Today’s topics are: Legend to FISM 2000 photo; Memories of FISM 1988 in The Hague; Roberto Giobbi FISM competition act (with video); How to prepare for a competition; Remembering Bob Jardine (with video).
These are The Magic Memories 83, gone online Sunday, July 31st, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.
As you’re reading this, FISM 2022 in Quebec is a thing of the past, but it gives me a lovely reason to continue my reminiscences of my own attendances to this most important of all magic conventions that I started in The Magic Memories 82. I received various comments and questions, and would like to deal with a few here.
Legend to FISM 2000 Photo
Several readers asked me to reveal the names of the “stars” on the photo below – I had wrongly assumed that all was clear 🙂
So, here we go.
Standing, from left to right: unknown, Carlos Vaquera, Dominique Duvivier, Lee Asher, Lennart Green, Topas (Thomas Fröschle), unknown, Eugene Burger – only his bald head is visible :-), Bebel, Billy McComb, El Duco (Christer Gustavsson), Daryl Martinez, Alison Easton (Daryl’s wife, magicienne in her own right, and pregnant with their first daughter)
Kneeling in front row, from left to right: unknown (from Holland), Richard Ross, Hans Klok, unknown (from Holland), Juan Tamariz, Roberto Giobbi
Memories of FISM – The Hague 1988
After Brussels (1979), Lausanne (1982), Madrid (1985), The Hague in 1988 was my fourth FISM convention, and the most important to date for me, as I had then decided to enter the competition in the category of “Card Magic”.
This links to a question Spain’s Pedro Bryce asked as a reaction to last week’s The Magic Memories:
Could you tell us a bit about your experience competing at FISM 1988 (The Hague) and 1991 (Lausanne)? I’ve long been very curious about these two complete acts! Is there any video footage of them? As an anecdote I’ll tell you that Juan Tamariz kept telling Pepe Carroll «I saw Roberto’s act… it’s very good!” This was of course meant as an incentive for Pepe to work even more on his act! (Note: Pepe Carroll and I competed at FISM 1988 – see below.)
I had briefly commented on Pedro, who is one of the young outstanding magicians in Spain, in The Magic Memories 44 of OCT 31st, 2021, at the end of which I also included a link to a short performance of his on YouTube; it is all you need to appreciate his extraordinary talent.
The FISM 1988 Competition Act
Although this is a looong time ago (almost 35 years!!!), let me try to go back on the timeline and tell you a few hopefully useful and amusing things about this unique experience (it certainly was to me).
A few general things first, some amusing, some sad.
The most important – the result: I got 2nd prize in the category of Card Magic, with 0,9 points out of 100 behind my late friend Pepe Carroll from Spain, as a judge later told me.
Of course the whole thing was completely unfair, since Pepe was a genius, and I merely a man of talent 🙂 Certainly, Pepe completely deserved to win, simply for being one of the truly outstanding performers of the second part of the 20th century – I wish he had been able to get more recognition from outside of his own country, where he made an admirable career on national TV.
Unfortunately, later TV dropped him, as TV so often does with some stars, and he fell into a deep depression which finally lead to his premature death, in 2004, at the very young age of 46 (the same age my father died when I was only 14…).
A simple search on Google and YouTube entering “Pepe Carroll” will allow you to appreciate this talent of the century.
On a brighter note I should mention that Lennart Green also participated and got classed 17th or so.
The legend then circulated that this was because the judges thought that Lennart was using confederates and special cards. As amusing as this reads in hindsight, it is not entirely true. Truth is that Lennart had then just started to get into the limelight of the magic world, and these were his very first attempts at performing at all.
As we all now now, Lennart is another of these very rare geniuses (and I really use this term very, very sparingly!), as a creator-inventor, as a technician with truly idiosyncratic techniques, and as an eccentric performer. However, he had developed his talents as a performer only after 1988.
I watched Lennart compete, since he was on another day then I was, and what I saw was extraordinary originality and a most innovative technique, but an almost non-existent communication and an immature presentation. All of us who know Lennart also know that he is one of the most sincere, generous people in the world, with a BIG heart, and if I had to put my life in the hands of anyone in this world, I would choose Lennart, and I really mean that.
But Lennart is also a soft-spoken and introvert person, one who will always step back and let others receive the glory, even though he is the one to deserve it.
This very characteristic, which makes him possibly the most beloved magician in the world, is not very useful in “show business”. Certainly, Lennart learned to live with that, and as we all also know has been able to turn himself inside out when he performs so as to become the exceptional performer he has then become. BUT, at FISM 1988, he had not yet reached that point, and this is the true reason why he did not get a prize. Magic is a performing art, and at that time he was “merely” a highly skilled and innovative demonstrator.
