Abbott’s Get-Together 1980

Abbott’s Get-Together

 

August 13 – 16, 1980 – Colon, Michigan; A Report By Bill and Irene Larsen. From Genii Magazine, October 1980: “ summary – “Get-Together” is defined as an informal social gathering. This certainly describes the Abbott affair in one sentence. Whatever the shortcomings in the way of talent and facilities, everyone present had a marvelous party.

 

As most of you Genii readers know this was the first time Irene and I had attended the Abbott affair. We had talked about it but jokingly said that we would wait until they built a Hilton Hotel before we came. Last year since Stan and Kathy Kramien played the “It’s Magic” show we had a few drinks together after one of the performances and they convinced us that we should join them for the Get-Together. Stan promised plenty of Early Times, pick up and return to the airport, and everything else our hearts desired. Naturally we could not turn down an offer like this. So taking Heidi and Erika with us we flew to Chicago and then on to Kalamazoo where Stan was indeed waiting for us.

 

Stan and Kathy Kramien

 

One thing you learn very quickly in this part of the country is that distances are great and signs are few. Even though Stan had been in the area many times he still had to refer to his instructions to safely pilot us into Colon, Michigan. On the way we stopped by the Bordner house and then went on to one of the local hangouts called “The Magic Carpet”. There we found Kathy with Mary and Hazel Taylor who run the magic shop in Bellevue, Washington.

Stan and Kathy had rented the Blackstone Sr. home for the next few days. It is situated on Blackstone Island just a 15 minute walk from the center of town. For those of you who have never been in Colon, let me briefly describe it for you. There is a main street of approximately four blocks, which is called East State Street. This is intersected by a street called North Blackstone Avenue. This is the center of the village. (Colon is not large enough to be a city and is therefore designated a village).

 

In the photograph you will see this intersection with the old opera house in the background where the Blackstone Show used to rehearse. If you walk one block west on State Street you come to Saint Joseph and just four buildings south are the Abbott showrooms, offices, shipping rooms, etc. Continuing on State Street another half mile is the Magic Carpet Restaurant which is always very popular during the Get-Togethers.

Going north on Blackstone Avenue you go right onto Blackstone Island where the Blackstone summer house is located. Going south on Blackstone

Avenue you will eventually find the factory which is completely unmarked as the curious are not particularly welcome there. as you will see from the photographs the factory is constantly busy turning out illusions every day. Two blocks east on State Street from Blackstone Avenue is the Colon Elementary School. Walking four or five blocks further east from the Elementary school we come to Dallas Street and taking a left approximately two blocks up we find the High School.  This is where the shows are presented. Continuing on State Street three or four blocks you come to the Saint Paul Lutheran Church where for $4.50 you can receive a great meal. This not only attracted many of the people registered but also local people as well.

Now that you are oriented we will take you with us through the few wonderful days that we spent.

We went with Stan and Kathy to the Blackstone house and Irene and I stayed in the room that he had used during the summers that he was there. It really was an experience to think of all the magical things that have happened in and around that house.

 

The Blackstone House

 

When the show would come in for the summer the assistants would be roomed in nearby cottages and the equipment would be stored and repaired. Then they would rehearse in the opera house and take the show out on the road again. There is a great deal of rockwork around the house that was personally supervised by Harry Blackstone, Sr. the pictures show the rock stairway going up to the main road and also the beautiful barbeque that Harry built.

 

We arrived on Tuesday the 12th of August and Wednesday morning there was a special service for Jack and Anne Gwynne. Karrell Fox read a memorial for Jack and Anne as their urns were buried. Karrell did a wonderful job and it bust have been very difficult for him.

We also paid our respects to the Blackstone, Duke Stern, and Bill Baird graves.

 

The Barbeque

 

After having lunch at the Magic Carpet we drove out to the factory with Stan Kramien to check on some of the props that were being built. Bud West runs the factory along with Arturo and Bud West’s brother. We then made our first visit to the display at the Elementary School. You will see from the photographs that every bit of stock is brought over to the school during the Get-Together days. It is said that more magic is sold at the Abbot Get-Together then all the other major conventions combined. It was an interesting sight to see youngsters lined up at the counters with their “grocery lists” in hand and wads of money in their fists.

Wednesday evening we were guests of Sam and June Horowitz and they presented a feast. Staying with them were Trevor Lewis, his wife Val, and their two sons, David and Richard, who were about the same ages as Heidi and Erika. We had been warned that the weather would be very hot. Such was not the case. In fact on this evening it rained throughout the late afternoon and spoiled June’s plans to eat outdoors. In any event we stuffed ourselves with all of her wonderful dishes and barely had time to get over to the High School Auditorium for the first evening show.

