Tony Brook In Conversation
With Mike Stratman
I got to know Mike via our mutual friend Bob Knigge of Ring
# 58. I had heard a lot about Mike's dedication to Magic and to the IBM. By
now, many of us would have been made aware of the elections at the International
Brotherhood of Magicians. In the interests of sharing, I felt it might be
interesting to chat with Mike and discover a little about the man behind the
Michael (Mike) F. Stratman, is the International President Elect Candidate
for The International Brotherhood of Magicians. He is married and has two
children and two grandchildren.
He is a retired Mechanical/Project Engineer. He spent 35 years with the A.E.Staley
Company, Decatur IL and Loudon TN with responsibility for multi million dollar
projects including design, engineering, material and parts procurement, construction
supervision, spare parts and full fiscal responsibility. He is currently Self
employed as a Consulting Engineer and Affiliate Real Estate Broker.
His IBM experience consists of serving the Organization for over 20 years
in the following capacities:
· TVP for State of Illinois from 1976 to 1982
· 2 terms as International Vice-President
· 5 terms on the Board of Trustees
· 3 terms on the Executive Committee
· Convention Committee 1978 to 1995
Hotel & Site Selection Chairman
· Membership Chairman & Membership Committee Member
· TVP Nominations/Ring Counselor Chairman
· Long Range Planning Committee Chairman
· Member of Management Team
· Member Order of Merlin
His other magic experience includes:
· Instrumental in re-chartering Ring 14, Decatur IL, The Decatur Demons
· Served as President, Vice-President and on the Board of Directors
of Ring 14, Decatur, IL
· Served as President, Vice-President and on the Board of Directors
of Ring 58, Knoxville, TN
· Served as Convention Chairman and Talent Chairman of the Winter Carnival
· Founder of the Central Illinois Get-together in Decatur IL
Here are some of the questions that I put to him followed by
a few comments that I asked a few others who know him well to add at the end
of our interview.
Hello Mike. Thanks for taking the time to converse with me. At present, quite
naturally, the main issue is the forthcoming IBM elections. Let's cut to the
chase and be blunt. What can you, Mike Stratman, if elected as International
President, personally do to make the IBM be more productive?
You are very welcome. It's a pleasure, Tony to be conversing with you. I'm
delighted that you began our interview by 'cutting to the chase' . Without
wishing to appear that I am overtly campaigning, there are a number of people
who are aware of my track record in Magic, especially within the context of
The International Brotherhood of Magicians. It is no secret that I hold very
precise beliefs on what it takes to be a Productive President. Let me share
some of those beliefs.
1. I believe in promoting the art of magic, at the local level as well as
at the International level.
2. I believe in the wisdom of the Board and in their experience to make sound
3. I believe in supporting the Constitution and by-laws and that the organization
should work within the framework of the constitution, rather than through
4. I believe in the continual support and growth of the Youth program.
5. I believe and support ethics in magic and I am against the exposure of
6. I believe that our organization should be fiscally responsible.
That's quite a program you have there Mike. Neither I nor anyone else
who loves Magic will disagree with any of that but do you really think you
can do all that?
All by myself. No. However, as you and others know, the IBM is not just about
one person or position. It is a made up of dedicated members, it has a Board
of Trustees, it has many others who work tirelessly in Rings all over the
world to make the IBM one of the leading International Magic Organizations.
It is, in many ways, quite simple; the President of any organization should
tap into the talent within the organization, listen to views and above all,
have a willingness to serve the needs of the organization. In this way, it
will become a productive Organization.
Well Mike, that's for sure. You can't keep a good man down. Let's move
away from Presidents and elections and converse a little about the man behind
the Candidate. Where, when, why, how did you first get the magic bug?
I got the magic bug when I was in the 5th grade and a magician by the name
of Dick Berry opened a new magic shop about 3/4 miles from my home in Decatur,
IL. The shop became a real hangout for me and I became very good friends with
Dick. I might mention, Dick had
toured with Harry Blackstone, Sr., and had also presented his own show back
in the 50's called "The Theater of Illusion".