Amusingly, though, and as a matter of additional curiosity, three years later, at FISM 1991 in Lausanne, Lennart and I again competed against each other in the category of “Card Magic”: I got again second place, and Lennart got first! Well deserved, as in the time in-between competitions, he had transformed into a brilliant performer – Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling of magic 🙂 A star was born! Of course it did not matter that he entered the competition with almost exactly the same act as in 1988, something which is against the FISM rules. But when it comes to true genius, who cares about pedantry 🙂
A Magician Prepares
Here a few comments on how to prepare for a competition.
One of my early influences in magic was Piet Forton, of his real name Pieter de Beaufort, who himself had won three times in a row the FISM first prize in Card Magic. At that time we were quite friendly and met regularly to talk magic. The one thing I remember he said to me was that you need to have your competition act ready at least a year before the competition, and then use that year to fine-tune it. Other than that he was not involved in any other aspect of the act.
But this was good advice, and I got most of the act together toward the end of 1987, and then seeked all types of occasions to perform it. Obviously, living in Switzerland where all speak Swiss-German (or French, Italian, or Romansch!), I had to always find audiences who at least had a basic understanding of English, for this was the language to perform in.
I remember that a few months before the convention, once a week, I invited a few friend for a cocktails to my home with snacks after work, and would then perform my act for them, in costume and all that jazz, and of course in English. This helped a lot. I did this about a dozen times.
Also, at that time I was already under the influence of the Spanish School of Magic, absorbing the teachings of Ascanio (a winner at FISM 1970 in Amsterdam) and Tamariz (a winner at FISM 1973 in Paris), and that helped, too.
At one of our sessions in Madrid Ascanio talked to me about “mental training” and recommended the books by Morehouse and Garfield (see Card College 2, the “Recommended Reading” section on p. 485). I took this to heart, and it is a strategy I’m using to this day, sometimes even more than physical rehearsal (!): Weeks before the competition first thing in the morning, and last thing at night, I would close my eyes and run through the complete act, including imagined audience reactions. This is a procedure I can truly recommend, especially to all those like myself who find it easy to practice, but who have difficulties to rehearse. If you’re interested in this subject, reread the chapter on “The Study of Card Conjuring” in Card College 2, pp. 476.
Another point that became clear to me very early in the process was that nerves were the number one thing to gain control over.
After having been into magic for almost 15 years then (in the meantime it’s almost 50 years!), and after having attended dozens of magic conventions and seen performances and competitions, I was convinced that most who failed did so because of their nerves, commonly known as “stage fright”. I’ve written a length essay on the subject HERE. You can get the German version HERE.
So I spent quite a bit of time to master nerves. At that time I did Yoga and TM, had done Autogenetic Training and things I forget, before that. Well, anything in which you believe can help… but most of all thinking, practicing and rehearsals will do the job…
I remember that I was scheduled to compete as the second to last act on Friday late afternoon.
Of course that was an acid test: The convention started on Monday, and I had to wait until Friday! The afternoon of that Friday I “took off” and went with Barbara to an indoor swimming pool to relax and prepare mentally. Then I got to the hotel, prepared, set-up etc. , then went to the convention center waiting in the tiny and overcrowded dressing room provided to contestants. I went through my mental routine, pushed up for maximum performance.
Imagine my shock when shortly before I should have gone on (ca. 5 pm), the organizer came into the dressing room and announced to the last two participants that unfortunately they were running late, and that our performances had to be moved to the next day!
I cannot describe my emotions at that moment: If that happened nowadays I would simply have a heart attack and die a dishonorable death, but in 1988, at age 29, I somehow survived it.
Worst of all was that Friday night they had a wonderful party, and of course it would have been the way of celebrating the performance. Instead, more nerves, and going to bed fairly early, missing the great action of the after-party, so as to be ready in the morning. At least I could negotiate with the organizers not to go on first , but later in the morning… at least that.
The performance itself went very well, actually better than anytime before: The mental and physical preparation at this moment paid high dividends. I wish there was a recording of this… there might be some pirate video somewhere – if you know it, let me know 🙂
A Magician Transforms
Maybe hard to believe, but this competition marked a turning point in my life, as thanks to this award (certainly completely unimportant if considered in the context of the history of humanity) I decided to leave my excellent, secure and very well-paid job as the head of the translator department of Autodesk, at the time the market leader in CAD software (AutoCAD), and turn full-time professional – talk about a Butterfly Effect! I’ve never regretted this landmark decision, and it gave my life a new direction.
The reason was that Switzerland being such a small country – 7 million inhabitants, less than Los Angeles at that time – and the German language having the term “Vizeweltmeister” (vice-world-champion), which sounds much better than the English “runner up to the first prize”, brought me an above-average coverage in the media.
Later it even brought me an appearance on national TV on Saturday night prime time in Switzerland’s most prestigious entertainment program “Supertreffer” – I’ll tell you more about this in the next The Magic Memories 84, with a video clip of me doing the act (the “other” act that won at FISM Lausanne 1991).
Judging What Cannot be Judged
As some will know I’m also a FISM judge 🙂 I’ve been a judge in several national and international competitions, but only once at FISM 2006 in Stockholm.