What a surprise and delight it was to see Dorny sitting backstage in his old place as stage manager. He is looking just great.

Dorny and Irene

 

The show itself opened with Top’s Editor Gordon  Miller as the M.C. First act was Chris Jakway. He is a young man who seems to be progressing well in magic although we could not easily see his act since we were sitting up ourselves. Next on the bill were Wilheim von Larsen and Princess Brunhilda. This is the act Irene and I do from time to time, here and there, when asked or not. It was very kind of Recil Bordnerr to offer to pay us after the show but Irene and I perform at conventions we do it for the fun of it and not for payment. I would be too embarrassed to take the money. In any event we do a comedy mind reading act which seemed to go over well with the full house.

Next was Kikuchi from Japan with his very complicated and colorful act. How this man can carry so much equipment and costume from convention to convention is something I will never understand.

After intermission Gordon Miller did a comedy spot followed by Fantasie and Monica with their always-smooth act. Their beautiful daughter Jackie was with them although she did not work in the act this time. She, Heidi, and Erika became good friends and were inseparable during the affair.

Closing the show was Don Adams and Company. Another very young man, he performed illusions. After the show we went to the American Legion Hall which is just a block from the center of town and which is the traditional gathering place for the late-evening crowd. Here you can buy hot dogs and hamburgers and drink beer or even Early Times. Our thanks to Peter Tappan who bought us our first round of drinks.

When it came my turn to buy drinks I was astounded at the low prices. Someone made the comment that the tip at the Magic Castle is more than they charge for drinks in Colon.

So many friends to see that the time flew by and at closing we went back for a nightcap at the house.

One thing that was a must for us was to visit the American Museum in Marshall which is about a half an hour from Colon. This labor of love put together by Bob Lund and his wife Elaine did not disappoint us. We drove in with the Kramiens’ and had lunch at a quaint place called Win Schuler’s. After that we toured the Museum and recommend at a most for anyone traveling in the area.

Among the many interesting things we saw at the Museum were Neil Foster’s original zombie ball, some early posters of Peter Reveen, and the latest acquisition, the work chest that belonged to Pete Bouton (see photo). Pete Biro has more to say about this wonderful Museum.

 

Ricky Kramien and Bob Lund

 

The weather Thursday was overcast but no rain and really very pleasant. Since we had a big lunch we didn’t bother with dinner and sat and chatted at the Blackstone house until time for the evening show. Stan’s son, Stan Jr. (everyone calls him Ricky), had joined us for the trip to Marshall and would be staying during the rest of the convention. It was interesting to see the father and son working so closely together. Ricky handled all the advance on the Kramien Show and they really have it down to a science. I think I can safely say that Kramien puts more money in the bank at the end of each year than any other working magician. He knows the territory and he carries a show that’s big enough to be a special evening and yet small enough to be practical. I learned a lot listening to Stan and Ricky talking about business.

Thursday evening now and time for the second major show. Jay Marshall was the M.C. and nothing else need to be said. Jay is always outstanding and this was no exception. The first act was John Kurtz and Marie, a husband and wife act. He does a silent act in full dress which is comprised of candles, doves, and the production of a large rooster at the end. The act runs a perfect eight minutes.

Next followed Dennis and Peg Metz. He worked in a striking full dress white tail suit with gold trim and Peg in an orange pantsuit. They are from Cincinnati and also do a silent act. It was a special treat to see them do the blooming orange tree and the finish was excellent with a vanishing birdcage and production of a water fountain. Ten minutes of good magic.

Jay Marshall next brought out some of the material he hasn’t used in a long time including one-half of his Chinese Laundry routine, his military mob routine and the trouble wit routine with his funny British accent.

Jim Sommers and his wife Janine were the next act. The act was an overly long 32 minutes. The first six minutes were excellent as Jim performed over 10 effects one right after another. I also enjoyed his shooting of ribbons through the girl which is something I haven’t seen in a long time. The giant hippity hop could have been better omitted for a magical group.  His neon lights of the girl was very good as was the suspension on neon lights. Unfortunately the “Coffin of the Dead” cremation finish was a disaster.

Next on the bill was a young man from Sweden by the name of Tim Star. He got excellent reaction from the audience with his bird production, multiplying candles, and three ring routine. He does a fast seven minutes.