Care to share with us a few memories and highlights of the founding of
the Central Illinois Get-Together?
This is a story in itself, I started the Central Illinois Get-together after
the TVP for Illinois made what I thought was an unwise decision when he decided
to allow two new Rings to join the IBM in central Illinois. Originally, downstate
or central IL. only had two Rings, one in Decatur, Ring 14 and one in Peoria.
A lot of our members in Ring 14 lived in Springfield and Champaign-Urbana,
each approx. 40 minutes away from Decatur. I knew if they allowed the new
Rings in each of those cities, it would cut our attendance and we would lose
some of our members.
Well, I fought the battle and lost and the two new Rings received their charters,
Ring 236 in Champaign and Ring 239 in Springfield. Once the decision had been
made, I decided the best we could do was make the most of the situation.
I felt by having the get-together, all four Rings would form a bond and share
in the magic. That was in 1977 and the latest Get-together was just held a
few weeks ago in Champaign. Years later, about the time I moved to Tennessee
I was made an Honorary Member of Ring 236.
For several years you have served as Convention & Talent Chair of
the Winter Carnival of Magic in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. You must have great
Of course the most memorable WCM was in 1993, the year of the blizzard. Fortunately
all the acts and most of the attendees arrived and we had a great convention.
The only problem was, none of us could leave on Sunday due to the 36"
snowfall. In addition to being snowed in, a lot of the town lost power and
most of the local help could not make it to work that day. So if I remember
correctly, we only had one restaurant open, no maid service for the motels
and a lot of magicians with nothing to do. The convention center did not lose
power so they opened up on Sunday and we all returned for an extended convention
with everyone, (the booked acts and the attendees) pitching in to put on some
impromptu shows. The highlight was Steve Beam doing cups and balls using snowballs.
Another interesting story was 1996 when the weather just about took away
act. That year we had Jeff McBride booked for a lecture and our Saturday night
closing act. Well, the weather was fine in Gatlinburg but Jeff couldn't get
out of New York due to a heavy snow and all the airports were closed. Fortunately
he arrived in time on to do the lecture and the closing act.
What kind of magic do you enjoying performing?
I enjoy performing stand-up magic for adults at banquets, conventions and
parties. I also enjoy doing a few escapes and mental routines.
What kind or kinds of magic do you enjoy watching?
I like to watch all forms of magic, but I really enjoy being entertained as
well as fooled.
All of us for one reason or another have one or two favorite magic books.
What's yours and why?
My favorite book is actually a set... the Tarbell Course in Magic. I guess
I sort of grew up with the Tarbell books because our Decatur Ring had them
in our Ring library, plus before I joined Ring 14, Harlan Tarbell use to come
to some of the meetings.
Most of us, at one time or another, to a greater or lesser degree have
been influenced by someone. Can you share your magical influences?
I was influenced more by one of our Ring members in Decatur than by anyone
else. This gentleman, Mr. Guy Thompson took a lot of time to help me develop
into a better magician. I have also been influenced by the style of Harry
Blackstone Jr. and Don Alan. Both of these men I have met, but I really didn't
know either one of them personally. I just think Blackstone's stage presence
and his commanding voice captured an audience. Alan's close-up style was always
very entertaining and he could entertain magicians as well as lay audiences
with his style.
What was your most memorable performance and why?
My most memorable performance was in Decatur, IL when I performed the opening
act for Louise Mandrell. In fact that was on May 15, of 1981, that's 20 years
ago. I don't know if you are familiar with Louise, but she was the sister
to Barbara Mandrell and at that time they were doing the "Barbara Mandrell
and the Mandrell Sisters" show on national TV. Getting back to the "experience."
