The Amazing Conklins!
From Abbott’s TOPS Magazine, March 1966; Cover Portrait:
”Closeup magic is not for The Amazing Conklins. Suitcase acts they leave to others. Their forte is the “big show” – and the world of illusions, stage effects, action, color, and flash.
To see them perform – with a stage full of busy assistants, the magic popping right and left, the costumes, paraphernalia, and miracles blending in rich, musical profusion – is a heartwarming experience for anyone who loves the theatrical in magic.
The core of the troupe is, naturally enough, the Conklins themselves: Jerry (father), Shirley (mother), Cynthia (age 11), and Michael (age 13). Other regulars are Connie and Gary Phelps. On occasion the entourage has numbered nine, including organist Wilma Rench.
Where did it all begin? As a glint in young Jerry’s eyes when he watched the Great Blackstone unfold his dazzling wares in the hometown theatre. The town happened to be Battle Creek, Michigan, conveniently close to the world’s largest magic manufacturing plant. Soon teen-magician Conklin was playing every school party, Elk’s Club dance, and Father-and-Son banquet in the county.
Age 18 – the U.S. Army. Put to work peeling potatoes, he quickly inquired how to get into Special Service, the entertainment branch of the corps. “Just tell them you’re and experienced performer,” was the advice. He told them. They believed him. For the next two years he proceeded to become one. His route book reads like a magician’s dream: Paris, Rome, Vienna, Berlin … a show every night … real theatres … real stages … and the army footing the bill. He ended his tour of duty in full ownership of a P & L table, mutilated parasol, substitution trunk, and miscellaneous other conjurabillia that soon formed the basis for his civilian show. In 1951 he decided that Shirley was the girl he’d most like to have press his silks, and so acquired a full-time assistant and wife.
They played Spook Shows. They played the National Cherry Festival; the Boy Scout Jamboree (audience 70,000!). In due time they produced two additional assistants who were put on the show as soon as they could walk.
In 1963 Jerry joined the Abbott staff as Manager of Shipping and Receiving. He continues to take out the show for nearby dates in the U.S. and Canada. It includes, in its full length, 12 illusions – among them the Hindu Basket (a kind of Conklin trademark) and a beautiful Asrah Levitation.
The standing ovation which The Amazing Conklins received at the most recent Abbott Get-Together was a fitting tribute to a modest, never happier than when they are packing a ton of equipment, or spending hours setting up their show; unless, of course, it is during the performance itself, when their obvious delight in doing magic shine across the footlights and gives their act a kind of glow. It should be added incentive for magic buffs to attend the two conventions where they are already booked this year: the IBM, Indianapolis, in July; and Abbott’s Get-Together, Colon, in August.”
The Amazing Conklins performed at Abbott’s Get-Together in 1964, 1965, 1966, 1969, 1971, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1982, 1986, 1999, and 2003