I can’t believe I haven’t blogged since KGB10 back in January! I’ve forgotten how this site works and that’s compounded by the fact that they seem to have changed things round a little.
Never mind, I promised my friends on the TRIX IN THE STIX Facebook page that I would try to keep them updated with goings on at Kidabra, so here goes:
Not much to tell so far. Tamar and I finished our shows on Sunday, raced home, packed and set off for the Raddison at Heathrow, panicking as usual that we must have forgotten something. We always promise ourself that we’ll never work on the day we set off, but we always do.
We flew out yesterday at 8am UK time and arrived here by 2pm. It was the kind of flight I like – boring and uneventful. Interesting flights can be a little scary. After an hour’s drive in our rental car, we were checking in at the lovely Music Road Inn in Pigeon Forge and just a few short minutes later, we were sharing a relaxing Jacuzzi in our room. Then we made a huge mistake – we fell asleep for two hours and woke feeling like zombies!
Not much to report on the convention as yet. We dragged ourself down for dinner at the Bullfish Grill and then managed to catch John Carlson’s ‘Big Birthday Party Business’ lecture. What a great start! John is funny and incredibly generous with his advice. He spoke for over 90 minutes on promoting your business. He gave us a step-by-step guide to designing a great website, attracting customers, how to get great testimonials, where to advertise, phone technique , adding value to your show and following up after the booking. He also gave us a very detailed insight into how having your own app can increase your fanbase and send bookings through the roof. As always with John, I left feeling inspired and energised. It was a great start to our Kidabra experience.
As always, it was great to catch up with old friends. Our day ended in Ruby Tuesdays, having dessert with Jimbo, Sally Andrews, Kevin Doig, Ken Scott, Jolly Roger, Joe Romano and Shabum.
Anyway, it’s time for breakfast! – Long day ahead today!
John is an ex-cop from New Jersey and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet!
There was no blog yesterday and for once it wasn’t down to my laziness. We were busy putting on a charity show in Pasedena and it was a great experience! It’s all been filmed for a possible DVD release and last night we watched it back and recorded a commentary track – great fun! The other great news was that David Kaye presented Tamar with her KGB pin!
Skipping back a bit – the last day of KGB was much more relaxed, kicking off with lunch at the magic castle and then a visit to the Castle library, where in the ‘For Sale’ section I found a copy of the first book on magic I ever read! I was happy to part with the one dollar asking price!
After that it was back to David’s suite for an afternoon discussing marketing. Tamar gave a presentation on Facebook and everyone else gave lots of great advice on a subject which I must confess is not my strongpoint.
Dinner was at Yamashiro – a beautiful Japanese restaurant sitting right at the top of the hill and commanding incredible views of downtown Los Angeles. The food was amazing and the bill was even more staggering!
Then it was back to the room for gift giving – among this years haul was a brand new doty-scope and rubber feet from Ken Scott, A fantastic pop-up book from Joaquin, KGB heat-sensitive mugs from Jozo, A great little heat sealer from Tamar, Giant Googly eyes from Mike, An emergency rubber chicken from Payne, A book from Norm (who couldn’t make it this year), Picture Fun from Gary, An exclusive (only 12 copies) DVD from me and our very own Evil hypnoitist monkey from Dave Cox.
It was with a heavy heart that we performed the closing ceremony and we chatted long into the night.
Today is our first day off – so we are heading to Disney!! yaaaay!
Well, the last day of our little conference seemed to come round really quickly. Having a little lie in this morning before we get started!
Yesterday was a packed programme again. We began with a Skype chat with Doug Scheer about the KGB Website. We are hoping to have this up and running soon and Doug has done a great job in getting it all together.
Ken Scott treated us to a motivational lecture entitled ‘Why We Stay Busy. We Are F***ing Rock Stars.’ Ken is a very funny guy and despite the tongue in cheek title, his professionalism and passion for our art shone through in this great presentation.