In order to promote the show I did a couple publicity stunts, which included
putting my packing crate on display in a local bank lobby a week prior to
the show, and sealing a headline prediction in a metal box and displaying
it in another business in Decatur. Well, the packing box escape went fine,
but the newspaper prediction had me worried. You see the day before the show
the Pope got shot and they did not know if he was going to live or die. I
was afraid to look at the headline in the paper the day of the show because
if it said Pope died, I would have felt awfully bad making that prediction.
I lucked out though, and the headline read "Pope shot but expected to
recover." From then on when I did a newspaper prediction I made it clear
that I would predict a headline for one of the major articles, not the main
Mike, I greatly appreciate your time. Thanks for talking to me. Are there
any concluding words that you would like to add?
I would like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview and I
would also like to thank the countless number of people that have supported
me through this campaign. My only hope is once elected, we can get on with
doing magic, eliminate the politics, look forward and put all this past nonsense
behind us. Thanks again.
Having spoken to Mike, I thought it might be interesting for
us to get to know him even better by asking a few of his many friends to each
write a short tribute.
I first met Mike in 1994, after joining IBM Ring #58 in Knoxville, TN. Since
that time he has been in charge of the talent for our Winter Carnival of Magic,
which we hold in Gatlinburg, TN each March. Of course, he has held the office
of President and Vice-president for our Ring several times. In his quest to
present a great convention, he often asks us about other acts we may have
seen at other conventions or we may know of from personal experience. I'm
thrilled that he took two of my suggestions, booking Steven Bargatze and Oscar
Munoz for our convention. Although these fine gentlemen were well-known within
smaller circles, it was Mike who booked them at Winter Carnival. From that
booking, both of their careers have made exciting progress and their acts
are in great demand everywhere.
What I really enjoy, is watching others during our meetings, as various magical
topics arise. Mike is generally quiet until it's "his turn" and
then he pulls out all the stops. He has a wide and varied knowledge of magic
and the people in magic, as well. We often spend time either before or after
our meetings, sharing magic and related information over hamburgers at the
local "Steak and Shake" restaurant. At first, it was a little difficult
for me, because Mike is a true gentleman and doesn't toot his own horn. Little
by little, however, he would share some of his experiences with me and I soon
became aware that this is one heckuva guy. Over the past two years as Ring
#58 President, Mike has steered our course with a clear and steady hand. We
all have the opportunity to perform our tasks in our own way and, under his
guidance, our programs have worked well. Not only has our membership increased
dramatically, but our meeting attendance has more than doubled. I remain excited
about the future or the IBM and our Ring as long as Mike is involved.
Now that he has retired from his regular occupation, I look forward to spending
even more time with him. Of course, he is finding out that retirement only
means you're twice as busy.
Hopefully, we can start making more time for one another and continue a great
Mike Stratman is one terrific person. I was on the IBM convention committee
with him for about 18 years. He is a hard worker and really loves the IBM.
As you know he has held many hats during his time with the IBM. I hope everyone
will cast their ballot for him as Pres. Elect and that we can finally put
to rest the bad things those other people who are trying to take over the
IBM for themselves. Mike Stratman will be a great asset to the IBM in the
IBM P.P. 1993-94
I have been regularly attending the Winter Carnival of Magic since 1991. Of
the conventions that I have been to and know of, I believe the Winter Carnival
in Gatlinburg is one of the top three regional conventions. Powerhouse entertainment/talent
along with a smooth running convention. In 1996 I had the opportunity move
to Knoxville, and I did. So now I am a part of the planning and hosting of
the Winter Carnival. I mention this because Mike Stratman is instrumental
to the success of this convention, and being able to be a part of this Ring
actually helped me to make the decision to move here.
Mike is an outstanding "doer" as well as an excellent planner,
manager, and leader. While Mike has been the convention chair, he skillfully
has been able to direct members in different duties. Anyone who has been around
the planning and coordination of a project like a convention or even a public
show knows how much effort and time it takes. I've never heard Mike complain.
