As last year wound to a close, it was evident that it was a big year by any standards. I was still mildly euphoric over being named the Academy of Magical Arts Closeup Magician of the Year. The trip to Japan with son Mack was just one of many other high points,
I didn’t have much time to ponder how it all fit into the grand scheme of things. The winter schedule required focus as I was doing 4 to 5 nights a week in Snowmass and beyond. I put my head down as I got into the grind of ‘winter in Snowmass’. After 33 years here in the resort, it is was like putting on an old pair of slippers but it was evident that I wasn’t as young as I once was.
Late one night in mid February, the phone rang. It was the chairman of the Board of Trustees from the Castle. I had been nominated again this year for Close up Magician of the Year *and* Lecturer of the Year. Since my first nomination in 1998, I have garnered 8 nominations for Closeup and 5 for lecture. I was finally awarded Closeup Magician of the Year last year, so I was frankly surprised that I might be up for it again. Plus this year, I was flattered that the lecture I present to other magicians, that I have been giving for years was also up for an award.
Excitement really took off when the season ground to a finish and we turned the corner into April. I left for LA a few days ahead of the event to have some time with Mack. Last year, none of my kids were able to go out for the ceremony due to other commitments. Ironically, that was the year that I won and none of my kids were there to see it! This year, Mack is already there at UCLA so he did his best to clear a few days in his law studies to be with me.
I secured a room at the Hollywood Hills Hotel above the Castle and overlooking all of Hollywood. LA is easy to take if you can be above it all and not have to drive around in it!
Mack and I thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company again by taking in a 3D movie at the huge LA movie theater and lunching at some sidewalk eateries.
Saturday night is the traditional night before reception for the nominees and special award
winners. This is a fun night because at this point, no one knows anything about the winners. The special awards, like Literary Fellowship, Lifetime achievement and others are not as secret as the other awards and so it was fairly easy to pick out the honorees among the international stars who were milling around the Inner Circle. It was an already busy Saturday night but add in all the folks from the reception and the Castle was absolutely buzzing that evening. We pretty much closed the place that night.
The next day, Sunday, the front desk suggested a day spa experience right next door at the Hollywood/Highlands complex. A steam and a massage seemed an ideal way to prepare for the night. Topping that off with a snack at the Shabu Shabu restaurant next door and we were ready to groove. We sauntered back to the room to get dressed for what would be a grand evening.
The Avalon is a great little theater right off the corner of Hollywood and Vine. We made our
way through the red carpet and photogs clicking their cameras and interviews with guys with
microphones. Finally entering the lobby that was thoroughly decked out with food and flowers, it was a grand scene. The food was ‘heavy hors d’oeuvres’ and lots of it. They didn’t scrimp on any thing. We sampled the sumptuous buffet and had a couple of stiff drinks to fortify ourselves.
The boys arrive at the Avalon
Making our way to our seats in the orchestra section, there was much back slapping and hand shaking. As we settled in amongst the other nominees and luminaries, I began to wish I had spent more time on an acceptance speech.
Neil Patrick Harris strode out on stage and started the show which was comprised of a mix of magic, comedy and awards. After some pleasantries and the opening act, the category of Lecturer of the Year is the first surprise of the evening and when Gay Blackstone and Mark Wilson
Magic legends, Gay Blackstone and Mark Wilson presenting me with the wand.
called my name, I was genuinely taken aback. As I made my way to the stage, I tried to remember the vague thoughts I had had that afternoon about something to say. I mentioned my inspiration for a good magic lecture was my late pal, Bob Read from England. Between the bright lights and adrenalin pump, I babbled the general thoughts. Mack assures me I didn’t make a fool of myself. A good thing. I made my way back stage for a photo shoot and official stuff. It was a circuitous trip back through the crowd to my seat so since the Close up award was coming up soon, I stayed ‘handy’.
Jeff Probst, Doc, Whit Haydn
Jeff Probst of Survivor and Whit Haydn, the vice president of the Academy appeared at the podium to present the Close up category. I got light headed as they read the names of my fellow nominees. When they called my name as the winner, I was genuinely shocked. Besides being the only nominee who lived further than 20 minutes from the Castle, it is very rare that a nominee gets two awards in the same night (only two prior). It is in fact very rare that someone has won Closeup Magician two consecutive years, (6 times prior). I was on cloud nine.
The rest of the show was wonderful. To see so many great folks recognized and honored was heartwarming. I found myself caressing the beautiful boxes with wands inside…to convince myself that I had actually won! The after party took place right there at the theater and as the evening took on a dream like quality, the back slapping congratulations continued long into the evening.
I managed to squeeze out a few extra euphoric days in California to reconnect with some old friends and spend another night at the Castle. Coming home to Colorado, I had a busy stretch of traveling that needed my immediate attention and focus.
Now it is is time to figure out what this all means. I have never really been the ‘competition magician’. For 33 years, I just stepped up and did the show. I never saw the point of it. But without even competing in a contest I found myself in this unfamiliar territory. Now I have won it. I am thrilled, but still unsure of what it all means in the grand scheme.
A good pal of mine commented, “Thank God, it comes in your maturity so that you know how to make best use of it, that it is a sign of a life’s work accomplished and not an indication of “what might be.” Thank you Max for that perspective. And thank *you* for taking the time to read this.