After the intermission came the Fosh Family Circus. This is an original musical entertainment that tries valiantly to be too many things and ends up having a rather disjointed jumble of good intentions. In all fairness the group only performs once or twice a year and they are indeed very energetic. They are Sam, Kent, Eddie Goldstein, Brent Warren, Barrett Felker, Steve Aidrich, Cheesman Spark and Kathi De Francis. They come from the Denver, Colorado area. Much of what they did was very amusing. I enjoyed the David Copperfield take-off entitled David Copperfoam. The magician’s grudge match was a clever idea. Also they did a magic song takeoff on Max Maven, called Steve Shaven. I enjoyed the parody on “Twelve Days of Christmas” which they called “The Twelve Days of Magic.” Without question the outstanding part of this performance was the juggling of Barrett Felker. He is only 17 years of age and could hold his own in any top room today. He received a standing ovation.

The show ended at 11 o’clock which was approximately three hours after the start. Recil Bordner and his wife Eda Mae were kind enough to have a small gathering for us back at the Blackstone house after the show. It was an intimate group and went on into the wee hours.

This would probably he as good a place as any to thank Recil and Eda Mae and their sons, Greg and Marty, for the wonderful hospitality that they showed us while we were in Colon. Recil is truly a tradition in magic and it’s nice to know that Greg has already taken over a great deal of the day to day running of the shop and wants to continue the business when Recil retires.

 

Recil and son Greg

 

On Friday at the High School  Gymnasium Auditorium we had the pleasure of seeing the Kramien Show. This was not part of the $50.00 registration  but it did attract a full house as an extra attraction. The show runs one hour and thirty minutes with intermission and Stan  works with his beautiful wife Katheleen and three other on-stage boy assistants. He also has other assistants working backstage. During the show he does 10 major illusions and many smaller effects. I won’t go into detail in this issue as this article is already long but we hope to be able to present a full review of the Kramien Show in the not-to-distant future. Stan works in the true tradition of the stage magician and his props and stage settings are excellent. He manages to get a lot of humor into the show and he even sings well. (He sang Happy Birthday to a little girl in the audience and I was surprised that he really had a good singing voice.)

Friday night now and another full evening of magic. Trevor Lewis from England was the M.C. and opened with a banjo number. The first act was Mark Brandyberry who is a student of Neil Foster. He has great potential and did a silent act in a modern tux. The only problem with the act is that it is too long at 18 minutes. He tries to do too many things within the act.

Pete Biro followed and really a good night!  He was on for a solid 19 minutes and did many inside gags for magicians as well as some solid magic for the non-magicians.

 

 

 

Part of the Audience

 

Next were Tom and Sherri (Mescher). They presented their standard 13-minute act of fast-paced flash magic working with doves, candles and rabbits. They are a handsome couple and are always a pleasure to see.

Karrell Fox closed the first half reciting his “Heavenly Magic Show” poem which was printed in last month’s Genii. Needless to say it was well received in spite of the technical problems with the lights.

After an 18-minute intermission, we came back to the ventriloquist Monssieur Brunard. He did an interesting old-fashioned vent act which was a bit too long at 16 minutes.

Trevor Lewis followed with his own spot presenting the card sword and ballroom animals.

Closing the show was Harry Collis with his assistant Maxinne presenting 30 minutes of magic in the old-fashioned manner. He is the Frito-Lay magician known as “Mister Magic”. He works in white tails and does his magic very deliberately and slowly. The highlight of the act is when he gets four little children up on the stage and does the Miser’s Dream for them.

The show ran two hours and 41 minutes and seemed longer. While the conditions in the auditorium are better than they were in the past it was still hot and the seats get hard after the second hour.

We visited the showroom again and then back to the American Legion Hall until closing.

I am sorry to say that I missed John Cornelius’ lecture on Wednesday because we were at the Museum. Also I had to miss the talent contest on Thursday.

I also understand that Ron Bauer gave a TV lecture-demonstration in the close-up room which was not part of the registration but those who saw it said that he had many good ideas for performing on television.

One of the many fun things that happened during the time we were there was the senior citizens brunch at the American Legion Hall. It was another extra event not included in the registration but again it was absolutely packed. Mike Close was one of the many magicians performing close-up in the bar area and he impressed everyone with Simon Aronson’s Thirteen Card Trick.

 

 

 

The Abbott Plant  with Recil in the doorway

 

After brunch there was a very funny “magicians assistants bit” which included Jay and Frances Marshall, Irene and myself, Tom and Sherri and Kathy and Stan Kramien. No time to go into details but the tables were turned and in this case the men were the assistants to the girls.

Another funny bit was Karrell Fox and Mike Caldwell doing their impression of magicians meeting on the street.