He loves giving to the organization and our club. At the same time, he really
doesn't relish the spotlight...he prefers to keep a low profile and I've never
seen him "toot his own horn."
In the nearly five years that I've been in Knoxville, Mike and I have developed
a good camaraderie. I recently drove about 50 miles with Mike to go see a
show that one of our junior Ring members was putting on in his community.
He and I both like to support our Ring members, and we had a great time at
the show. Mike didn't even think about the fact that he is the President of
our Ring and the Vice President of the International until the junior member's
mother came up and told us how much "this" meant to her son. It's
not an attempt to be "humble," but I believe Mike sees himself as
just an ordinary person who loves magic and people. Mike is not in this election
for glory or ego. He loves to serve and help fellow lovers of magic. He's
got the track record of service to prove that he's more than capable. (Not
to mention that a former engineer should be more than qualified to run this
organization!) Mike's a great person, and the I.B.M. will be all the better
for his dedication and time he spends as our President.
Ring 58 has thrived under his leadership, and I only wish that the I.B.M.
as a whole will be able to see just a fraction of that same success. Even
that fraction would be awesome.
Member Ring 58
Assistant Editor of The Linking Ring
Member of the Executive Committee of the I.B.M. Board of Trustees
If it hadn't been for Mike Stratman, I wouldn't have known what I was getting
myself in for when I took the reins as President of the Texas Association
of Magicians (T.A.O.M.)
I've known Mike and his lovely wife, Darlene, for nearly 20 years through
the wonderful fraternal organization, the International Brotherhood of Magicians
(I.B.M.). Mike and I served on many international boards together and attended
Board meetings and conventions where I gained respect for Mike's knowledge
and talents. I've watched Mike in action and learned as he attended to details
that many would have overlooked or left unattended. Much has already been
said about Mike's background and how he has not only served the I.B.M. but
also the magic world in general. Mike has worked hard and served our art well
but I don't think he has been adequately recognized for his long-suffering
accomplishments. Mike's broad background in magic coupled with his Southern
congeniality has resulted in the respect from hundreds, if not thousands,
of magicians around the world.
Mike epitomizes the Will Rogers spirit of never meeting a man he didn't like
. . . and the feeling is mutual. Everyone who comes within the "Sphere
of Stratman" cannot help but be drawn by his easy smile, casual manner
and friendly style. From the minute you meet Mike, you know you'll become
good friends. Mike is a trusting person believing in the good of everyone
. . . perhaps even to a fault. As a result, he reduced his passionate involvement
with the international organization for a period while re-evaluated his priorities.
I can only say that it is great to see him back on the International Board
of Directors and working with the I.B.M. again.
I remember sometime in the 1980's at an I.B.M. convention (perhaps Kansas
City) when I was searching out Mike for dinner. After spending considerable
time tracking him down, I found that he was just between meetings and had
another one planned for later. I looked for him another time during the course
of the convention weekend and found him in the same situation. Some years
later when attending a convention in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Mike was again
involved in the convention so heavily that I was rarely able to capture a
moment to visit with him. Mike never really got to participate in the "fun"
parts of the conventions as he was always behind the scenes making certain
that everyone else was having a great time. It was after watching Mike when
I realized that if I ever chaired the T.A.O.M. convention, I would model myself
after this man's example. I was determined to assure that everything I did
would be the best I could do for the good of all the registrants. I knew that
the more involved I got, the less I would see of the convention. So, I knew
what I was getting myself into before I took the job.
Thanks Mike for your friendship and your shining example to all of us. May
we pick up your torch and light a pathway to fraternal acceptance for all
President - T.A.O.M. 2000
Written by: Tony Brook
Copyright 2001 -Tony Brook
This article, in whole or in part, may not be reproduced
in any form without the express permission of the author.
However, if you were to ask nicely, and in the interests
of sharing and in the interests of Magic, I'll be happy to share.