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All photos by Jan Dacri MMC, MA

A crazed fan kisses Thompsoni (Johnny Thompson) as New Zealand's Tony Wilson, Steve Dacri and Peter Reveen look on at a pre-convention bash

SAM 2003 National in Vegas
- - - A PHOTO STORY - - -

click on links to see the photos - there's 40 great shots. Many thanks to Jan for the great photos, and congratulations to you for having your thesis subject approved by The Magic Cirlcle of your examination to advance to the next level...)

Dear Diary:


Paul DanielsAt left: The Steve Dacri Dan Garrett mustache collection for 2003 and beyond

Today we visited the Society of American Magicians National Convention, the annual gathering that attracts over a thousand magic enthusiasts to get together and share, laugh, watch, talk buy and sell magic. The key component is the buy and sell element, believe me. It's one big Wal-Mart of magic. Some would say the absolute best part is the meeting of friends, old and new, and the opportunity to sit and talk with magic lovers, amateur and professional, from over the world. Here are some of the people we crossed paths with.

A well-run registration area, staffed by happy, efficient people. The Riviera Hotel is about 2 miles from our new home, so Jan suggested we stop unpacking and nailing pictures and typing on computer keyboards for a while and go to the convention. We headed down there, illegally parked in front of the door, (I put the PRESS ID on the dashboard and walked inside.)
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The first one of the 1,300 magicians we ran into was PNP George Schindler, my pal from the old days, when I was hanging with Frank Garcia. George, of course, was the partner of Frank, helped him get his incredible card books to market, a fate that raised the bar on good, commercial card magic books for the magic world. Great to see George, one of the true gentlemen of the magic world.

Then PNP Jann Goodsell. We attempted a hug across the huge counter…that will have to wait. Great to see her, with her sleeves rolled up, bossing people around and taking drinks away from Seaabrooke.

There was Terry Seabrooke doing his rehab after his brush with death in his garage not so long ago. He was hoisting full goblets of scotch in a slow but steady pace, according to the doctor’s strict orders. Then Mr. & Mrs. Dan Garrett were blocking the doorway into the dealers room as they had spread out all of Dan’s purchases and added it all up. Our good friend Craig Dickson, looking all spiffy in his designer jeans and sneakers, running a tight little ship that they call the dealers room, complete with a performing stage area, with curtains, mike and such, for the dealers to continuosly get up and perform their latest goodies for the crowd…great idea, why haven’t others done this? The dealer room is the center of the action, the social and business interactions are the real pulse of the convention. The room was huge, full of tables of magic junk, and books and the newest, latest, greatest, used, new, collector’s pieces…you get the picture. A giant feeding frenzy of activity, with buyers and sellers caught up in a kind of hypnotic buzz or action and talk.

The night ended with a performance of the world famous elevator illusion, with Hall of Fame member Ray Goulet and his wife Ann, Jay Marshall and Steve.

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Saw our great friend from New Orleans, PNP Gary Hughes, counting money and polishing some of his and Ray Bradbury’s collection of fantastic pieces. Fay was reading a book upstairs, no doubt conserving her energy for the slots later.

Jeff McBride grabbed me and brought me into his classy salon of magic, where he conducted his Master Class and provided a place to “hang”, with insense and drums and places to sit and talk shop. Jeff and I have known each other for many decades, beginning back in New York when we were both still practicing our finger palms and coin sleights. Great to share some time together, catch up a bit and just laugh…Be sure to visit Jeff and his Las Vegas Magic School

The ever-energetic Bob Little was in great spirits, despite coming from a Kansas City convention that apparently was not kind to the dealers (I heard noise about less than 700 people attended the IBM event, a far cry from the 1,700 of last year in San Diego, and most of the dealers told me they were disappointed with the sales.). Bob’s booth always looks like an explosion in a flea market, but he always has those interesting little trinkets and one-of-kind goodies, plus Waltzing Matilda and other classic Bob Little items…he is on his way to FISM when this is over, as are many of the road-weary dealers.
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Even my old pal Lance Burton showed up to after his last performance to check out the action.

Then there was the always smiling Meir Yedid, the wizard who never sleeps. He is on the internet more than any 10 people on a daily basis, updating MagicTimes, and his other websites, plus editing videos and mastering DVD’s and writing books and performing shows, and a little eating and sleeping thrown in to keep himself alive, Meir and I also go way back as they say, back in that dreamy time in New York in the early 70’s, when Ed Mishel and Irv Tannen and Harry Lorayne and Al Flosso and Frank Garcia and Slydini were everywhere and part of the group that welcomed us and influenced us.

