Fifty Years of Florida Magic

The organization known today as the

Florida Magicians’ Association was

formed in 1970. How then are we celebrating

the fiftieth anniversary of the Florida

State Magic Convention? I’ll admit that

the numbers don’t seem to add up, but

here’s what happened.

For many years, various clubs in Florida

hosted the FMA’s annual convention,

sometimes calling the organization the

Florida State Association of Magicians,

Florida Magic Association, or the Florida

State Magicians’ Association. The inconsistency

of the organization’s name was

common for many years.

 

Before the Florida Magicians’ Association

was formalized, there were a few conventions

held in various cities around the

state, mostly in south Florida. The first

state convention was held in Fort

Lauderdale in 1959. With seventy-nine

attendees, it was sponsored by Fort

Lauderdale’s I.B.M. Ring 150, with

Melvin H. Missmer at the helm. Local

entertainers volunteered their services for

the affair, and promotion was mainly

through word of mouth.

Out of town performing guests included

Don Alan, Jimmy Grippo, and “Satan,”

a dealer from Philadelphia. Alan and

Grippo performed close-up that weekend

at the host facility, the Beach Club Hotel.

The ladies were taken by bus to a fashion

show and received a complimentary lunch.

But the highlight of the convention was the

evening banquet. A souvenir miniature

magic table made out of aluminum, complete

to the smallest detail, was set at each

plate, and the show attracted a whopping

two hundred attendees. With the success of

this 1959 convention, another was slated

for the following year, to be hosted by the

O.D. Cloakey I.B.M. Ring 42 in St.

Petersburg.

 

 

The Colonial Inn and nearby Desert

Ranch in St. Petersburg Beach were the

host hotels, and attendance grew to over

two hundred. Most of the magic activities

were held at the Desert Ranch with the

banquet and show being at the larger

Colonial Inn auditorium. The convention

began on Friday evening – April 22 – with

a hospitality hour and floor show and concluded

Sunday afternoon with a lecture.

Performers included Jay Marshall

(who also was one of the contest judges),

Carl Rosini, George LaFollette, juggler

Tommy Curtain, and mentalist Syd

Bergson. This convention produced a

large, slick, printed program of events.

In ensuing years, when a national or

international convention was held in

Florida, as was the case in 1961, 1966,

1967, and 1973, a state convention was not held. (In later years when the Annual

I.B.M. Convention. or S.A.M. National

conventions came to Florida, a state convention was also held.)

 

 

Meanwhile, the name-changing game

continued. In 1964, the convention was

called the Florida Magicians’ Conclave

and took place at the Pier 66 Motel in Fort

Lauderdale. The headliner show, emceed

by Del Breese, included performances by

Anverdi, a female magician named

Valentina, International President Arnold

Drennen, and a bird act by Nevin and

Helen Hoefert. Inez Blackstone Kitchen,

at the piano, furnished background

music for the show.

 

Fast forward to 1970 when the name

changed once again. This year it was the

Florida State Round-up, meeting in Fort

Lauderdale. For some time, it had been the

dream of Ed Snyder, along with Nevin

Hoefert and Paul Diamond, owner of

Paul’s Magic & Fun Shop in Fort

Lauderdale, to create an association of

Florida magicians to provide more consistency

for an annual convention.

 

During the convention, Tampa magician

Tim Arango was standing with a group,

including Diamond and Hoefert, who

decided to move forward with the formation

of the Florida State Association of

Magicians. Diamond looked at Arango and

said, “Tim, you are going to be its first

president!” And there it began. Along with

Frank Topping as vice president and

Nevin Hoefert as secretary/treasurer, the

organization was “designed to ensure continuance

of the annual convention of magicians

in Florida.”

 

Curiously, the acronym FSAM

appeared in the printed program as the

sponsor of the convention, though the

Florida State Association of Magicians

had not yet been formed.

What happened to Ed Snyder? Sadly, he

died one week before his dream of a

Florida association of magicians came to

pass. But the organization was born and

began giving a greater consistency to the

annual conventions after the early 1970s.

 

The success of the 1964 convention in

Fort Lauderdale put magicians in

Clearwater under pressure to produce a

successful convention the following year.

Although there had only been three conventions

in Florida, many wondered if a

magic club consisting of twenty-five

members, and new to the magic convention

business, could make it work. Also,

would magicians flock to a city like

Clearwater, which was not as popular as

South Florida where tourists generally

traveled for a sunny vacation? Even some

members of the host club, S.A.M.

Assembly 82, felt that they would be lucky

to see 150 registrations. And they would

need that many to pay for the three stage

shows, especially since they had booked

Willard the Wizard as the headliner.

