It was Friday, January 31st, 2003, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when I stepped out on stage to welcome a room of about 250 people to the opening evening program of the very first The Amaz!ng Meeting. It was a thrilling moment, but even this professional mind-reader could neither have foreseen nor foretold that seven years later we would be close to selling out our eighth TAM gathering, with close to 1200 attendees.
Having appeared at all but one of The Amaz!ng Meetings between then and now, I’ve had the unique vantage of watching from the stage and seeing our tremendous growth. I’ve performed on stage, presented workshops, moderated panels, and more, and I’ve had unforgettable experiences pile atop one another in my memory – and yet perhaps the most amazing aspect of this amazing meeting is that I know without doubt that something equally remarkable and memorable is going to occur in Las Vegas just a few days from now. The Amaz!ng Meeting never fails to exceed my expectations – and that is truly amazing!
Of course, it’s not exactly going out on a limb to make that prediction for TAM8. I’m always busy at these conferences with various behind-the-scenes demands, and all the more so this year as I’ve been involved with many aspects of TAM planning with JREF President D.J. Grothe and others for many months now in my role as Chairman of the Advisory Committee to the President. But it will be a constant frustration this year, possibly even more than at any previous TAM, that there is so much I want to see of the program that I may be kept from attending. And then of course there’s the all-important time required to visit with old friends and make new ones at the late-night gatherings at the bar and elsewhere around Las Vegas.
Of course, I’m thrilled that Richard Dawkins is returning as our keynote event this year (if you bump into me at TAM, ask me about my experience of performing some close-up magic for him after dinner at TAM3 in 2005). I’m delighted we’ve arranged for science writer Simon Singh to attend, hot on the heels of his victory in his cause célèbre battle with the British chiropractic industry. My pal Adam Savage always has new surprises for us at TAM; I invariably find his presentations, just like his work on “The Mythbusters,” to be as thought-provoking as it is entertaining. These three come quickly to my mind at the moment, but there are so many more presenters about whom I am excited and eager to see this year. And truly, nothing pleases me more than the fact that I will be on stage with The Amazing One himself, in the third of our one-on-one conversations about his life and career as the world’s number one skeptic!
It’s hard to believe that there’s so much more to the program than this stellar list of speakers. We have five – that’s right, FIVE provocative panel discussions on the main program this year. On Sunday we’ll hear news about recent developments with the JREF Million Dollar Challenge. And I haven’t even addressed the rich slate of workshops being held on Thursday and on Sunday – and many attendees are taking us up on the fabulous all-access workshop pass offer. Make sure not to miss Thursday night’s party – we have several memorable surprises in store for you there, including music by Gary Stockdale and the Peepshow Trio – that’s the same Gary Stockdale who writes music for Penn & Teller, including the Emmy-nominated theme music for their Showtime series “Bullshit!”, and who also wrote all the music for our new podcast, “For Good Reason,” hosted by D.J. Grothe, and featuring my commentary as “The Honest Liar.”
But I can’t spend much time on all those fabulous events because what I am most eager to talk about now is our three nights of terrific live entertainment, and in particular, two evenings of outstanding magic and mystery. Magic and mindreading has always been a feature of TAM, ever since that Friday night I stepped out on stage in Florida. Last year I produced and hosted our multi-performer show, “Magic, Mirth and Mystery,” featuring an on-stage Who’s Who of the 3 M’s, including Kevin Burke (of “Defending the Caveman”), Mac King (of the Mac King Show at Harrah’s), and of course, the one and only Banachek. That was the most highly attended show in the history of TAM, but incredibly enough, we are bound and determined to outdo ourselves this year, and I can’t encourage you strongly enough to buy tickets now to both of our fabulous magic and mystery performances.
Thursday night, following the opening night reception, features a stage show by The Great Tomsoni and Company. Tomsoni is the stage persona of Johnny Thompson, a magician respected and beloved by the international world of magic across the globe. Widely considered to be America’s greatest living “general practitioner” of magic, John Thompson has been a Las Vegas headliner, a star of cruise ships, trade shows, and theaters around the world, equally renowned for his comic timing as he is for his extraordinary sleight-of-hand skills, and equally respected for his abilities as a stage performer in the largest of Las Vegas showrooms as he is for his masterful skills performing close-up magic with a pack of cards.
