Ring Report Ring #170 “The Bev Bergeron Ring” SAM Assembly #99
June 2017 Meeting
President Craig Schwarz called the meeting to order with 30 present. Tom Parking was with us again and we welcomed Don Arthur, one of the founding members. Don had a long career as a magician with the Ringling show and wrote, “Illusions in the Round” and worked with Night Club great Tony Marks.
Our Day of Magic, a mini convention is coming up the first week of September. Craig also showed the logo and T-Shirt design he came up with for the combined IBM-SAM Convention.
Bev Bergeron’s Teach-in featured all the fun you can have with the uncommon Two Dollar bill on waitresses.
Phil Schwartz presented Magic History Moment #85. He spotlighted Dr. James William Elliott who was called the “Card Wonder of the 19th Century” by The Mahatma. Born in 1874 he trained at Harvard and became a medical doctor. He preferred magic and worked for Servais LeRoy as Bosco and later for Felix Herrmann. He left touring to perfect card manipulation and sold secrets to his effects for high prices. In September of 1898, he published a challenge in which any man in the world could dispute his claim to the title “Champion Card Manipulator of the World.” He offered big money prize, a challenge which was never accepted. The 1923 book “Elliott’s Last Legacy” was edited by Houdini three years after Elliott died of kidney disease. Phil showed a nice original LeRoy Talma Bosco poster and drew a connection between Thayer and Elliott. He also brought and demonstrated the original 1933 Thayer Silk Cabby.
Dennis Phillips opened up the meeting show by showing the props in the Joe and Georgi Smiley Dove Act, Dove Catching, a fall apart box vanish and a paper frames reappearance. Joe and Georgie performed up until 1995 Dan Stapleton did one of his signature effects, Miraskill. Dan has taken the Stewart James card effect to greater heights. Dan apparently can weigh cards and know how many of each color are in the pack. Greg Solomon, ever in the lookout for inexpensive effects showed a clever math effect using cards with numbers and cut outs on them. He was able to know a selected number. Jams Bailey III showed a dollar bill mysteriously penetrating through rubber bands held by a spectator.
John Arroyo had a very polished Okito /Boston Box routine with coins vanishing out of the box and into the box. Jimmy Ichinana , card wiz, shuffled a deck of cards and somehow quickly got his fingers where each kind was in the deck. He then made the kings migrate through the deck and finish on top.
Dennis Deliberations … Ring # 170
“The Bev Bergeron Ring”
“Joe, Joe! the birds are out.”
“The birds are out? Well, let’s find them!”
-Joe and Georgi Smiley introducing their Dove Act with Dove Catching-
In the photo with Kenny and me is Joe and Georgi Smiley. I was 12 years old.
The above photo was made in July of 1961 at Seaside Park at Virginia Beach, Virginia. My late brother, Kenneth, is on the left.
In the back ,on stage, you can see The Chinese Chopper, Houdini Pillory and on the floor is the duck cage for “Where do the Ducks Go”
This is a blast from the past! My adventures from 56 years ago. Relive them with me.
My Dad was in the Navy and stationed at Dam Neck, Virginia and my family lived in Virginia Beach. I went to Linkhorn Park Elementary in Virginia Beach where one classmate was Julie Shepard, the daughter of Alan Shepard, our first man in space.
Langley Air Force Base in Virginia was the astronaut’s headquarters before Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston was built. The day of Shepard’s flight, she stayed home from school. The whole school watched the short flight on a TV in the cafeteria.
Most weekends I begged my mother to take me to downtown Norfolk to Earl Edwards Magic Shop where I might see Bob McAllister behind the counter. Bob went on to star in Wonderama, the New York based kid’s TV show,. In 1961 he worked for WTAR TV.
Also familiar during those years was Charles “Chuck” Windley who had been at the local Western Theme town “Frontier City”. By 1961 he moved to New York. We magically connected again in the late 60s when Charles lived near me in Bowie, Maryland.
Years earlier, I had seen Harry Blackstone Sr. at the Center Theater in Norfolk. He did a very slimmed down routine and I think that it he was just an act in a variety show. He was no longer touring the big show.
You can imagine the thrill that I got on hearing that Joe Smiley was bringing his illusion show to Seaside Park for two weeks.
In those days, Dudley Cooper owned Seaside Park and Oceanview, both were seaside boardwalks and amusement parks. Each has an outdoor stage and Cooper would book in variety acts. He also used magician Frank Scalzo.