Jozo Bozo gave an incredible lecture on how to entertain 2 year olds. We had all been skeptical about this but wow!! We were treated to a masterclass, packed with useful information and I am now determined to try and crack this untapped market in my area!
Jozo Bozo – Entertaining 2 year olds
Over lunch, we read out columns from Magic magazine by KGB members Mike, Payne and David.
I was next, giving my presentation on Edwin – ‘Meet Bideford’s Mr. Magic’. Edwin probably contributed more to the art of children’s magic than anyone else in the 20th Century and yet many younger entertainers no nothing about him due to the fact that he existed before the internet. I showed some video clips of behind the scenes of Supreme Magic and of Edwin performing back in 1977.
We had dinner at my favourite fast-food place, IN AND OUT BURGER, followed by middle eastern ice-cream (ginger and rose-water flavour!) , then staged an impromptu KGB show for the kids in the hotel. The kids were pretty much all Australian and aged 10 and over, but we had great fun.
Gary hosted and performed ‘Colin the Chicken’, I did a little baby cry routine and Knitty Bang Bang, David Kaye did three new tricks (I won’t give details as he may want to keep them under wraps) and Payne closed with a brilliant ropes through body where a child appeared to escape from a strait jacket!
Afterwards we had Show and Tell until the early hours of the morning, then retired to bed exhausted!
Today we are eating lunch at the Magic Castle and visiting the library, then we will exchange gifts before our Gala dinner at Yamashiro’s. then we will be discussing our plans for Saturday’s charity show.
Hello again from sunny California! As I type, Tamar is snoozing away next to me. I always seem to wake up early when I’m away from home. To be moving about by 7:30am would normally be unthinkable!
Yesterday was certainly action packed and tiring, but a lot of fun. We joined Gary, Shabum and Payne for breakfast at 25 Degrees (which is fast becoming our restaurant of choice). I had managed to reach the age of 45 still believing that I didn’t like scrambled eggs, but apparently I was wrong!
Payne started off the day with his presentation – ‘Magic, the gift of immortality’. He was funny and thought provoking, as always. If anyone hasn’t seen Master Payne perform, do yourself a favour and look him up on Youtube.
Joining us for the day we had Don Caldwell, A.K.A. Buster Balloon. Those of us who had been at Kidabra were looking forward immensely to his lecture and we were not disappointed. We were treated to over an hour of balloon gags and magic from the number one performer in his field. From the very first moment when he sneezed the spots off a polka-dot balloon, we knew this was going to be something special. Balloons were cut, restored, transformed and a giant balloon dog swallowed a signed card – incredible!
After a lunch break came Dave Cox. If you are not familiar with Dave’s work, all you need to know is that he is all kinds of AWESOME! By popular demand, he kicked off with his ‘Evil Hypnotist Monkey’ routine, before putting us through our paces with his lecture on improv.
The ability to improvise is probably the most important skill for a kid’s performer. We all know that the best bits of any show usually arise from little unplanned incidents and the way we deal with them. Dave showed us several exercises to stretch our improv muscles and we ended up in hysterics for most of the afternoon. The cogs in my head were spinning furiously here as I think this would be a great thing to try at Trix in the Stix in May. But would English kid’s magicians loosen up enough to throw themselves into something like this? Hmmm. Maybe we should give it a go.
Unfortunately, Mike Bent’s comedy lecture was postponed, due to the day’s events running a little long.
After an excursion to Hollywood Costume shop (always fun) it was time to get ready for an evening at the Magic Castle. I love the place – it has a great atmosphere and it was fun to show Gary and Tamar around.
