The Dallas Super Session (www.thesupersession.com) is an invitation only annual event that grew out of a birthday bash that Brian O’Neill threw for himself in November 1999. This subsequently became the Dallas Close-Up Convention and after Brian hosted the last of those in 2002, Bob White decided to keep the momentum going by inviting a few magical friends to an informal annual “super session” in Dallas starting in 2003. The ground rules have always been pretty simple: a nominal fee is collected to cover the cost of the meeting space at the hotel and everyone attending must perform for the group on Saturday afternoon. In recent years, Jordan “Tiny” Burgess has taken over organizing these and a guest lecturer on Saturday night has been featured. Among the attendees at past Super Sessions have been such well known figures as Roger Klause (a special “Super Session” was held in Roger’s home town of Borger, Texas in the Spring of 2008 during his final illness), Eric DeCamps, Bill Malone, Lance Pierce, Tom Gaudette, Barrie Richardson and Gary Plants.
The guest of honor at this year’s Super Session was “the Texan Trixter” and former M-U-M editor, John Moehring. Rather than deliver a traditional magic lecture, John, with the assistance of Gary Plants, put together a video scrapbook of his magical career. Prior to the inaugural screening, Bob White gave a heartfelt introduction, recounting stories of his longtime association with Moehring. The video begins with photos and news clippings of a crew cut teenage magician in Rockdale, Texas, then tells of his climb to magical prominence with an award winning manipulative act featuring cards, canes and doves that was honed to perfection through numerous summer theme park performances. This eventually took him to being a featured act at the Texas Pavillon at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City during his final year of college. Super agent Mark Leddy spotted him there and advised him to eliminate the doves from his act if he wanted to be booked on the Ed Sullivan show, at the time the highest rated television variety show, broadcast live from New York each Sunday evening. After completing college in Texas, Moehring returned to New York and Leddy sent him on club and cruise dates to polish the act and wait for an opening on the Sullivan show. His call came in March 1966 while working a cruise, telling him he had been booked to appear on the Sullivan Show on April 24th of that year. At the dress rehearsal Sunday afternoon, Moehring was asked to cut his tightly polished six minute act in half just a few hours before the live broadcast. Working with a stopwatch in his dressing room, he was able to trim the act to the needed time and the final result may be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34FApakZXtg
Thanks to his Sullivan appearance, Leddy was able to book Moehring at top nightclubs throughout Europe and back home in the States. Moehring eventually accepted a steady contract at the newly opened Astroworld in Houston and quickly moved up the theme park corporate ladder, producing shows throughout the US and abroad, rather than performing in them himself. In addition to archival footage of Moehring performances, tributes from those who knew and admired him help put his influence at the time in context. Among those commenting on aspects of his career on the tape are Bob White, Mike Christian (who was mentored by Moehring), Trixie Bond and Walter Blaney.
In 1991 Moehring helped put together an evening performance at the IBM convention in Baltimore featuring only acts that had appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. This allowed him to do the full six minute act and was also the last time he performed it. Fortunately, footage of the act was included in the video. After that final performance, Moehring gradually transitioned from show production to writing and editing, becoming a contributing editor, then associate editor, and finally editor of MAGIC Magazine until 2005. He then succeeded David Goodsell as editor of M-U-M for three years (2006-2008), then authored acclaimed books about Marshall Brodien and Del Ray. Last year, for family and health reasons, John moved from Las Vegas back to Houston, Texas. The video concluded with surprise tributes to John coordinated by Gary Plants from many of John’s friends, including Charlie Frye, Jody Baran and Kathlene, Stan Allen, Alan Howard, Michael Close, Greg Gleason, Peter Studebaker, Bill Spooner, and Mike Perovich. John received a prolonged standing ovation from the 40 plus Super Session attendees at the conclusion of the video. In the audience were John’s son Charles (a sophomore at Colorado State), his sister and brother-in-law, and longtime friends Mike Christian from Tennessee and Dexter Cleveland from South Carolina. It is hoped that the video will receive wider distribution, possibly being accessible soon via a link on John’s own website: http://johnmoehring.com.
And if you’re wondering about the title of this piece, it is taken from one of the titles of the videotape. It turns out that TESS was not an early romantic interest of John’s, but something he strived for and achieved: an iconic appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
- Richard Hatch