Syd Segal, Dan Buck, and  Dave Buck recently teamed together to produce the first annual Magic-Con, a convention touted as being like no other, held at the San Diego Hilton overlooking the bay.  What follows is a detailed , day-by-day account of what you missed (or, if you were fortunate enough to be there, what you’ll remember).

Thursday Night

Thursday wasn’t a full convention day but was memorable nonetheless.  Upon entering the newly built Hilton hotel, with its high ceilings, bright décor, and very friendly staff, it was evident that this modern venue exuded class.  Top-notch signs directed us to a second-floor Magic-Con welcome station where attendees received their very high quality plastic badges (they make a great bookmark) and bag of goodies, including a gift-wrapped(!) leather-bound pocket notebook.  It was a confident way of saying, “This will be a convention of ideas – be prepared.”

A large area outside several conference rooms served as a social gathering place, and it soon became evident that the main Magic-Con performers, the guys we came here to see, were happily mingling about, talking to attendees, answering questions, posing for pictures, and letting it be known that this convention was indeed going to be different.

And the truth was, it felt different.  I’ve been to many conventions starting back in 1985, and I’ve always lamented what felt like a class system between organizers, performers, and attendees.  Too often, I’ve seen little-known magicians wondering where all the “action” is, having heard that some of the best moments of any magic convention occur between events or in the wee hours in hotel lobbies and bars, only to find out, after the fact, that certain “cliques” of people congregated instead inside somebody’s upper floor hotel suite or at an off-site location, usually an eatery or bar, fostering an insider/outsider divide that usually lasts the whole weekend.

But not on this night.  Michael Weber, John Carney, Eric Mead, and most notably, David Blaine, along with many of the other performers, socialized and fraternized with anybody and everybody who approached.  It was noticeably different, refreshing, and instantly set the welcoming standard for future conventions.  (Interestingly, in a  conversation with Derek DelGaudio three days later, he told me that the reason for this visible camaraderie was not due to an organizers’ mandate, as rumored, but because almost all the performers were already friends with each other, leading one to wonder if the same happy atmosphere will be present in 2011…)

At one point, Syd Segal walked around spreading the word that we should go outside onto the large veranda that overlooks the pool, as “that’s where the girls are going to be.”  Most of us scoffed at this pronouncement, figuring that he just wanted us out of the hallway (and what better way to herd and move a bunch of hapless, mostly male magicians?).

It turns out he wasn’t joking.  Magic-Con organizers arranged to have very pretty young girls parade around in skimpy outfits with trays of Dan & Dave decks of cards, free for the asking.  Live music and a no-host bar complimented the evening and then the whispers began circulating – Juan Tamariz was going to do an unscheduled set of magic!

Nobody left.

And, a little after ten o’clock, at a quietly set-up table under the escalators, and with a huge crowd straining to get a view, Juan indeed sat down and proceeded to WOW us with real. impossible. miracles.

Even knowing how some of his effects were accomplished due to their being previously published in his books, Juan nonetheless executed them with elegance, finesse, and master misdirection, badly fooling most of the magicians in attendance.  Many of the people watching him had never seen Tamariz perform live, and it’s quite a different experience than seeing him on video.  He’s adept at riding the wave of energy in a room, and despite a noisy venue and an overly enthusiastic crowd, he held court and demonstrated up close the unbridled passion for which he is so well known.

Magic-Con #1 had officially begun…