In the Palace we saw Mike Caveney who performed a torn and restored toilet paper, shot an arrow through a signed, chosen card and did an hilarious knife through coat. A real treat for me was seeing Jim Steinmeyer perform Guy Jarrett’s ‘Sawing an Egg’ illusion. The assistant climbs inside an egg-shaped cage, which she completely fills, which is then is sawn in half with a giant blade. I got the Jarrett book for Christmas and this was an illusion that I doubted would actually work. I was delighted to be proved wrong. Even though I know how it’s done, it still looked impossible! The last performer was Henry Vargas, who performed an elegant and well thought out manipulation act. Flowers appeared at his fingertips and floated. Levitating rings linked and unlinked in mid-air. Well executed and very pretty, if not exactly cutting edge.
The early parlour show was Sisuepahn Phila and it was something of a disappointment. Badly thought out mentalism with lots of awkward pauses and some very corny gags. The lay audience did seem to like the ending where she appeared to make herself light and heavy at will, but it wasn’t enough to save it for me.
The late parlour was a different story. Hannibal performed some beautifully executed card magic, framed with a great version of ‘dollar bill to orange’.
We ended the day as we started – in 25 Degrees with Gary, having hot dogs at 1am.
Today we will be hearing from Doug Scheer, Ken Scott and Me (gulp). Hopefully we’ll find time for Mike’s lecture too.
Hi everyone. It’s 8am in LA on the second day of KGB10 and what a great time we all had yesterday!
After some poolside reunions with old friends Payne, Mike Bent, Joaquin, and Jozo Bozo we kicked off at 11am with a talk by Joaquin Kotkin on his experiences on an arena tour with a grand illusion show. I’ve played one or two big venues in my time, but it’s hard to imagine what it must be like to play to crowds in excess of 5000 people. Amazing!
Joaquin is such a funny guy and a great performer (he invented tricks that are used by Copperfield and other greats in magic). It’s great to see him enjoying this level of success.
Dave Cox and Joaquin – Devil Beard meets Half-Beard.
Next up was Tamar, lecturing for the first time ever – what a baptism of fire that must have been! I know how nerve wracking it was the first time I came to talk to these guys and by that time I had quite a few lectures under my belt. All I can say is that if she was nervous, it didn’t show. She talked for just over an hour on the subject of games and the British-style two hour party, a subject quite alien to most of the crowd. It sparked a lot of great discussion!
Tamar preparing her lecture by the pool
Other newbie, Gary Dunn came next – lecturing on ‘How to entertain with almost nothing’. We had great fun with the ahh game and Gary’s cheeky persona was a big hit with the group. We ended the first session on a huge high!
Gary lecturing with nothing.
After dinner we reassembled for the official opening ceremony and that was followed by David Kaye’s lecture ‘Don’t do these Tricks’ or ‘Don’t be a Douche’. This was a fun Keynote presentation about the pitfalls of using tricks that ridicule the spectator, followed by a ‘twist’ ending – great.
Payne was up next with the a similarly themed talk on the use and mis-use of stock lines (Lectures have been paired together this year). Payne was hilarious as always and provided a lot of food for thought.
The evening ended with our first ‘show and tell’ session – I showed a couple of my new tricks from my ‘Trix in the Stix’ lecture. Other highlights included Jozo’s amazing new take on the colouring book and Gary’s ‘Janus’ bag.
What an amazing first day!
Today promises lectures by Payne (again), Buster Balloon, Dave Cox, Mike Bent, followed by an evening at the Magic Castle!
I think I probably had one of the soundest night’s sleep I’ve ever had!
After a 10 hour flight with some incredibly scary turbulence over Greenland followed by a particularly confusing drive from LAX to the Magic Castle Hotel, we were hungry and looking not unlike the walking dead. I was also suffering from the worlds worse case of ear pressure pain after flying. I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that it was similar to a thousand knives of fire being plunged into each side of my head. Childbirth would have been a walk in the park compared to what I was suffering.
A late dinner of amazing burgers at 25 degrees (which looked like something off Man Vs Food) took us up to 11pm, then we all agreed it was time for bed.
It’s 8am here in Los Angeles and the view from our hotel window is absolutely stunning! This time round we are staying at the Hollywood Hills annex and looking out over the city.