Following the brunch Howard Percy showed films of early conventions in Colon. Then Irene went shopping and I walked around in front of the Colon Township Library and took two pictures of the sign which is in front of this building. As you see they are dedicated to Percy Abbott and to Blackstone.

The close-up session that afternoon was done by Steve Aldrich, Pete Biro, Trevor Lewis and John Cornelius. They all rotated in the large Gymnasium-Auditorium doing the four shows to four separate groups seated up in the corners of the gymnasium. It worked quite well and they got some fun out of heckling each other.

 

 

 

The Abbott Office

 

The show Saturday evening featured Mike Caldwell as the M.C. and he was never better.  He got a lot of laughs out of the problems they were having with the PA system and the spotlight.

Opening were Jeff Hobson and Cindy. A more or less standard act, they have nice stage presence and do a good 11 minutes of manipulation.

Mike Caldwell then did his own act which he calls

“The Great Michael” and to the delight of the audience he brought up the young man that gave him a hard time a couple of years ago, took him off stage and we heard shots ring out. Funny!

 

The Factory

 

Closing the first half was Divad Company who present their magic and illusions in a very modern upbeat way. The total running time of 29 minutes went by very quickly. After the intermission Dale Salwak showed the upcoming youngsters how manipulation should be done in his superb nine minute routine. Dale continues to improve what has always been a top act.

Next Jay Marshall was brought up on stage to do his Juan Escardero routine with the paper hats.

 

Part of the Factory

 

Then it was time for what everyone looks forward at every Abbott’s Get-Together. It’s the Fox Family Time”. I understand this was the 29th time that Karrell Fox presented his magical fun. Working with such people as Abb Dickson, Jay Marshall, Pete Biro, Howard Flint, and others he does a take-off on just about everything that has happened during the Get-Together. True magical madness and we all absolutely loved it.

Some place along the line I remember seeing little Johnny Jones, J. H. Henry, Suzy Wandas Bennett, and Inez Blackstone Kitchen among the many friends that were there. Someday instead of writing a review I think I’ll just list the names of the people at the convention. Come to think of it, it might be more interesting.

Everything was just about over now. The winners of the talent contest were announced as follows.

First place went to Mike Younger, an 18-year-old from Glenwood, Illinois.

Second place to Franz Harrary, an 18-year-old from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Third place to Benjamin, a 19-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio. He is the one we talked about at the Evansville Convention.

Fourth place to Steven Biller, an 18-year-old from Oak Park, Illinois.

Fifth place to Chad Willow, a 12-year-old from Two Harbors, Minnesota.

Sixth place to Tom Glinski, a 17-year-old from Gary, Indiana.

Seventh place to Rich Hill, an 18-year-old from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

 

One of the things that really amazed me was the fact that everyone knew just where to go and when to be there. There was no printed program of any kind other than a one page sheet announcing the shows and lectures, etc. after the final show Saturday night everyone knew they were to go to the Elementary School Gymnasium where the dealers displays were because there the major awards would be made. No announcement was made to this effect from the stage and yet everyone knew where to go. Astounding! So we went on over to the display area and watched as the standing trophies were presented.

The award for the Bill Baird trophy for manipulation went to Dale Salwak.

The Senator Crandall trophy for the best bit of comedy business in any of the shows went to Trevor Lewis.

 

The Grand Award, the Jack Gwynne trophy, went to Divad and Company and was presented by Stan Kramien, who was the winner last year.

I forgot to mention that there was music at the senior citizens brunch by the famous trio of Howard Bamman, Bob Lewis, and Alan Meldrum. Also we should credit the excellent organ playing of Connie Pelham and her son Chris at the drums. They added a lot to all of the evening shows.

We were then invited to an invitational party at the home of “The Amazing Conklins, Shirley and Jerry were not there but they opened their house to their friends and their son and daughter took good care of the big crowd. Later in the evening some beautiful slides of the previous Abbott Get-Togethers were shown on the front lawn by David Linsell.

 

 

 

The Display at the Auditorium

 

 

 

Heidi, Jackie and Erika

 

Then back to the Blackstone house for a couple of last hours of laughs and the following morning Stan drove us back to Kalamazoo Sunday, for our flight by way of Chicago to Los Angeles. By 5:30 that afternoon we were back home with our heads filled with memories of new experiences and friends.

Our sincere thanks to Stan and Kathy Kramien for arranging our visit so perfectly. We had a marvelous time.

Will we go back? You bet we will! It is something that is so very special that it must be witnessed to be appreciated.

 

 

 

The Display at the Auditorium