On top of all that, John Thompson is the world’s premier magic consultant, serving as magic designer and creative consultant for the world’s greatest magic performers, including in the United States for Lance Burton, Criss Angel, Siegfried and Roy, and of course, none other than those bad boys of magic and skepticism, Penn & Teller. Indeed, if you ask Teller, or me, who we would name as our magical mentor, we would both give you the same answer: the one and only Johnny Thompson.
What’s that? You say you don’t trust “the Honest Liar” himself? Well, don’t take my word for it – here’s what none other than TAM native son Banachek has to say:
Johnny is considered the father to most famous magical faces you might know. He is the real magic. I can't think of anyone who is more knowledgeable and who has a finer understanding of what magic and mystery is really all about. Johnny Thompson has forgotten more magic then most will ever learn in a lifetime, and this is only because he remembers the stuff that is worth knowing.
Johnny Thompson consults for the top magicians in the world, and he’s helped to make more magicians famous than any other magician alive or dead. His show is original and hilarious, full of startling moments and heralded by most who know as being the perfect blend of entertainment and perfect technique. In fact his technique is so well executed that it is invisible, just as real magic should be. To watch Johnny Thompson is a lesson all magicians should attend, to watch Johnny Thompson for a non-magician is to take a journey into the realm of real magic and a sense of wonder, while laughing all the way.
The complete stage show of The Great Tomsoni and Company (the Company is none other than the hilarious magical actress, Pamela Hayes, John Thompson’s partner on stage and off) has not been seen in its entirety in Las Vegas in many years, and may never be seen there again. The show consists of their unique and unprecedented blend of exquisite classical magic, mysterious mind-reading, and outrageous comedy that parodies magic while delivering the very best of it. The show is a tour de force – if you enjoy magic, if you’ve enjoyed the shows of magicians from Lance Burton to Penn & Teller, come see the guy who taught them how to do it. Buy your tickets now and come enjoy “The Great Tomsoni and Company!”
Then from the ridiculously talented to the sublimely sophisticated … there’s Saturday night’s program of mind-reading and mystery presented by the extraordinary Michael Weber. Weber is so good at what he does, that while he is considered a star among magic’s cognoscenti, his name is probably unknown to you; you might say that he’s so successful, he doesn’t even need a website! Michael performs for Fortune 100 companies around the world who are uncompromising in their demands, and will pay a frankly hefty price to fulfill their high expectations. Michael’s unique abilities keep him too busy, most of the time, to step away from his elite clientele and perform in more public venues. I can honestly say that we are thrilled that Michael has agreed to come perform at TAM, and if you miss this rare opportunity, I promise you will kick yourself when your fellow skeptics report to you about elements of Michael’s show that look like nothing less than real mindreading. This is not hyperbole: I promise you, you will come away from this performance with an indelible memory of a smart, savvy, and stylish performer who will entertain the hell out of you while thoroughly and completely blowing your mind. You’ve seen mentalists before at TAM and elsewhere – now come see the guy we all respect and are proud to call our friend and colleague
And speaking of which, let’s check back with Banachek and see what he has to say:
If you ask any magician to describe Michael Weber there is one word that comes up time and time again: “Genius” with a capital G as in a "God of Magic." His mind is like a computer specifically made to create new and fascinating illusions. If you have seen any of the latest movies involving magic, you have seen the genius that is Michael Weber, in his work as a magic consultant and designer to films like “The Prestige” and many more. To watch him work is a rare treat no one should ever miss. Weber is the secret that most famous performers like to keep!
So if you will be joining the record-breaking crowd at TAM this next week, be sure to get your tickets for an evening of miracles of the mind featuring the extraordinary Michael Weber. And I’ll see you at both his show, and the Great Tomsoni & Company’s show as well!