Publishing guru and performer Stan Allen was polishing his giant MAGIC covers when we sat and chatted for a while. He just bought a building in town, on the outskirts of the strip, a huge warehouse to fill with paper and magazines and good knows what else as the best magazine in the magic world (nothing even comes remotely close to the quality and look of MAGIC, thanks to Stan and John and their staff). We used to often bump into each other at the Magic Castle in the 70’s during my frequent visits, and there’s fellow publisher and performer Mike Caveney who was also hanging at the Castle in those early days as well. I haven’t seen Mike in a long while.
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Speaking of magic mags, said hello to Genii honcho Richard Kaufman, who had the misfortune of getting the booth directly across from MAGIC. He says it didn’t really bother him, but when the convention reopened the following day, his booth was mysteriously moved to the far end of the convention, so someone was not pleased with the original layout. Richard does a great job with Genii, it’s really a very different magazine in so many ways, but in the world of magic, which is fairly small, when judging the publications that are inexistence, the general view is that they all have something to offer, and MAGIC is the leader of the pack. Genii is also a very different magazine now than it was when Bill was running things. In some ways better, in other ways, not better. As I did while there, I urge all magic lovers to subscribe to Genii.

Hank Moorehouse in his usual spot (didn’t you retire Hank? You work harder now than you did when you and I used to be dealers together at all the gatherings way back when!) selling and demonstrating and talking shop. Hank always has good stuff, never any junk, really. He also finds those clever gems that sell like hotcakes. And he even sells hotcakes. Makes ‘em in the back himself. Taste great, less filling than most other dealers, too.
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Steve Brown, the new owner of Tannen’s, was looking mighty sharp as he hustled money and whipped his demonstrators. I never really had a chance to talk with him for any great length before, so this was a real treat. He’s only been in the magic business for a short while (less than a couple of years) and he admits it. He has immersed himself in the business, and learned a tremendous amount of useless information about the magic world. I love that he is trying to re-invent Tannen’s, and restore it to the glory it once enjoyed.

I believe he will do it, he’s smart, full of energy and determined. Tannen’s will be one of our sponsors for the show at the Orleans, and as part of that sponsorship, will run a contest on their website and in their famed Manhattan showroom, with prizes ranging from a trip to Vegas to see the show, to actual guest spots within the show for qualified customers.

PNP Warren Kaps stopped by to say hello, and Jan snapped a cool shot of the three of us.

I’ll tell you more about this next week.
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There was Steve Goshman wandering around looking for defective merchandise and friendly dealers (the card type, not the magic merchandise type) and Howie Schwartzman, another pal from a million years BC, looking just as jovial as ever. And then Duane Laflin came by to show me his handling of my 3D Bunnies. Duane and Mary always have the largest display of beautiful silks at every convention.

Also at the dealer room was Michael Laird with colorful dragons and Chinese fans that Jan just had to have. Gary Hughes and Ray Bradbury presented their collector's pieces in their Bradbury Hughes booth. They are making a special chess set for Johnny Thomspon, we say the molds for the King and Queen, which look exactly like Johnny and Pam Thompson...cool.

I haven’t seen Scott Hitchcock is years, since we worked side by side at Caesars Magical Empire for so many years. He is so talented as both a magician and a swing dancer, although he steps on my feet a lot so I refuse to dance with him anymore.

Norm Nielsen was there showing off a small portion of his remarkable poster collection, and Joe Stevens explained that his photo on the cover of MAGIC was not enhanced. Mark Stevens, however, secretly informed us that the photo was touched up "a whole bunch."
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This is the first official day of the convention, that other stuff was just the prelude, the night before “come and get it while its hot magic dealer sell-a-thon” . Now, of course, most everyone has been up for 24 hours. Nobody sleeps in Vegas. And nobody sleeps at a magic convention. So when a magic convention comes to Las Vegas, it tends to get ugly.

Not to say that the convention was anything but wonderful. What I saw was very good, well-organized and well attended. The close-up rooms could have been better. Always amazes me that the big conventions can't get it right. Close-Up Magic is a highlight for many, certainly a very popular aspect. Why can't we have tiered seats, bleachers, something to provide the audience with the proper experience?

The stage and close-up competition was lively. I have no details, I insist you go to the SAM website for the winners and reports.

The opening ceremonies were…what can I say? First. That’s what they were. Jeff did the first lecture, to an overflowing crowd. A spouse welcome event followed, but I’m not a spouse so I can’t tell you what happened. Besides, I am not going to report on everything that happened, someone else will do that. Someone who was taking notes. Someone who pays attention. I am not that person. I’m merely rambling on about the people I saw and remember. Which means after for events after 10 pm, I pretty much stop giving details.
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The Gala Shows all took place during the afternoon because the hotel refused to allow the use of their theater at night. They have a long-running show called “Splash” with naked girls and music, and they were not about to call it off so the magicians could spread dove and rabbit poops all over the floor. I sat with Terry Seabrooke backstage and taught him some moves while he tried to come up with some material for the show he was emceeing.
More skilled reporters would tell you about each and every act. I remember Billy McComb…who was so…Billy. Funny, clever and well-received. So was the rest of the show.

There were close-up contests and a Stars of Tomorrow show that must have been great. Tim Ellis and Sue Ann Webster conducted a late night special, “MagicSports”.


Two days without sleep. People begin to sway as they walk.

My pal and fellow Classic Force guy Paul Green did a lecture next, the Juniors had their stage contest and there’s Ed Rosenthal (with his sidekick O-TWO) smiling and searching for a good deal on some piece of magic he can’t possible live without.