We feel rested and raring to go. Lecturing today we have Joaquin Kotkin (on touring with a grand illusion show), Gary Dunn (entertaining with almost nothing), Payne and then Tamar Kimmons (on fun and games for birthday shows).
The programme is subject to change and it usually does.
Phew – finally having a sit down after what must have been one of the most hectic Saturdays ever! Apart from doing our shows, Tamar and I were busy packing for our upcoming trip, preparing our presentations, assembling our presents and items for the show and tell sessions and generally trying to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything. We were both up until 3am – Tamar proofing and tweaking her lecture notes and me adding new material to a powerpoint presentation I’ll be giving on Edwin’s Supreme years. We finally think we are ready, so just todays shows (1 each) to do and then we’re off to Heathrow to meet up with Gary Dunn.
I’ve known Gary for a while now, but only really got the opportunity to see him perform while filming and editing his ‘Keep Them Laughing’ DVD. Needless to say, I was blown away and have petitioned heavily for him to be invited to this year’s KGB meeting. My gift to the members last year was a copy of the DVD, so needless to say – not too much persuasion was necessary.
So what is KGB?
We are a group of children’s entertainers from all over the world who meet once a year to lecture, exchange ideas, try out new effects, perform together and generally hang out and have fun.
The group was started 10 years ago by DAVID KAYE and BRUCE BRAY – two giants in the field, who felt that children’s entertainers got a poor deal at most magic conventions and wanted to meet with like-minded individuals for an intensive 3 day workshop session. The name was a bit of a joke – the initials standing for Kidshow Guru Braintrust. Bruce thought it was hilarious to have such a fun group with a sinister sounding title. The KGB started with just 6 members, but now there are 22 worldwide, with new members being added each year. The aim is to keep the number of attendees at the annual meeting to around 12, so that the intimate nature of the gathering isn’t lost. Sadly, Bruce is no longer with us – he passed away in 2011, but his group carries on.
This year we will have 11 attending and will be spending 4 days at the Magic Castle hotel in L.A., then on Saturday we will all perform a theatre show in aid of a children’s charity.
Along the way I’ll try to make lots of little video clips, I’ll blog about what goes on each day – so if anyone is interested, you can follow me either on here or Facebook.
KGB7 – My first visit to the Magic Castle
Ok – gotta go and work. One more show and we’re done!
I’m quite horrified that it has been so long since my last post, even though I’m pretty sure hardly anyone reads them! I ended my last blog with a promise that the second part of my Kidabra review would follow SOON!
I can no longer keep the promise on the second part, but I will at least finish off the review. Unfortunately Kidabra was back in August and is now fading to a distant memory, but I’ll try to run through the highlights that have stayed with me. Apologies for any ommisions.
I left my last review just after the auction, which finally ended at about midnight. The only item I was considering bidding on was a David Ginn miniature coffin with spring snakes and two horror masks. It eventually went to Mike Bent, who to be fair will probably put it to far better use than I would have.
Shortly after everything went dark! The power for the whole of Pigeon Forge went out! Mike found himself walking through the pitch black hotel corridoors with a miniature coffin under his arm. He bumped into two kids and promptly gave them the two scary masks and told them to enjoy themselves. I can imagine his satisfied chuckling as he listened to them terrorising the poor hotel guests.
The next morning brought with it two lectures, from Jim Austin and Dal Sanders. Jim demonstrated effects and techniques for working at nursing homes and Dal showed a selection of holiday themed magic.
After Lunch came my old Supreme Pal BRUCE AMATO with Jim Kleefeld, presenting their ideas for Reading show routines.
The highlight of the day for me was a chance to see my old friend DAVE ANDREWS perform for a group of Kindergarten-age children. His opening vent routine with the chord and bottle was so good that it has taken a lot of willpower not to simply steal the whole thing and put it in my act. No chance of that with his ball and silk routine. Anyone who has seen Dave at the British Ring Convention will know that he is a skilled manipulator and to see him apply this to a kids routine was just pure magic! It was also great to see Percy Platypus and the lovely Jessica the Duck too.