After that I was “judged” as “team incompatible”, or whatever term they gave the reason for not asking me back. My first mistake was to send in an essay on magic (“Artistic Magic” from Sharing Secrets) before the convention to the president of the jury, suggesting that it could be used to review the judging criteria (nobody from the panel ever answered this…).
Then I maintained that judges should be paid their expenses (travel, hotel and convention fee – I had to pay all my own, and even the convention fee for my accompanying wife). This is a big issue in itself, and we’ll leave it at that 🙂
And then I made my biggest “mistake” by not immediately agreeing with the decision of the other judges on the Grand Prix and another prize: Rick Merrill and Gaston – both very talented (that’s not the question) – played the role of mentally retarded individuals taking to magic as a kind of “therapy”. I simply objected that we might not want to signal to the public that people who turn to magic are mentally handicapped. Some might disagree 🙂 It was just an opinion, and I gave in, of course.
The question if competitions in magic make sense at all, and how they can be judged, since an act cannot be measured precisely as long jump or a football game, well, that’s another huge issue that could make the topic of another The Magic Memories.
Suffice it to say that as a contestant you must of course know exactly by what criteria your performance is going to be judged. For this most organizations nowadays will provide the Contest Rules, or you can download them from the convention’s homepage. If you want to amuse yourself, find the ten-page (!!!) Contest Rules of FISM by CLICKING HERE.
In spite of all of this being written down – the “theory” so to speak – the “practice” of judging is, well, another thing.
Regardless of what the criteria are, and the points attributed to each criteria, it is impossible to express the elements that make up a performance in figures. The truth is, that it is a “gut” judgement, i.e., a judge likes or dislikes the performance according to his or her criteria, and then tries to translate it into numbers in order to hand in the final score: Is it a 1st prize, is it a 2nd prize, is it a 3rd prize, or none at all; then you adjust your numbers accordingly. I’m possibly the first person to admit this, and most “established” judges will dement this, of course, but that’s my opinion and belief of how it works.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean that the results of the judgement are bogus, not at all, provided the judges are experienced performers, creators, historians – either in combination, or ideally each one. A difficult thing, no question. And those who criticize judging should first think about the larger context (as always in life).
In any case, from many years of watching competitions, I would say that the criterion by which an act is judged more than anything else, is originality. In my opinion this is overrated, as I very much believe in what Paul Arden once said. “Good is better than original.” Obviously, if you are good and original, you’re a winner.
A topic that would deserve a longer discussion…
A Magician Performs
OK, and here is what you’ve been waiting for: This is a low-quality home video recording of an early rehearsal of the act I performed for the FISM 1988 World Championship which took place in The Hague, Holland, in 1988. The clip shows me at Joachim Wolf’s, aka Marnac, at a yearly gathering he called “The Magic Coffee” (it was much more than that!).
I make several mistakes, as you will see, and afterwards made some changes, but essentially that was it. To watch the not-so-perfect rehearsal version of my FISM 1988 act CLICK HERE.
Remembering Bob Jardine
Although today’s blog has become quite lengthy, I want to retain the tradition of remembering friends in magic, today Bob Jardine. I lost touch with him, but know that nowadays he’s living in Las Vegas and doing well.
At the beginning of the 1980s I performed for the first time at the Magic Castle, in the Close-up Room. One of the people who came to see me was Bob Jardine. We became instant friends.
This man was a true pro and knew how to entertain an audience. Unfortunately, there is not much material around, a mere three entries show up in the “Magic Archives”, but you might want to follow up on them.
Not a Full Deck
Besides a set of lecture notes of his (ask him about it on Facebook where you can find him), I found the following trick of his on YouTube. It clearly shows the mark of the professional who not just demonstrates a clever trick, but finds an emotional hook to it.
It looks like a precedent to the “Thinnest Deck…”, a presentational ploy later used by Jim Steinmeyer in a completely different piece to make the use of a packet meaningful. I had identified this problem in Hidden Agenda: For your convenience, and because Hidden Agenda sadly is out of print, and there is nothing I can do about it as Vanishing Inc. is holding the copyright, you can read the article by CLICKING HERE.
Bob Jardine recognized the problem, and starts by saying, “Most people that know me, they think I’m not playing with a full deck. And in fact… I am not.” He takes a card packet out of a normal seized card case, and then performs a packet trick with 4 Kings and 4 Queens.
To watch Bob Jardine perform this piece with an unexpected ending CLICK HERE.
Bob has a few more video clips of him performing in the early years of his career – to get to his YouTube channel CLICK HERE.
That’s the end of this week’s The Magic Memories – have a fantastic week, and see you all back next Sunday.
All the very best,
PS: Please understand that I only reread my posts once, as my time simply doesn’t allow for more. So, I beg your understanding for any typos and linguistic inelegances. But I hope you still appreciate some of it. And one more thing, if I may: Please tell your friends about The Magic Memories, as it could need a few more readers 🙂 Thank you.