Then PNP Brad Jacobs hosted the popular People’s Choice Stage Contest, and the dealers continued to bust all sales records.
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The highlight for me was the always tasteful and well-attended event, “The Magic Circle Reception”, the final one to be hosted by illustrious outgoing president and good friend Michael Bailey. He was in high form, greeting everyone at the door personally and welcoming everyone, along with darling wife, Angela, and the hard-working Secretary Chris Pratt, who looked as dapper as ever, sort of a James Bond-type, with an ever-present smile. We had a fun chat with Michael and outgoing SAM president Ed Thomas, and got a cool photo of the two soon-to-be out of work organization heads. For Michael, and for Ed, this was the final event that they would be attending as president. Michael presented an effortless accounting of the past year at The Magic Circle, incuding activities at the new headquarters, and outlined plans for the upcoming Centenial Celebration in 2005. As he spoke, we were reminded of why he has been such an effective example of the high, professional standards that The Magic Circle represents.

Jan caught Billy McComb at The Magic Circle reception...talking with Michael Bailey.

The wine flowed, the cheese disappeared and the rest of the food wen swiftly as well. Every time Seabooke put his drink down, Jann Goodsell would swoop in and steal it. Then he would turn around and smack me and make me go get him another. My arm was so sore by the end of the reception.

Said hello to the Dean of American Magicians, Jay Marshall, who said he never felt better. Billy McComb poured red wine on his white pants while performing his version of matrix using wine bottles and cheese. Joe Lefler was trying to sell us on Cleveland as a great convention city and wondering where I kept my single malt, as he will be stopping by the world headquarters of magicwebchannel later in the week. And the incoming president of the IBM, David Sandy even stopped by to listen to Michael Bailey's report on The Magic Circle.
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Gary and Fay grabbed me and Dan Garrett, and we grabbed our wives (it was a big grab-fest), after all the wine was flowing and the air was heady. We piled into two cars and we took them to our favorite little restaurant Capazolli’s off the strip, where it was quiet, food is homemade and always great, and we enjoyed a fun meal and photo session, aided by the waiter.

There was more action in the dealer room and lots of little groups of magicians showing tricks in every corner and at every bar. We tested the martinis and headed off to begin the five minute drive back home for a swim and cigar.


I have a hangover, I'm heading to the jacuzzi for some relief. Nearly everyone looks like they just walked off the set for "Day of the Zombies". A cloud of fanning powder hangs over the dealer room. Nobody talks except the dealers. Dazed, they just lean over the tables, hand over the plastic, and collect another bag of stuff. The after Gala is called: SOULdiers of Sorcery, featuring my pals Goldfinger and Dove, and that is followed by the Close-Up Show, more magic tricks bought and sold, and a large amount of card tricks. "Doesn’t anyone sleep at these things?" asks a security guard. SIlly man.
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I’ve seen pockets of magicians, dressed in the same clothes since Sunday, with bleary eyes and bulging bags of bootie, wandering in a trace-like state, in and out of rooms and corridors. When they bump into something, they turn and begin walking in the other direction. When they get sick of the magic, they wander out to the casino and start pouring money into the machines for hours, then when they get hungry they get into a buffet line, then it’s back to the dealer room to start the cycle all over again.

Larry Wilson will be doing a lecture tonight, although I think it’s more of a performance thing, we shall see. More later...


It's almost over. Some people have disappeared already. Others are glued to the video poker machines, mumbling and staring. It's a good thing everyone wears a name tag with room numbers on them, otherwise most people would not know who they were anymore. Today is the final day of official business for the outgoing president, Ed Thomas, and he is in great spirits, happy to know his year was productive for the organization.

The International Banquest and Closing Ceremony had food and drinks, followed by the President's Reception, at which our new president, Jay Gorham did the meet and greet thing while everyone proceeded to get drunk, even though the booze was not free. At the IBM, this event features lots of food and free drinks. Someone should complain.

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Ali Bongo filled up many plates of food and Chris Pratt and Steve contemplated a real estate investment where a States-side satellite headquarters for The Magic Circle could be constructed.

PNP Harry Monte was there looking spiffy. He promises to visit the Orleans Hotel and catch my new show in the fall, as did many other members. Speaking of my new show, I bumped into Bruce Kalver who invented a great trick I am adding to my new show at the Orleans (was that considered a blatant plug, or what?). We had a chance to go over some of the finer points of this little miracle.

That's the best part of these conventions - you get to meet so many talented people and share ideas, and you sometimes even make new friends.

Sign Right Here...I did a lot of this during the convention...

As the bars closed, ambulances arrived and to take away the mass of unconscious magicians. Luckily, they all were staying in the Riviera Hotel, so they were delivered to their respecive rooms using their name badges for identification.

Those that were still standing headed bravely to the dealers room and then on to the casino for that last shot at financial security.

Jan and I drove away with a few still-walking members on a tour of some of the after-hours clubs to check out the wildlife that inhabits this part of the desert.

The Final Shot...Jan shows off...

The End
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