After Dinner Max Howard and Mark Daniel had an ‘open conversation’ about the art of kid’s magic, which was followed by the dealer dem.
The day ended with everyone in the lobby for Ken Scott’s Midnight Jam. The beer flowed, balloons got twisted and to Tamar’s delight, we were visited by a raccoon!
Friday brought with it a morning of breakout sessions, then came the lecture I’d been waiting for: Steve Petra – Let’s Get Visual.
Steve is full of enthusiasm and energy. He talks fast, fiddles with his props in an annoying fashion and wanders up and down the stage so fast it makes you dizzy. He’s also BRILLIANT. I was reduced to tears watching a routine with a totally featureless glove puppet called Eugene. The whole lecture was filled with incredible ideas and loads of ‘Why the Hell didn’t I think of that?’ moments. I feel privileged to have been able to attend this lecture and it was worth the cost of the convention on it’s own, no kidding.
The fun continued with Mike Bent’s library show. Mike is one of my favourite performers. No, scratch that – favourite people in the whole world. He is an incredible natural comedian with a deliciously dark sense of humour and a passion for horror movies and the macabre. It’s no wonder we get along!
His library show didn’t disappoint – Mike took classic kids props and re-imagined them. His Jim Henson style Fraidy Cat Rabbit and Hugo Cabret themed card duck were just two of many highlights. I also had to smile when Mike (an outspoken supporter of the Democratic Party) managed to get an entire audience of children in the (mostly) Republican State of Tennessee shouting out ‘Yes we can!’ as the magic word. Pure class!
After Dinner we reassembled for ‘An Evening With Steve Axtell’. Steve took us through the history of his firm and many people (myself included) took to the stage to pay tribute to him. I was delighted that I became the first person to perform on stage with Steve’s new ‘Twist -A – Tronix balloon puppet system.
But the day wasn’t over yet. The amazing Tod Neufeld and Buster Balloon took to the stage to spend nearly 2 hours running through a collection of balloon stunts, tricks and gags. These guys are amazing and still left us screaming for more.
All in all, this is probably the best day I have ever spent at a magic convention anywhere in the world. I hugged Mark Daniel after Tod and Buster’s lecture and thanked him for persuading me to come to Pigeon Forge again this year.
Saturday was the last day of Kidabra and it’s always sad as things draw to a close.
Tim Sonefelt kicked off the proceedings with his Warren Stephens lecture. I unfortunately missed Tim’s lecture, which I’m sure was my loss, not his.
Matt Fore came next. I love this guy – he is hilarious and his routines are real workers. I spent some money on his stand after the lecture, which is a rare endorsement from me!
The Afternoon saw Barry Mitchell and Terry Evanswood join forces to demonstrate how to add emotional resonance to an effect. The highlight for many came at the end when Barry received a Marilyn Monroe-a-gram to celebrate his birthday.
My Buddy Ken Scott was the last lecturer of Kidabra 2012. His lecture took the form of a motivational speech and left the whole crowd on a high.
Then it was my turn.
I was this years host for the Kidabra Gala show and it has to be said, it would be hard to fail with the line up that we had. I had the pleasure of introducing Mike Bent, who was refreshingly dark for a Kidabra show. His act included breastfeeding spiders, rabbid raccoons and a very scary doll. Great! Jason Hudy provided some sophisticated illusions and a funny water monte routine, Buster and Tod were hilarious – seeing Buster inside a giant pink balloon was a rare treat! I performed with Charlie and my mask routine, before introducing Ken Scott, who closed the show with Princess Silks, Picto Transpo and his Fantasy Magician.Hilarious as always.
A great show and a great ending to a wonderful convention. We all shed a tear as the botania was closed for another year.