For the first time, ads were taken out and

registration was increased to ten dollars.

This convention was planned with the

utmost business sense. Great care was

exercised in appointing committees, and

the club spent three of their regular meetings

refining details of the convention.

They changed the name from “Fool-ARama,”

as it was called in 1964 when jointly

hosted by I.B.M. Ring 150 and S.A.M.

Assembly 49, to “The Florida Magic

Jubilee.”

Ronald Haines of Ohio’s Haines House

of Cards and Harold Martin of Illinois

were invited. Each helped to promote the

convention since both were well-known

dealers. Magician and manipulator Lyle

Elliott – known professionally as “The

Colorful Mr. Lyle” and “The Fabulous

Mr. Lyle” – was the manager of an upscale

restaurant in Clearwater, The Golden

Horseshoe, which was the site of the convention

banquet.

 

On the bill was former Kalanag assistant

Ackero, who performed “a beautiful oriental

act.” Others included The Fabulous

Mr. Lyle, Jack Chanin, mentalist Syd

Bergson, and a young manipulator from

Boston, Johnny Dee. Two weeks before

the convention, Harry Willard was forced

to cancel due to illness.

With the Willard cancellation and only

two weeks left till the convention, organizers

were nervous.

 

 

Only 134 people had

registered. But on opening day, the number

totaled 210, and the convention was financially

sound. To replace Willard, Florida

magician Bill Brundell presented a wellreceived

show that included fire eating and

illusions.

 

Since the National S.A.M. Convention

was to be held in South Florida the following

year, most felt that it would be best for

Florida to not host a state convention in

1966. However, as more clubs wanted to

bid for one to be held in their city, a committee

of five was formed to discuss future

locations. From this group came the idea of

forming a Florida Magicians Association

to govern a yearly convention. As mentioned

last month, the FMA was not to

come to fruition for another five years, but

the date of the next state convention (held

in 1967) was moved to Memorial Day

Weekend, where it remained until 2006.

When two or three clubs were vying for

sponsorship, the board would work it out so that each club eventually got a turn,

alternating locations between South and

Central Florida. In the early years, when

the convention was held in a southern city

like Miami or Fort Lauderdale, the next

year it would move to a more centrally

located city such as Orlando, Winter Park,

or Tampa.

 

Although South Florida magician

Nevin Hoefert didn’t start the Florida conventions,

he and Paul Diamond were

instrumental in maintaining them during

the early years. Others also worked to

unify Florida magicians. In the 1970s, a

few officers, including Jim Smith of

Melbourne and Bob Hutchings of

Jacksonville, published a newsletter, but

this idea was abandoned because it was

difficult to get clubs to send in reports.

That remains a challenging task today, but

the FMA maintains a Web site at

www.flmagic.org with news of magic in

Florida.

 

After several decades of Florida conventions

each being run by a local club or

clubs, in 2001 an official Convention

Committee was formed for the first time.

Now experienced chairmen from other

parts of the state and from past conventions

worked together regardless of which city

hosted the event. This plan continued until

the Florida State merged with the Daytona

Festival of Magic in 2006.

So, have there really been fifty Florida

State conventions? If you consider that the

first one took place in Fort Lauderdale in

1959, before the annual FMA convention,

then yes, this year marks exactly fifty. It

takes some calculating, though, to arrive at

the correct number because there are several

variables.

Sometimes a national convention was

held in Florida, as was the case in 1961,

1966, 1967, and 1973. Those years there

would not be a state convention at all, even

before the FMA was formed. Another consideration

is that in 2008 there were two

FMA State conventions, one in the spring

in Miami and another in the fall in

Daytona. (Interestingly, in fifty years a

state convention has never taken place

north of Daytona Beach.)

 

It was the cover of the 1979 (Orlando)

program that first mentioned the number,

that one being listed as the ninth annual

convention, and that is correct as the FMA

convention – but not consecutively since

there was no state convention in 1973 due

to the I.B.M.-S.A.M. Combined Convention

in Miami.

If one were to include the many one- or

two-day conventions sponsored by a

magic shop, club, or individual, it would

skew the numbers. But we are only considering

the Florida State conventions to

arrive at the magic number of fifty.

This year the Florida State will be a

three-day event, May 23-25 – plus two

morning lectures on the 26th. To learn

more about our fiftieth anniversary, visit

www.fma50th.com.

 

Bev Bergeron, another significant figure

in the history of the Florida State conventions,

will be making his final appearance

as Rebo, the much-loved clown from

The Magic Land of Allakazam. Don’t miss

this historic performance, and all of the

other great magic this year.

 

See you at the next FMA convention!

 

Dan Stapleton

President

Florida Magicians Association

© 2014 Florida Magicians Association