by Joe Goretti.
Depending on your age and depth of your Buffalo heritage, maybe you have. The Forks Hotel is not a boutique hotel and won’t be open anytime soon. In fact, the building isn’t even there anymore. But the quality of the experience at the Forks still resonates around Buffalo and the world today.
The Forks Hotel was known for magic. Truly great magic. Any night of the week, you could witness miracles being performed right in front of your eyes while you drank your beer. It looked like a regular tavern, other than the pictures of famous magicians all over the walls and a ceiling that was inexplicably covered with signed playing cards…All somehow suspended and each one preserving the exact moment of astonishment witnessed by that particular spectator.
On weekends, the place was packed shoulder to shoulder as locals and magicians from around the world would flock to the Forks to witness the performers. One in particular, Eddie Fechter.
Eddie Fechter was the owner and the spirit of the Forks. He was a larger-than-life character that did not fit the stereotypical magician in any way. He looked far more like a professional wrestler than a magician. He was a barrel-chested, World War II veteran with giant, tattooed forearms and a playful sense of humor. But Eddie possessed masterful skills in sleight of hand as well as an acute understanding of human psychology. Eddie’s magic was direct and powerful. Some of his tricks have become classics. If you’ve ever seen someone perform magic with a deck of cards, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing some of Eddie Fechter’s influence.
Many of the biggest names in magic for the past 50 years have performed Eddie’s material around the world and on television. Once a year, in an invitation-only event, magicians come to western New York from around the world to attend the 4F convention (Fechter’s Finger Flicking Frolic/FFFF). The convention was started by Fechter in the 70’s and continues to be one of the biggest close-up magic conventions in the country.
Eddie died in 1979 and the building burnt down in the 90’s but their legacy is still very much alive here in Western New York. There are many local magicians carrying on Buffalo’s magic tradition. Almost any night of the week, you can see some world-class magic up close and personal. In the coming weeks, we’ll explore Buffalo’s rich magic culture and introduce you to some of the magicians and the venues where you can see them perform.