The Smileys were regulars playing there every year. Joe and Georgi were from Lewistown, Pennsylvania and Joe’s brother was a circus clown and Joe also worked in little theater and at the local radio station. He had a very deep mellow voice such as David Seebach, Harry Blackstone and David Chauvet’s. His diction was perfect and elegant.
Many of his props were Abbotts, but he used a Marshall Botania and Plumes. Joe had made several of the props himself: The Buzz Saw was made from an A.B. Brill Carnival equipment plan, The Woman from TV (combination mirror and shadow box) was his design as was the Dog House (Tip over box).
He used a P&L bowl of water vanish and a Thayer Houdini Pillory Escape and Devil’s Mailbox.
The day came for Joe to show up on the last week of June and I had to be there. My mother refused to drive me the 3 miles to the beach so I told her I would walk. Mind you this is before cell phones, so she gave me a pocket full of coins. She allowed me to do it because my elementary school was at the half way point but she was not really comfortable with me walking. I got to the grandstand and Joe had pulled his step van up to the stage to unload props and was nearing completion. I walked up and said, “Wow, All that stuff is in the Abbott’s Catalog!” He said, “Well young man, I can see you like magic and are probably good at it.” I said, “Yes and I even built a Dagger Head Chest, Square Circle and Chink Cans.” He said, “Very good! Meet Georgi.” Suddenly he treated me like his Grandson. “Is your Mom or Dad here?”, “No, why don’t you call your Mom and tell her where you are and you met the magician and he gave you a job”. “Make sure you drink lots of water, it is hot outside”. I rode with him to park the van next to his travel trailer in a lot across the street. He had me sit in the back of the van (we used to call them a bread truck) and assemble the Chinese Chopper with all the screws, washers and wing nuts. He emerged in a few minutes from the trailer in a full-evening cutaway Tailcoat suit. We walked back over to the grandstand. I carried the chopper. Georgi had used the office dressing room and was now in a stylish cocktail dress.
Joe had a reel to reel tape recorder and he explained that he recorded the tapes at his radio station. He started the pre-show music and the park secretary came over to the side of the stage and took a microphone and did the introduction. “Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s show time! The Marvels of Mystery, Joe and Georgi Smiley….”
Joe came out and took total command of the stage. “ Welcome Ladies and Gentleman. This afternoon we are going to make things appear and make things disappear and the boy sitting right over there ( he pointed to a random kid) may disappear just like that (He snapped his fingers).
But let’s get started. I have some amazing magic. Let me show you!.” A Walsh cane transformed into a silk and he went into an Abbotts Round-Circle production (method like the Square Circle) silks appeared and then he did a clever steal and produced two large feather flower bouquets, a long streamer and ended with two giant flag staffs. Next was his Dove routine with Dove Catching, vanishing from a breakaway box and reappear in the paper frames. His first audience participation was 20th Century Silks. Followed by a sucker version of the Twin Die Boxes and then his Chinese Death board with 3 volunteers. He then went into his finale with the haunted parasol, color changing plumes, blooming bouquet and finally the giant Marshall botania.
Well that did it! I was at every show that he did for the next two weeks. The following week my Mother and Father invited Joe and Georgie to come to the house for a home cooked spaghetti dinner. Joe was more than kind to look at all my creations which included a fair number of oatmeal boxes covered with contact paper and painted tin cans. He also loaded me up with samples of his advertising materials and brochures.
That began my friendship with Joe and the next summer of 1962, he was back for a repeat.
Between knowing Joe and being mentored by Bob McAllister and Troy Strait and regularly watching The Magic Land of Allakazam with Mark, Nani and Bev, I had a good start toward my own magic career. A little later in the 60s Charles Windley and I reconnected .
In this photo below I am on stage at Seaside Park at Virginia Beach in July of 1961. I am on the left of the photo with the two 20th century silks in my T-shirt. Joe is vanishing one in his P&L Change Bag.
In the photo behind Joe you can see his Dove Frame production, The Dog House to produce Sir Chumley , the St. Bernard and the TV set that Joe produced Georgi from. The color changing plumes are on top of the TV.
In this photo, Joe is doing his Chinese Death Board (Grandma’s Neckless) with three audience volunteers. The blue draped table used for his silk production is seen along with The very edge of the top frame of his Buzz Saw (Goldin Style open sawing a woman through)
Joe with his Abbotts Dove Catching.
“The birds are no longer out”
Joe died in 1995. Georgi died November 18, 2005 in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. She was 96 years old.