I know, I know – in my last post I promised a full review of Kidabra 2012, then fell silent again. Well here it is! I hope it was worth waiting for! The 21st Kidabra conference – ‘The Year of Inspiration’ proved to be the best I’ve ever attended. Tamar and I began our long journey to Pigeon Forge, Tennesse on August the 12th, when we drove up to the Manchester Airport Hilton. We spent the evening watching the olympics closing ceremony and discussing the trip ahead, which was also going to serve as the second part of our honeymoon. To cut a long story short, we arrived in Knoxville at 5.30 the next evening, picked up the hire car and drove to the Music Road Hotel. Unfortunately, our luggage had failed to arrive on the same plane as us, deciding instead to stay in Philadelphia, so the first excursion was to the huge local Walmart to buy a few essentials. All this fuss almost made us decide not to attend Dave and Sally Andrews’ Brits party, but I was really glad we did. When we opened the door we were greeted by a Krispy Kreme donut wedding cake, complete with decorative trim and bride and groom! All this was courtesy of Gus and Monica Harvett – a great couple and two great friends. We were over the moon!
Gus and Monica’s delicious creation
It was great to see Gus and Monica again, along with GG and Charlie Siebert, Kevin Doig, Scott Thatcher and Sally and Dave, but jetlag soon got the better of us and it was time for bed. Tuesday started well, with the discovery that our luggage had been delivered to the hotel, and just got better and better. Gus and Monica had arranged for us Brits to spend the morning horseback riding, which was a first for me! I always love the first day of Biz Builders at Kidabra, because it’s fun to just sit in the hotel lobby and watch old friends and acquaintances arrive. By lunchtime we’d met up with my KGB brothers Ken Scott, Joe Romano and Mark Daniel and we were really starting to have fun. There was definitely a buzz in the air this year! The first lectures were from Kevin Heller and Brad Ross. Kevin dealt with the Pitch- selling your show. I’m no marketing expert and this proved really interesting.
Kevin Heller throwing out free stuff – I seem quite determined to catch that vanishing silk hanky!
Brad’s Facebook and social media lecture really struck a chord with me. Both Tamar and I are addicted to Facebook and there were so many good ideas in Brad’s talk that could be implemented right away. I got LOADS out of this lecture – thanks Brad!
Brad looks more like a Disney character every time I see him!
After the lectures it was time to head to Terry Evanswood’s theatre to watch a special one-off performance of ‘The War Wizard’ by Max Howard. Max is incredible! He is such a fine actor and consummate professional. Everything this man does oozes class. To see him transform into Gus Rich was pure magic. I am so thrilled to have had the chance to see this amazing one man play. What a great end to day one! Wednesday opened with the second round of Biz Builders sessions. Dal Sanders gave some great advice on turning a restaurant gig into a ‘dinner theatre’ show, along with lots of practical marketing ideas. I didn’t get a chance to attend the lecture by Tom Dowling AKA Tom Phoolery, but Tamar raved about the ideas and brought back a complete set of everything that was on sale at the lecture, so I guess that’s a vote of confidence!
Tamar was particularly impressed with Tom’s low-cost, mini backdrop!
During Tom’s lecture I had been discussing the opening ceremony video with Ken Scott, and on Tamar’s return we set about recording and editing it. This unfortunately meant that we both missed David Farr , Dave Risley, and Jason Hudy’s lectures, but Scott raved about them, and he’s a hard man to please! Here’s a clip of the opening ceremony – along with the video we made:
After the opening comes the auction, with Kidabra’s beloved auctioneer Gary Shelton. I’ll leave you with some photos of the first two days. Part 2 coming soon!
Gus and Monica’s delicious creation
Kevin Heller throwing out free stuff – I seem quite determined to catch that vanishing silk hanky!
Brad looks more like a Disney character every time I see him!
Tamar was particularly impressed with Tom’s low-cost, mini backdrop!