While size-zero Barbie dolls fought each other in the Miss Texas USA pageant on the third floor of the Hilton Americas Hotel, just one floor up New Orleans Magician Michael Dardant won $3000 for his overall routine at the 66th annual Texas Association of Magicians convention.
“It’s always a pretty big convention. It’s always good talent,” Dardant said. “When I was growing up in magic, this was the closest convention for me to come to, but I really only started competing about two years ago.”
Approximately 500 magicians attended the convention, which ran Sept. 1 to 3 and was generally closed to the public. Some magicians were members of TAOM, some were members of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and some the Society of American Magicians.
Ages varied. During the general show Sunday night, Dardant, 35, sat in the lobby and conversed with fellow magician Steffen Banta, who turned 13 on Monday.
“I started doing magic about four years ago. I branched out into cardistry, now I do stuff like this,” Banta said, before he slid a a playing card from a deck and dextrously changed its suit. Banta’s pockets held several decks of playing cards used for his act, as did a leather pouch on his belt.
Vice-president of IBM and registration chairman Richard Olson, 65, said he got into magic when he was 12 years old.
“There are all shades of scale in-between. You’ve got some like my daughter who has been coming to conventions since she was 9 years old. She’s 25 now, she has a day job but she’s also a magician’s assistant. It’s fun for her,” Olson said.
Contests and lectures were in seperate ballrooms, as were the dealers room, which sold everything from instructional books and DVDs to customes, equipment and specialty cards.
Magician Colonel Mike Ambrose Legerdemain had a booth set up for steampunk themed costumes, playing cards, gadgets and swords.
“You’ve got a couple different grades of Steampunk,” Legerdemain said. “Classic Steampunk is typical Dickens. Retro, Victorain era, science fantasy, top hat and tails type stuff.”
Legerdemain, wearing fantasy themed clothing and brass gadetry, stood in stark contrast to the magicians in black slacks and vests. Legerdemain noted his style was purposefully atypical.
“I’m not knocking them, but what I’m saying is that there is so much of the same thing,” he said.
Before the Saturday and Sunday evening shows opened for public spectators, several magicians — including Banta and Legerdemain — entertained the waiting crowd.
Legerdemain appeared as Apocalypse Man, armed and armored in an end-of-times battle outfit. Dozens posed with him for photos. Banta, wearing a formal jacket, walked among the crowd and shocked them with close up card magic.
After the public show, some magicians attended more lectures, some sat in the lobby exchanging tricks and stories and some went out of the hotel to enjoy the Houston night-life.
“Through magic, I’ve been able to meet people and develop friendships all over the world,” Olson said. “I feel comfortable that I could go anyplace and meet somebody that I could have a common experience with.”