makes good sandwiches and gave me several to keep my strength on the long trip back to Colon and Abbott’s. Her father is nice but he’s always hanging around trying to protect Merrilyn from me. Actually it’s me who needs protection. We talked to Teddy Strickler by phone. She was unhappy because business prevented her from attending the Get-Together. During my confinement she and Miss Merrill kept me happy with their many “get well” cards. In the late thirties I made an “arm off” illusion, which Percy Abbott bought to keep off the market. My departed friend, the genteel Howard Strickler, bought the original model and Teddy recently gave it back to me. She’s a good kid and I love her.
To me, the most enjoyable interval of the whole affair was the trip to the old Blackstone estate with the right guide, George Johnstone. We stopped to pick up Pete Bouton, Harry’s brother. He and George had traveled with the Blackstone road show and George’s “In” stories, the printable ones, would make an interesting book. Sentimentality has never been one of my most noticeable traits but it’s not easy to remain unaffected, standing at Pete’s side as he looks at his brother’s plainly marked grave. I was with a group at Colon when plans were made by friends to start a fund for a suitable stone for Harry’s grave. You will hear more of it later. I didn’t know Harry Blackstone as well as many but for over thirty-five years we were speaking friends. I met Junior Harry when he was a small piano-playing prodigy dressed in a sharp military school uniform. I was one of his guests when he premiered the Conrad Hilton. I watched him work in Colon a few years ago and he’s been out to the tavern to see me.
Recently I saw him on the Smothers Bros. TV show and I’m sorry I did. Had I missed it I could have taken the work of others as to the quality of the performance. Several of the fellows in the tavern liked it. That should be criteria enough. But I’m entitled to my own opinion. I thought the camera work was atrocious. That may not have been Junior’s fault. The ‘Dancing Hank’ done well, is a classic and he didn’t do it badly. The switch at the end of the routine with “Here’s one to take its place” is superfluous. I have always wondered why the vanishing birdcage, an opening effect, must be clutched like an escaping eel as the magician walks out as if he held a thin – shelled egg between his knees.” Shades of Bert Allerton!” The folks from the audience who held the cage were placed in an awkward stretched-up position. The cage was so hidden from the viewer’s sight it could have been dropped on the floor and kicked into the footlights. The “Shirt Snatching Bit” at the finish was lost on TV. “Whatdee Do?” asked a customer in the bar. The “anyone from the audience” at Junior’s right giggled and snickered every time an article was lifted; perhaps it really tickled. A pickpocket routine comes off badly on TV. It’s an act in itself and suffers when squeezed between other effects of magic. Junior is not a Dominique but Dominique is not a Blackstone either. Harry Blackstone, Jr., is a tall, well dressed, good looking performer with a well-known name. The public, with the exception of only a few of us old times, have forgotten his father’s traits and mannerism. In my opinion it’s time Junior developed his own style, presentation and inflections. Senior’s effects and Junior’s personality can’t help but be a winner. It’s hard to walk in a famous father’s footsteps but Junior has long legs. He can do it.”